Members of an anti-capitalist group say their human rights were violated by police who moved in on their downtown demonstration before it even started.
The members of CLAC - the acronym for the French name of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence - held a press conference yesterday to denounce Montreal police for what the group claims was a suspension of their right to be presumed innocent. Twenty-five people were arrested and 147 fines were issued during the police operation Friday.
The demonstrators had gathered at Dorchester Square and planned to march in protest against the Montreal meeting of G8 labour ministers. The $138 tickets allege they were taking part in an illegal assembly. But group members refer to Friday's events as "the march that never happened."
"Before the demonstration could even begin, Montreal police rapidly surrounded the people inside the square, imprisoning more than 300 people," said CLAC member Christina Xydous.
"By behaving this way, the Montreal police force violated several fundamental rights that are protected under the Canadian constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Urged to Fight
Xydous urged people who were issued tickets to fight them in court, but said it was too early to say whether CLAC will file a complaint with a human-rights tribunal.
On Saturday, Montreal police Commander André Durocher said the decision to cordon off the park was made after protesters refused to tell the police where the march would go. While some people were either arrested or detained and fined, about 150 others were placed on buses, driven to a nearby métro station and told to go home.
Zev Tiefenbach, a soup-kitchen co-ordinator, contended he was assaulted by a Montreal police officer because he was following buses loaded with demonstrators on his bicycle while trying to keep protest organizers up to date on what was happening.
Tiefenbach said two police officers stopped him and asked him to identify himself. He said he refused to do so because he had broken no laws.
"(A police officer) proceeded to hit me in the face, which caused my face to bleed," Tiefenbach said, adding another officer threatened him with violence and forced him into a police van.
Tiefenbach was handed five tickets totaling $415, including a $27 fine for riding a bike without holding the handlebars properly. He also received an $85 fine for "depositing a liquid in a public place."
"I'm wondering if the blood that was coming out of my face after they hit me is the liquid they're referring to."
Tiefenbach said he is considering filing a complaint with the police ethics committee.
Scott Weinstein, a nurse who trains people to act as medics during demonstrations, accused the police of misleading the public during a Saturday press conference in which items seized during the police operation were put on display.
He said an item the Montreal police described as a Molotov cocktail was actually a plastic bottle of mineral oil used to treat people who have been blasted with pepper spray. The bottle was seized along with helmets and gas masks, which the police considered evidence of a potential riot.
"It looks like the police are trying to ban forms of protection against violence," Weinstein said.
But also on display at the press conference were items like slingshots, golf balls and billiard balls. Asked what purpose those items had at a demonstration, Xydous said CLAC members can't be held responsible for everything protesters carry in their pockets.
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