A Swift Crackdown

SPVM Impose Force After Protest Declared Illegal In Record Time

A protester reads book in front of SPVM officers during last night’s protest against austerity measures. Photo Brandon Johnston

It took all of three minutes for last night’s protest against austerity to be declared illegal by Montreal police for violating the P-6 bylaw.

Protesters began their march in front of Square St. Louis at 9 p.m. on Friday night as they yelled chants and profanities at the dozens of police and riot cops. By 9:03 p.m., the SPVM had declared the protest illegal, and within minutes, they were charging at the crowd to get them to disperse.

The police used tear gas and pepper spray to scare the protesters; one reporter witnessed a protester held by the hair while being sprayed. The SPVM charged towards the group along St. Laurent Blvd. near Milton and Guilbault Streets where they held two kettles .

The police handed out 82 tickets to protesters for violating the P-6 bylaw and made one arrest for obstructing and threatening a police officer. Only one vehicle located near Berri and Ontario St. was damaged over the course of the night.

Students have been protesting against austerity since mid-March, when many student associations voted to strike. Some UQAM students have been actively enforcing their strike mandate, despite an injunction issued by the Quebec Superior court.

One protester, identified as Anthony, had a feeling before the protest began that the police would shut down the march rather quickly.

“We have some numbers here, but there’s a lot of police here as well,” he said. “You get the sense that the police are going to swiftly try to crush the movement before it starts.

“I think it’s going to be a swift crackdown.”

The area surrounding the intersection was soon blocked off, preventing citizens outside of the protest from accessing their homes and cars in the area.

As police officers began to leave the area, protesters began resurfacing around St. Laurent. The kettle was soon moved to the corner of St. Laurent and Milton. Meanwhile, a group of protesters started dancing and singing in front of the police.

Despite numerous calls to leave the area, the protesters continued to dance and sing before the cops confronted them, even pulling one away from the group. An onlooker from above then threw a water bottle at one of the officers. The bottle exploded and forced the police officers to step backward, leading to cheers from the crowd.

Near the end of the night, police continued their kettle on St. Laurent and Milton as a few of The Link’s editors and staffers looked on. After being forced from the area, the group went into a Centrale Bergham, a fast food restaurant on the main.

Shortly after, a police officer confronted the editors and staffers in the restaurant, warning them to “décalisse” if they weren’t eating.

The officer asked each member of the newspaper if they were hungry before warning them once more to leave the establishment if they weren’t eating. One other patron complained that the police were disturbing her and felt the situation was “unsettling.”