On Saturday March 12, forty mounted riot police surrounded and arrested ten people attending the demonstration against the Quebec government’s austerity measures. The demonstrators were charged with conspiracy and possession of weapons.
On Monday, nine were released without bail, and one was released with a bail of $500. Conspiracy charges were dropped, while charges of possession of weapons still stand.
The arrestees were released under the condition that unless they live together, they may not communicate with one another in any way, except in the presence of a lawyer to discuss their case. Furthermore, the ten individuals are not allowed to possess weapons or carry tools in public, except where their work requires it.
The arrestees are bound to these conditions until they have been proven not guilty. The first court hearing will take place on April 29.
Olivier, who was present at the demonstration on Saturday and knows some of the arrestees, explained what he saw as the reason for the arrests.
“I saw the people being taken before the protest even started. They were charged with conspiracy, possession of weapons, mostly because they were dressed in black,” he said.
“They were circled by people on horses, anti-riot troops, inside the protest. The troops were permitted to enter the protest by some of the labour unions. The more mainstream labour unions pointed them out, the riot cops circled them and took them away immediately,” Olivier continued.
Michel, who was present when the prisoners were released, told The Daily that, “the police were targeting the anti-capitalist bloc at the demo. It was a very targeted, very deliberate attempt to take a certain segment of people out of that demo and make sure they were off the streets.”
Those arrested were not told what they were being charged with at the time of their arrest.
They were kept in permanently lit cells with no beds for a total of 55 hours.
One woman was given a black eye during the arrests, others were bruised and some later complained of headaches. Doctors were not available in the detention centre.
The arrests sparked a series of solidarity demonstrations over the course of the weekend.
At 9 p.m. on Saturday night, between two and three hundred people met in front of the Guy-Concordia metro station and marched down Guy to the Centre Opérationnel Sud police detention centre downtown in solidarity with the detainees.
Chants of “No justice, no peace, fuck the police,” “Liberez nos camarades” and “Les riches et les fascistes, la police, en service” were directed toward the police by protesters.
Philip Schoettle-Greene, a McGill student present at the solidarity march, described a moment when police cars sped through an intersection which was filled with demonstrators.
“Two people with a banner nearly got hit by a police car,” he told The Daily.
Protesters moved from the police station along Ste. Catherine, where people scattered after a trash can was dragged into the intersection of Ste. Catherine and Metcalfe. Thirty police cars filled with riot police carrying batons and tear gas arrived shortly after, entering Simons and banging on their shields. No arrests were made.
On Sunday afternoon a solidarity vigil, drawing fifty to sixty people, was held outside of the police station.
Monday, the prisoners were taken to the Palais de Justice for a bail hearing. About 100 people came and sat in solidarity outside the courthouse. People brought food and hot drinks for when the prisoners were released.
“They were pretty poorly fed – they have been eating cheese sandwiches and drinking orange juice for the past two days,” Olivier said.
Solidarity, Michel told The Daily, is “when some of us are attacked, then all of us stand up and fight back against that.”
*Some names have been changed at the request of interviewees in order to protect their identities.
—With files from Erin Hudson