Police Action Sparks Chaos Following Peaceful Protest

Police Clash with Protesters as Thousands Take to the Streets To Protest Police Violence

Organizers estimated that between 25,000 and 30,000 people showed up to show support. Photo Alexandre Denis
Things got heated when protesters returned to SPVM headquarters where police launched tear gas into the crowds. Photo Alexandre Denis

Between 25,000 and 30,000 people gathered peacefully in Parterre du quartier des spectacles on Sunday to protest racism in police killings and the impunity with which they come.

Montreal is the latest city to make its voices heard and was met with police resistance after the protest.

The recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville have once again brought to light the systemic racism Black people are subjected to at the hands of police.

After a three-hour event reserved for Black protesters so that they may grieve in a safe space, people started gathering at Place-des-Arts, across the street from Service de police de la Ville de Montréal Headquarters where officers in riot gear had set up a blockade.

Music plays and everyone dances as everyone shows their solidarity in Dorchester Square. Photo Alexandre Denis

There, speakers outlined a vision of unity for not only the city of Montreal but the world as a whole. They advocated for a world free of racial prejudice against not only Black people but Indigenous communities throughout Canada who are subjected to racial profiling as well.

“We want the police to take action,” said Marie-Livia Beauger, a criminal lawyer and one of the organizers of the day’s protests. “It’s been years we’ve written reports and recommendations, but nothing has happened. We want to stop random searches […] We also want action from the government so that we can have an anti-racist committee that can put on measures that change racial discrimination and profiling.”

After an hour of speeches, the march made its way to Dorchester Square, where there were more speakers, music, dancing, and flares.

“Right now, there are two viruses out there: Covid-19 and racism,” said Stéphanie Germain, another one of the organizers to the crowd of thousands. “It’s in our institutions, in our schools, in our homes. It’s invisible and omnipresent but all racialized people, we have had enough.”

“They started banging their batons against their shields to scare us and started moving forward […] then they just shoved and we toppled over.”
— Subana Ganeshalingam

Around 7 p.m., protesters returned to St-Urbain Street in order to protest in front of the police headquarters, where there were already people confronting police at the blockade.

On both sides of the street, protesters demanded blockades be taken down, and at around 8:10 p.m.—in response to water and beer bottles being thrown over them—police took a knee in what at first appeared to be solidarity with the protesters. In reality, they were preparing gas masks and tear gas guns.

“They started yelling at the crowd to move back, and they started advancing and then some people started fleeing,” said protester Sabine D. “A few people at the front set off fireworks and flares, and that’s when three tear gas canisters were shot over the crowd.”

Several buses filled with cops in riot gear were parading around downtown for a large part of the evening Sunday night. Photo Alexandre Denis

At 8:17, the SPVM officially declared the protest illegal and began forcefully dispersing crowds. Despite no physical provocation, swarms of police then entered the area, blocking access to metro stations and shooting off more tear gas. SPVM officers even took aim at and threatened three Link journalists and a first-aid table whose sole job was to help with those gassed.

“Even if people tried to incite non-violent conversation, it wasn’t allowed,” said Subana Ganeshalingam, who was another one of the protesters that was tear-gassed near SPVM headquarters. “There was a Black person next to me and he was talking to the cop and politely asked if they could have a conversation. The cop agreed and a cop behind him told him to not talk.”

The police even shoved Ganeshalingam to the ground as she and other protesters linked arms in response to being tear-gassed.

“They started banging their batons against their shields to scare us and started moving forward,” said Ganeshalingam. “And then they just shoved and we toppled over.”

Despite the tear gas and militarized police force, protesters continued well into the evening. Photo Alexandre Denis

The rest of the evening saw groups of 10-20 police officers—either in full riot gear or on bicycles—continuing to chase after protesters and forcing them to disperse. There was a continued police presence downtown until around 11 p.m. as there were still a few remaining protesters.

There was also looting late in the evening with the windows of Steve’s Music Store smashed and several people were seen leaving with guitars.

SPVM have confirmed 11 arrests: nine for breaking and entering, one for assault with a weapon, and one for mischief. They have also confirmed that investigations are still ongoing, as there were more than 70 criminal complaints filed.

There will be a second protest on Sunday, June 7 and we will provide you with more details as they are released.