Between 11:30 and 12 noon, I attended a demonstration organized by the unions in Carré St-Louis to protest the globalization meetings of the G8 in Montreal. The riot police were present, but did not bother anyone. I arrived at Dominion Park about 6:10 p.m. to check out the second scheduled anti-globalization demonstration that began at 4 p.m..
The Montreal riot police had cordoned off a group of about 200 people nearby in the middle of rue Peel at the rue Cathcart intersection. While tense, there was little movement or noise in the Dominion Park and arrest area The cordoned protesters were mostly still, and mostly quiet. A few waved placards and flags. All reports I received from five witnesses stated that these anti G8 marchers left Dominion Park on rue Peel peacefully and then were surrounded within several minutes by riot police. There were no reports of vandalism or illegal activity from the protesters.
North of the arrest area at the Peel and Ste. Catherine intersection, a crowd of several hundred developed. People who were part of the anti-G8 march but escaped the riot police cordon stated that most of the people gathering were passer-by's and not part of the anti-G8 march.
I was at that intersection around 6:30 p.m.. Two or three trash cans had been emptied in the intersection, and one was smouldering from a fire. The youth with the trash cans were not anyone of the political activists I recognized from the anti-G8 activists.
Over the next 45 minutes that I stayed in the general area, a growing number of passer-by's became interested in the scene, and many seemed to participate in running away from the riot police when they would clear out the crowd, and then these same people would return when the police retreated. Some threw objects at the riot police.
Back at the riot police cordon, the mass arrest of the protesters proceeded calmly. I did not see any acts of resisting arrests both passively or actively. I saw approximately 6 - 8 people frisked and lead to a police bus.
Returning to Ste Catherine between Peel and Metcalf, a police mini van was being vandalized by two or three youths (again no one I recognized from the activists). An activist I know was cautioning people via a portable sound system not to panic, to be calm, to beware of the danger and the approaching riot police, and not to do anything that would add to the danger (like destroying property). This person was trying to prevent a riot, that the police actions were seeming to provoke.
It seems that the situation developed as such:
A peaceful anti G8 demonstration left Dominion Park. They were immediately surrounded by riot police. There was no evidence of any lawbreaking besides the police depriving people of their constitutional right to protest. Those that were arrested from the anti G8 demonstration were peaceful throughout.
Outside this police cordon, many people were attracted to the riot police show of force and the mass arrest of people. People watching became angry at the mass arrest. This lead to several acts of vandalism outside the police cordon. None of the people doing the vandalism seem to be political activists, nor were they targeted by the police for arrest.
The riot police provoked the ensuing vandalism and potential riot by their abuse of power when they (again for the second time in two months), mass arrested young protesters who were peacefully taking a political stand against the government.
The political activists were non-violent; the police were depriving them of their rights; and passer-by's reacted to this dynamic started engaging in vandalism and throwing objects at the police.
It seems clear that certain dissent is illegally being suppressed, and that the police have been given license to violate the Canadian Bill of Rights. The government is separating the youth protesters from the older union and NGO protests. They are targeting the youth for abuse and arrest, regardless of their similar forms of protests and identical issues they are protesting. They are criminalizing the youth who do not have the resources of the powerful unions to protect them.
Given the history, I fully expect the police to justify the illegal mass arrests because of the vandalism that took place by those not targeted for arrest, and which started 30 minutes after the targeted protesters were stopped and arrested by the riot police.
April 26, 2002, 10:15 p.m.
Addition: April 27, 2002
I watched several TV News shows about the arrests, with quotes from Police Spokesperson Andre Durocher claiming the police seized Molotov cocktails. They filmed a small plastic container with grey duct tape around it which is similar to the liquid containers Montreal Medics carry that are filled with mineral oil used to treat pepper-spray burns. Mineral Oil is non-flammable, (it is baby oil minus the fragrance).
As well, there were pictures of helmets and gas masks. The medics DO advise protesters at demonstrations with a risk of police violence to wear helmets to help prevent brain injuries (Montreal police are notorious for clubbing people on the head), and to protect their face, eyes and respiratory system from chemical weapons such as pepper spray and tear gas. Seeing that the police pepper-sprayed the front line of the cordoned off protesters (including an official from the CSQ union), protecting one's own health should not be a crime - nor used by media to justify police abuse.
Moreover, the sequence of the TV news reverses the order of events. First they show the vandalism, then they say police arrested disorderly protesters.