‘What’s Wrong With The System?’

Protesters Demand Answers at Second Annual March for Victims of Police Violence

  • Photo Rachelle Fox

Holding their second annual march and vigil on a chilly Saturday afternoon, the Justice for Victims of Police Killings Coalition demanded “dignity, justice and truth” for their slain kin.

They gathered in front of the office of Montreal’s Police Brotherhood near Laurier Metro Station, where family members of the victims shared their stories to the crowd of roughly 120 people.

The event was organized by those related to Anas Bennis, Claudio Castagnetta, Ben Matson, Quilem Registre, Gladys Tolley and Fredy Villaneuva, all of whom were killed by police officers.
“My mother Gladys Tolley was struck and killed by a Sûreté du Québec [cruiser] in 2001,” said Bridget Tolley, a member of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation. “There is a lot of conflict of interest [and bias] and when we ask for independent investigations, the [government of] Quebec refuses us.”

She also said that not all police officers are bad—but if they make mistakes, then they should face the consequences just like ordinary citizens. The coalition also said that no police officers involved in the deaths faced any repercussions, adding that there have been more than 60 people killed by Montreal police since 1987.

“If I killed a police officer, I would go to jail. When they kill us, they don’t go to jail. What’s wrong with the system?” Tolley asked.

This fall, the Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security said that inquiries into police related incidents by other police officers cannot be impartial. The organizers commended the government’s initiative to create an independent commission.

The protesters made their way to Berri Square by way of Saint Denis St., bearing signs with slogans in French, such as “The police are everywhere; no justice in sight” and “Police officers, assassins, the government is an accomplice.”

They paused at the corner of Ste. Catherine St. where Mario Hamel and Patrick Limoges were shot and killed by Montreal Police last June. Officers opened fire on Hamel, who was said to be wielding a knife and was later revealed to have mental health issues, while Limoges—on his way to work at St-Luc Hospital—was shot in the neck in the crossfire.

Amine Baouche, a student at CEGEP Maisonneuve and a resident of the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area, said he has never been a victim of physical police violence, but has been harassed and questioned by police while not doing anything illegal. He was present to support the families of the victims.

“Even if the victims were guilty of some crime, their families still want to know the truth behind their deaths,” said Baouche. “I think they want to mourn the death as it should be done. Right now, they are in the dark.”

Julie Fortier, speaking on behalf of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia, said that many of their working groups support this movement, such as the committee that organized the march and the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality.

“The COBP does public education throughout the year,” said Fortier. “They also organize the other police brutality march that happens in March.”

She said police violence and racial profiling are related to other issues. For example, QPIRG’s migrant justice groups raise awareness for police violence and racial profiling.

The commemoration was scheduled to coincide with the National Day Against Police Violence protests, which took place across the United States.

Many of the families involved said that they felt isolated and wanted the event to garner support for their struggle. Some added that mainstream media are partly to blame for the lack of scrutiny towards the police and that victims are “marginalized, blamed on racial stereotypes or mental health issues” in reports on incidents of police brutality.

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