One day before Montreal's annual demonstration against police brutality, the cops and media are pulling out all the stops to scare people away from tomorrow's protest, while at the same time conditioning public opinion and local journalists, prepping them to blame the protesters if the police do clamp down.
Newspaper articles today describe police going door-to-door along Mont Royal, the increasingly-gentrified street down the middle of the trendy Plateau Mont Royal where the march is set to begin, warning business-owners of the possibility of a riot, and scaring them with advice about removing objects from outside their stores that could be set on fire, used as weapons, or to thrown to break windows.
At the same time, Police Brotherhood boss Yves Francoeur was quoted saying that "These demonstrators don't need to be provoked; they're going to break everything, and one way or another there will be arrests; it happens every year."
COBP - the Colective Opposed to Police Brutality - has been a target of the police, and most specifically the Brotherhood, for years now. Its demonstrations are routinely surrounded with this kind of media hype, and it is true that more than once police swept in, engaging in mass arrests on March 15th - though this has not been the case for some years now. Indeed, while organizers refuse to police or "marshal" those who come to the annual protest, they ask protesters to not engage in violence, all the while acknowledging that their anger is justified.
As one COBP spokesperson said at a press conference yesterday, "There are people who come to this demonstration in order to express their anger, because they are given no other place to voice their complaints if they have been victimized by police violence."
This year, however, police seem to be priming for a fight, and preparing the media terrain so that it looks like its the protesters fault if they get attacked by the riot squad tomorrow. This is part of a general combatitiveness that the Brotherhood has shown over the past years, certainly in no way lessened by its ongoing contract dispute with the city. The Brotherhood has spoken up for the cops who killed Fredy Villanueva last summer, went to court to prevent a coroner's inquests into the deaths (at the cops' hands) of Mohamed Anas Bennis and Michel Berniquez, threatened local webmasters who have posted essays documenting police abuse, and much, much more.
In this context it is all the more important that people come out to tomorow's demonstration, to stand in solidarity with victims of police violence, and also with the activists of COBP who the cops and media are trying to intimidate.
Tomorrow, Sunday March 15th, at 2pm at metro Mont Royal: be there!