A private vigil planned by friends and family Tuesday to honour slain teenager Freddy Villanueva was disrupted by demonstrators who learned of the event through a press release from Mères et Grand-mères pour la Vie et la Justice.
The Villaneuva family rejected the presence of the press and demonstrators at the vigil.
Demonstrators attempted to join the 50 friends and family members gathered by the Villaneuvas at Henri-Bourassa Park in Montreal North where the teenager was killed on August 9.
In their press release, Mères et Grand-mères pour la Vie et la Justice, a collective formed in the wake of Villanueva’s death, claimed “We are all Freddy’s mother.”
During the vigil, the family issued a statement through their press agent Victor Henriquez, denying affiliation with the Mères et Grand-mères pour la Vie et la Justice or any group attempting to politicize their son’s death.
“The family is not supporting any group, they are waiting for the investigation to take further steps,” Henriquez said.
Community groups like Montreal North Republik have organized around Villanueva’s death to push for a public inquiry into his shooting, the resignation of the mayor of the borough, and the end of police brutality in the area. Groups under the banner Defendons Montreal North are planning to stage a demonstration on October 11 denouncing police brutality in their neighborhood.
Culture X Choir, a Montreal North community choir, performed hip-hop song “When Men Will Live from Love” at the vigil.
“We practice in the community centre right here, so when we heard about this [the vigil] we decided to come out and show our support,” said Don Harley, co-director of the choir.
After the performance, friends and family silently lit candles at the base of a tree, a memorial for Villanueva covered with garlands and photos was created by members of the community in the wake of his death.
The intimate vigil contrasts Montreal North riots triggered by the shooting. A prolonged public debate over whether unresolved issues of class and race in the area caused the tragedy has also developed recently.
“When you hear about poverty, and racism, people always point to Montreal North. But it’s a universal problem,” Harley said.
The vigil was held one month to the day after the 18-year old Montreal North resident – known to peers as Pipo – was killed by Montreal police.
Mères et Grand-mères pour la Vie et la Justice was unavailable for comment.
– With files from Josh Chapman