Montrealers protest against police brutality in annual march

A protester holds up a sign saying no one is shielded from police brutality during annual protest in Montreal. Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Gloria Henriquez/Global News

Protesters gathered at the Lionel-Groulx metro station Tuesday afternoon to mark International Day Against Police Brutality with a march through city streets.

The event, first organized by the Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière (COBP), got its start in Montreal in 1997.

On its website, the organization describes itself as an autonomous group of people who have been victims of police brutality and others who have witnessed it or are concerned by the issue.

COPB says its goal is not only to denounce abuse of police powers and inform people of their rights but also to support victims for example by providing help to lodge ethics complaints.

Many other organizations concerned with social justice issues have since taken part in the annual march.

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One such group is the Defund the Police Coalition, who in a Facebook post called on its members to attend Tuesday’s protest. The coalition believes the police department’s budget should be cut with money reinvested into the community.

A rallying speech ahead of the march touched on the issue, denouncing the police department’s plan to add nine more surveillance cameras across the city, namely in neighbourhoods that are poorer and racialized.

On its website, the SPVM said the locations for the new cameras were decided upon “following an analysis” of violent crime in the city.

Community groups also expressed their concern when the plan was announced last week, arguing the cameras are expensive and don’t go to the root of the problem.

Following the speech, protesters set off, some of them carrying banners and others chanting anti-police slogans.

Officers navigate around garbage bins placed in the street during the annual anti-police brutality march on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Gloria Henriquez/Global News

They were followed by officers on bicycles, while others dressed in riot gear were not far behind.

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A half hour into the march, a few fireworks were launched and garbage bins placed in the street.

The SPVM warned of illegal behaviours observed during the protest and asked that people observe laws and regulations to ensure the event runs smoothly.

By 7 p.m., police had ordered the crowds to disperse and leave the premises immediately, citing violations.

Montreal police spokesperson Manuel Couture said some officers had rocks hurled at them but the situation degenerated when rocks were thrown into windows of local businesses including an SQDC cannabis dispensary, a bank and a Dollarama near the intersection of Atwater and Notre-Dame.

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Couture said faced with an aggressive reaction from the crowd, tear gas was used to disperse it.

Officers remained on site to ensure people didn’t regroup. As of 8 p.m., no arrests had been made.

The march has been tainted by acts of vandalism in previous years as well, according to public security expert and former Montreal police officer André Durocher.

“We arrested people in these protests that really didn’t really know why they were protesting, other than the fact they wanted to break down stuff and, you know, have a face-off with the police,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s demonstration.

“So it’s an unfortunate thing. Hopefully citizens won’t see their property being damaged because in the end, everybody ends up paying for it.”

— with files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez

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