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Montreal photographer captures critical moment during anti-racism protest

Decisive moment between Montreal police and a young protestor captured on camera
WATCH: A photograher captured emotional moments between the organizer of a Quebec protest and a protestor. The organizer put herself between the protestor and police. The encounter ended with the being embraced by the organizer. Global's Felicia Parrillo spoke with the organizer and the photographer.

There was a moment during Sunday’s march against racism and police brutality that could have gotten violent.

Protesters and police in full riot gear were getting closer, standing face to face.

READ MORE: Thousands attend anti-racism, anti-police brutality march in downtown Montreal

Thousands hit Montreal streets on Sunday to speak out in turn against racism, systemic discrimination and police brutality, in an event sparked by the death of a Black man, George Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25 after a white Minneapolis cop was shown on camera kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

Just as tempers began to flare, protest organizer and member of the Black Coalition New Generation Anastasia Marcelin stepped in.

Marcelin, member of the Black Coalition New Generation marching with protestors on Sunday June 7, 2020.
Marcelin, member of the Black Coalition New Generation marching with protestors on Sunday June 7, 2020. Dave Gogan / Facebook

“I wanted that day to go off without a hitch,” she said. “I didn’t want us to be criticized. I didn’t even want to see one broken bottle in the street.”

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Marcelin, who is Black, says she was determined to keep things peaceful.

READ MORE: Montrealers kneel at Loyola Park in NDG in solidarity with anti-Black racism protests

As she stood between police and demonstrators, she turned and addressed the protesters.

“Montreal has never had a Black police chief,” she said. “It’s time for change. Go to school, get into this field.

“For the system to change, the western system to change, we need to be in it ― we have no choice.”
Marcelin leading protestors during Sunday’s peaceful demonstration against racism and police brutality.
Marcelin leading protestors during Sunday’s peaceful demonstration against racism and police brutality. Dave Gogan / Facebook

As Marcelin tried to defuse the situation, Montreal photographer, David Gogan, captured it all through his lens.

He snapped photo after photo, showing Marcelin trying to calm everyone down.

“There were two female protesters who were visibly upset,” said Gogan. “Before she arrived, they were yelling at the cops, screaming, they were right in the front.

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“She just took them, she embraced them, and she just gave them love, even though they met her with anger.”

Marcelin hugging a protester during Sunday’s march.
Marcelin hugging a protester during Sunday’s march. Dave Gogan / Facebook

Montreal’s police chief Sylvain Caron had an offer to attend the rally rescinded on Saturday after organizers explained some participants and groups were opposed to his presence.

The force said on its social media page it respected that decision and noted officers would be present to keep tabs on the march.

Montreal Police announced the end of the protest on Sunday afternoon and described it as peaceful. But remaining protesters were met with tear gas bombs in the city’s Old Port hours after the demontration was declared over.

Marcelin preaching to a sea of people in downtown Montreal on Sunday.
Marcelin preaching to a sea of people in downtown Montreal on Sunday. Dave Gogan / Facebook

Demonstrators called out Quebec Premier François Legault for his belief the province doesn’t have a systemic racism problem.

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READ MORE: George Floyd protests: Anti-racism demonstrations continue across Canada

On Tuesday, Marcelin and Gogan met for the first time.

She thanked him for capturing the moment and sharing the story.

“I’m happy that there’s someone else to tell this story,” said Marcelin. “And I’m happy it’s not someone from my community ― that’s even more important to me.”

―With files from Canadian Press