Wednesday, June 06, 2007

When It Comes To Brutalizing Children, Montreal Cops Are Tops

According to an article in last Saturday's Journal de Montreal, a thirteen year old girl was brought to the hospital after being thrown to the ground by police and then pepper sprayed.

Here is my roughshoud translation:
Unconscious, wounded and covered in pepper spray, a thirteen year old was brought to the emergency room yesterday after coming between her sixteen year old big brother and the police officers who had come to arrest him.

"I was hit by a blast of pepper, then they hit me and I just felt pain in all my body. Before, I hadn't known the police to be like that," said Entessar Mounem in an interview with the Journal yesterday after leaving the hospital.

The incident occurred around noon on the corner of Casgrain and Jarry, in Villeray. Bicycle police had wanted to arrest the girl's sixteen year old brother for violating the terms of his conditional release, when his family intervened.

According to Stéphane Bélanger, chief of community station 31, the situation soon degenerated into a brawl. Entessar apparently grabbed a police officer's vest and someone touched the officer's gun.

Contradictory Versions

"The police officer then freed himself from the girl's grip, and in the melee she fell to the ground," according to the chief who arrived at the scene soon after. "According to witnesses, she hit her head on the ground."

Apparently the girl got up again to go at the police officers, before being doused with pepper spray and falling unconscious. Her mother and brother were also pepper sprayed, but police insist that they did not hit anyone with their batons.

The family and friends say otherwise: "When I saw my sister being hit, I couldn't see anything else... she is just thirteen years old," protests one of Entessar's brothers, Nasser Mounem.

A Hostile Crowd

Police commander Bélanger claims that the police batons were only used to control the angry crowd of almost one hundred people who surrounded the police.

He points out that an ambulance was called immediately and that the officers brought the teenager's mother to the hospital in a police car so that she could get there as soon as possible to be with her daughter.

Back at home last night, the young girl said she was worn out and exhausted but did not have a visible injuries.

While the story pretty much speaks for itself, there's two or three things that i'll add...

First, while the topic is never explicitly broached, Villeray is a working class neighbourhood and to judge by the names of the girls' family members, this was yet another case of police violence aimed at Montreal's Arab working class. (According to the study Quand le travail n'empêche pas d'être pauvre! (p.49), in Montreal it is Arab, Muslim and Black people who have the most "difficulty in entering the job market" - which is a confused way of saying that these are the communities experiencing the highest levels of forced proletarianization.) All of which is just another reminder that anti-racism, anti-cop work, and working class community resistance are inseparable.

Also worth noting, simply coz it's timely and all: pepper spray and other "non-lethal weapons" are promoted by the police as being less dangerous than guns. While this is theoretically true, in practice police use "non-lethal weapons" like pepper spray far more often than they would use their guns. As such pepper spray and other non-lethal weapons effectively increase the level of police violence.

These weapons are not harmless, and can in fact kill - for instance, almost a year ago Stephane Datey, a university student, was killed by Quebec City police: he had taken drugs, was freaking out, and so the cops covered him with a woolen blanket, pinned him down under a police shield, and then pepper sprayed him. Datey lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

In this regard it is worth mentioning that Montreal police are phasing in another "non-lethal" weapon - as of June 18th the cops will be patrolling in the metros armed with taser guns. Already widely used in the united states, tasers have killed dozens of people in that country - many once they are already in custody. (See this Amnesty International report for more on this.)

And finally, to return to Entessar Mounem, who was pepper sprayed and knocked unconscious by the cops as she fought to protect her brother. Appreciate the irony that normally the racist Journal de Montreal would have only mentioned a girl like her in order to paint a picture of a hyper-submissive female from a strange foreign culture, which is the newspaper's current line on Arab women. And yet here she was, strong and empowered enough to take on the pigs - showing more guts than i might have.

Now that's my idea of a role model for girls everywhere...

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