Protesters march in anti-STM police brutality demonstration

Activists denounce the violent arrest of a Black trans woman at Jean-Talon metro station

Over 200 supporters gathered at Jarry Park to protest against the expansion of STM inspector powers on Sunday. Protesters marched through Villeray, ending with the crowd taking a knee and holding a moment of silence outside of Jean-Talon metro.

The demonstration comes eight days after a video surfaced where two STM inspectors are seen violently apprehending a woman. One inspector is seen punching the woman in the head multiple times, while the other held her down. The woman was stopped for allegedly evading a metro fare. 

Police can be seen arriving towards the end of the struggle, making an official arrest where the woman was reportedly charged with assault. An internal investigation into the incident has since been launched.

Activists voiced concerns over STM inspectors’ special constable status slated to begin in July. Inspectors will be able to make arrests and have access to databases normally reserved for law enforcement.

“An internal investigation is not enough. It’s insulting,” said Van Harry, a representative of Black Lives Matter Montreal. “The agents implicated must be named and punished—but above all, STM inspectors must be stripped of their powers to detain passengers violently.”

The event was co-hosted by multiple grassroots activist groups in Montreal, including Black Lives Matter Montreal, Pas de solution policière à la crise sanitaire, Meals for Milton-Parc, and Defund the SPVM. Organizers handed out hand sanitizers, masks, water bottles and snacks, and encouraged all observers to respect social distancing guidelines.

"Unhoused people get harassed, targeted, and abused by STM inspectors daily,” said Sophie Hart, organizer of Meals for Milton Park. Although Hart was not present, the written statement was read aloud by another organizer, Sarah. “I encourage everyone to be active bystanders every time they use the metro. I encourage you to speak up when you see something wrong, and to intervene when necessary.”

“An internal investigation is not enough. It’s insulting.” — Van Harry

“For real security, invest in our community,” chanted the protesters as they marched through the streets. Throughout the demonstration, protesters called for a focus on community-centered intervention and a redistribution of funds.

Supporters held a moment of silence before closing remarks were made, and members of the trans community spoke in solidarity to advocate for marginalized people.

“I know the [victim]. I’m her social worker,” said a representative of ASTTeQ Montreal, a local trans advocacy group. “I know this beautiful person who does not look for trouble—and I know many like her who suffer from stigmatisation, discrimination, and racism.”

On April 26, the STM said they will be maintaining their objective in changing STM inspectors’ status to special constable beginning July. Inspectors will be under police jurisdiction, but will not be armed. 

The STM’s internal investigation of the arrest on April 17 at Jean-Talon metro is ongoing.

“We demand accountability from the STM and SPVM, and certainly from our mayor, Valérie Plante,” said Harry.