Commentary | Piñata diplomacy: Anarchist masturbation in downtown Montreal

“For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

– Luke 6:43

Last week I wrote that “if human rights language is to be anything more than the collective moral masturbation of supposedly civilized people…free speech must be defended even – nay, especially – when it is the most difficult to do so.”

It truly discomforts me to use the same metaphorical device two weeks in a row, but when its twofold application is so just it would be more risky to deliberately avoid the resemblance than it is to possibly appear redundant by employing it again this week.

That said, let’s discuss another recent event that struck me as profanely masturbatory: the annual police brutality riots that devolved into violence, yet again, in the heart of downtown last Sunday.

I’ve been shocked by the local media’s dispassionate treatment of this incident. Some say it was just a few bad apples committing the violence. The Gazette actually quoted a civil rights lawyer contending that 99 per cent of the demonstrators were “protesting in good faith.” Bullshit. I was there; maybe 15 per cent of the marchers were protesting in good faith, and those were probably the ones like me who joined in the middle because they had nothing better to do that afternoon.

I was catnapping in Square Phillips on Ste. Catherine, enjoying what was practically the first day of spring, when a mass of masked marchers bounded across my vision, heading west. Overwhelmingly young, leaving nothing unsettled in the street or on the sidewalk, halting all traffic, surprising and scaring the shit out of drivers and shoppers at The Bay, they waved signs in the faces of passers-by, and wielded bottles, bricks, toy drums, and, worst of all, Leftöver Crack patches on their grandfathers’ leather jackets. In essence, an unstoppable force seeking, like Newton’s apple, an equal and opposite foe to reckon with.

That opposing force was provided gratis by a cordon of Montreal police officers, in full riot gear, motionless at the intersection of St. Urbain and Ste. Catherine. Provoked by the mere presence of these fascist pigs, the protestors now relieved themselves of all remaining bottles and bricks in their possession, and were thoughtful enough to also relieve the surrounding businesses of any loose articles in their vicinity, including signs, tables, and other totable wares.

And the police just stood there. They just stayed and stomached it, sometimes quite literally. They tried to use their shields as umbrellas to defend against the incoming projectiles raining down upon them, but sometimes the rain was so heavy that the effort was perilously futile.

About 100 of the rioters retreated a few hundred metres away and began constructing a blockade with wooden planks and steel barriers torn from a nearby Ste. Catherine construction site. It was like a bunch of kids in a sandbox: you can tell me some of them might have been on the receiving end of police violence in the past, but by 4 p.m. last Sunday, any remnant of legitimate moral outrage had dissipated into hundreds of sunlit smiles adorning the gleeful faces of juvenile people relishing the opportunity to do with a few city blocks whatever they pleased.

I saw one kid wildly applauded as he rammed a construction barrier into a parked blue sedan. A paunchy middle-aged man jumped out of the driver’s seat and started punching the kid, as another tried to separate them. A third hit the driver with a stolen two-by-four until they were all broken up and the man told to drive off, an order he promptly though frustratingly obeyed.

Of course, I can only speak of the two hours or so of the march that I witnessed. But of those last few hours, I can say with confidence that the accepted storyline, “A few bad apples ruined the whole pie,” is a myth whose proponents have precious little credibility on any other related questions.

The cause of fighting police brutality deserves more respectful and respectable advocates. It defeats the entire purpose when violence and vandalism foreseeably ensue year after year. Moreover, the City of Montreal is complicit in these inevitable crimes if they allow the marches to continue in their present form, routes and faces disturbingly undisclosed.

Pissed that Ricky used the same old argument two weeks in a row? Holler at him: pinatadiplomacy@mcgilldaily.com.


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