The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) came out in full force on Friday to clamp down on Montreal’s March Against Police Brutality, an annual demonstration organized by the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COPB). Police charged, tear gassed, and pepper sprayed protesters throughout the two-hour-long march.
240 people were arrested out of the approximately 300 who attended. Last year’s march saw a similar number of arrests, but the protesters were in the thousands.
On Thursday, SPVM chief of operations Pierre Brochet vowed to strictly enforce P-6, a municipal by-law that prohibits masks and an assembly of more than fifty people unless dates, times, and route are declared to police beforehand. The organizers of COPB have never declared their route to police beforehand, in protest of the restrictive laws surrounding protesting in Montreal.
Several protesters were targeted for violating by-law P-6 before the start of Friday’s march at 5 p.m. Police then charged to disperse the small assembled crowd.
Protesters regrouped on the intersection of Clark and de Montigny before being pushed again toward lines of riot police on Ste. Catherine. The crowd was kettled shortly after.
Other groups of protesters began clashing with police to free their comrades but were eventually pushed away by clouds of tear gas.
Nearly 150 people were arrested in the kettle, including two journalists from The Daily and Concordia’s the Link. Three people were released and taken to an ambulance after they began having a panic attack. Protesters cried out in French that the kettle was “too tight” and that they were not given enough space to breathe.
Two buses from the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) were later brought in to transport the protesters to the police station. Arrestees were detained for several hours before being handed a ticket for violating P-6.
The journalists from The Daily and the Link were eventually released with the threat that criminal charges would be brought against them if they stayed at the demonstration. Journalists from the Montreal Gazette and the Concordian faced a similar situation minutes later.
Police later kettled another group of protesters near the intersection of St. Denis and Ste. Catherine. Targeted arrests were made throughout the demonstration, including the violent arrest of a protester made at Berri and René-Lévesque at 6:45 p.m., in which five police officers pushed one demonstrator to the ground.
The COPB founded the Montreal March Against Police Brutality in 1997 as a day for people to publically pay respect to those who have experienced police brutality, and to draw attention to the systemic targeting of marginalized members of the community by police.