Montreal police used rarely applied powers last night to disperse an anti-capitalist demonstration at the core of the downtown.
A tight ring of police officers in full riot gear surrounded about 200 protesters on Peel St. at Dorchester Square before the protest march by a radical anti-capitalist group called Anti-Capitalist Convergence could even begin.
However, several dozen protesters managed to escape the police net. Furious at what they saw as an unprovoked attack by the police, they blocked traffic on Ste. Catherine St. between Peel and University Sts., vandalizing a parked police van, setting fires to trash cans and engaging the riot police in running skirmishes.
CJAD reporter Shuhuyee Lee was slightly injured after a golfball-size marble thrown by one of the protesters hit her in the back of the head.
The protesters had gathered at Dorchester Square for what organizers called a "protest picnic" that featured street theatre, music and kiosks.
CLAC, which was at the centre of violent confrontations with police at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas last year, announced Thursday that the picnic would be followed by a protest march through the streets of Montreal.
Knowing about CLAC's violent history, police decided to take no chances of a possible disturbance in the downtown core, said Commander André Durocher of Montreal police.
Police have to ensure a protest fits three criteria before they can use their power of preventive dispersal, he said.
"There has to be a history of violent protests by that group, we have to have intelligence that they are planning violent actions and we must have visual proof that people are carrying weapons," Durocher said. "In this case we had all three."
Durocher showed reporters a pile of weapons, including Molotov cocktails of different designs, slingshots, knives, marble and billiard balls, as well as gas masks and hiking helmets that were confiscated from the protesters, who were being detained one by one, searched and put on city buses.
However, the police net also caught some people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jannine Krish, a McGill University student, said she was blocked inside Peel métro station by riot police and was let go three hours later - but only after a thorough search and a $138 ticket for unlawful assembly.
- Levon Sevunts's E-mail address is email@example.com.
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