Montrealers continue fighting against police brutality

The yearly police brutality protest garnered hundreds calling to defund the police

Photo Felix Legault
Photo Andraé Lerone Lewis
Photo Felix Legault

Speakers and participants did not want to reveal names for their safety.

On March 15, the annual demonstration against police brutality was held at Beaudry metro station. It was organized by the Collectif 15 Mars, an autonomous group of activists from diverse backgrounds united by opposition to police intervention.

Nearly a hundred people gathered on the streets of the Gay Village, most wearing face covers and masks. Police officers on horses, bicycles, and on foot flooded the surrounding areas with expensive and excessive gear. 

The collective opposes racial, social and political profiling, pushing to stop police arrests aimed towards sex workers, Black, Indigenous, unhoused individuals, and people struggling with mental illness. It says the protest is a call for an end to police stop-and-search, mixed squads, and the presence of private security agencies in public spaces. 

The city of Montreal’s municipal budget for 2024 saw an increase of $33.8 million granted to the SPVM, representing 18.3 per cent of the overall budget. The government has been criticized once again for prioritizing law and enforcement over other essential services. In contrast, social housing is only getting 3.2 per cent of the total budget, urban and economic development only 4.1 per cent, and public transport 10.2 per cent. “We increase faster the budget of people who intimidate people rather than the budget of the people who heal,” said a representative of CLAC's Legal Self-Defense Committee. 

Le Collectif wants to redirect the finances put into the police budget towards community services to help unhoused individuals who are continuously and increasingly repressed, questioned, arrested and prosecuted. “The real crime, for us, is that while we earn peanuts, social inequality explodes and the bosses pocket more and more,” another speaker said. They argue that the state prefers to finance profiteers, with the sole objective of “pauperizing the population and keeping themselves rich.” 

Photo Felix Legault

The event began with a few speeches, passionately spoken through megaphones, denouncing the police as being a central part of an oppressive system which abides to laws made for owners and the rich. “We recognize them as systems that carry out colonial, transphobic, and classist violence”, said a speaker. 

As protesters marched on Ste Catherine St., police squads swarmed the sidewalks, walking along intimidatingly as attendees taunted them and shouted “Fuck the police, no justice no peace,” “The police are serving the rich and the fascists” and “Whose streets? Ours!”. 

For many, the police have caused harm and distress. Ziggy, a participant who didn’t want to share their name, expressed their personal experience with the cops. “When I was 14, I jumped the metro and it ended with the cops being called,” they said. “I got brutally beaten by two cops and ever since there’s been this burning hate.” 

Others reflect on the reasons for the increasing emphasis on the police force. “In a capitalist and colonial context, the state needs to have the police to ensure that they maintain the oppressive institutions put in place in society,” said Will, a protester. 

Angelique, another attendee, also views oppression as the core of police enforcement. “The city values the police because it’s all about oppression and control,” they said. “It’s never been about the people or liberty.”

The demonstration dwindled two hours later and ended at Guy-Concordia metro station.