For police, the April 26 rally was business as usual -and that's the problem, charge those in attendance.
By Montreal's battle-hardened standards, the April 26 G8 protest was the kind of police/protester piss-up that warrants no more than 30 seconds on the evening news. Protesters showed up, cops intervened, arrests were made, news at 11.
But many who were there say that what seemed banal to the viewing public is in fact indicative of the way cops are policing protests - that is, they aren't letting them happen in the first place.
Shortly after the 300 or so protesters encircled by police near Dominion Square were rounded up and trucked off to Lionel-Groulx metro, Montreal police spokesperson André Durocher said the police had made a pre-emptive strike to prevent anticipated violence. They did so by encircling several hundred protesters with riot police. Durocher also said police gave fair warning to protesters to disperse well before they moved in.
Fellow police spokesperson Luc Belhumeur later confirmed this, saying the police had in fact issued two warnings, 25 minutes apart, for the crowd to disperse. He also said many people took the police's warning and left.
But several people present, including one observer from the League of Human Rights and Freedoms, say the police did no such thing.
One participant in the rally says he would have high-tailed it out of there had he heard such a warning, since he faced arrest if he didn't. Manuel, who didn't want his last name published, had outstanding bail conditions that disallowed him from participating in a "violent protest." Trouble is, he said, the police deemed the protest violent after they had surrounded protesters.
"I wanted to leave," Manuel said. "I have to leave as soon as it gets ugly, but I didn't have the chance. There was no warning at all."
Manuel's lawyer, Denis Barrette, says this isn't the first time the police have done this. They used similar tactics at the March 15 rally, during which some 371 protesters were arrested. Lucie Lamonde, the Montreal president of the League of Human rights and Freedoms, says neither she nor any of the seven field observers heard any warning at all from the police.
The irony is, Barrette says, the police don't have to issue a warning before making arrests. "That's an urban myth," he says.
Many activists have long believed the police must issue a verbal warning to a crowd before making arrests for unlawful assembly, but this isn't the case. The police only have to issue a decree (served on the behalf of Her Majesty the Queen) if they are reading the riot act - an offence that carries a potential life sentence.
As Barrette points out, police don't have to issue a warning to arrest those who are taking part in an unlawful assembly - which is exactly what they did to 25 people outside the circle of protesters near Dominion Square. Police also detained people under municipal bylaw P-6, a Drapeau-era law that effectively outlaws any protest that threatens public security, though it makes no provisions as to when and how this is determined.
"The police don't have to give a warning," Barrette says. "They say they made one, but they are lying for no reason."
Up the street, near Peel metro, police seized a 9 mm handgun. According to Durocher, the weapon was discharged and three people were arrested and charged with carrying a non-authorized weapon, concealing a weapon and discharge of a firearm. Though he wouldn't divulge the names of the three arrested - "It's before the courts," Durocher told Hour - he said two of them have prior records. He also wasn't sure what the prior convictions were for.
"Was it beyond a doubt that they were protesters? All I know is that they were there," Durocher said.
In the media stories following the event, Durocher mentioned the gun along with the crop of gas masks, slingshots and batons seized that day. The gun didn't appear in any of the newspaper photos of the seized objects, even though the seizure of a firearm at an antiglobalization rally would be novel in this country.
William Sloan thinks he knows why. The well-known activist lawyer questions how three people can be arrested for the possession of one gun, particularly since the police found the gun on the street, not in anyone's possession. He says the gun was likely planted, a theory Durocher scoffs at.
Nevertheless, Sloan, Barrette and other lawyers signed an open letter stating the following: "Never has a firearm, a starter pistol or a knife been found on a protester from Quebec since the beginning of the antiglobalization movement."
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. NoNonsense English offers this material non-commercially for research and educational purposes. I believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner, i.e. the media service or newspaper which first published the article online and which is indicated at the top of the article unless otherwise specified.