News  Vigil remembers police brutality victims

Families demand "justice, truth, and dignity"

A commemorative vigil and march to remember victims of police killings took place in Montreal last Saturday.

“Police everywhere, justice nowhere,” the crowd, consisting of victims’ family members and their supporters, chanted in French as they started their march in front of the office of the Montreal Police Brotherhood. The demonstration was organized by The Justice for Victims of Police Killings Coalition, which includes the relatives, friends, and allies of Anas Bennis, Claudio Castagnetta, Ben Matson, Quilem Registre, Gladys Tolley, and Fredy Villanueva – all of whom died as a result of police actions and interventions.

Andrea Figueroa, a representative of event co-sponsor QPIRG McGill, explained in an interview with The Daily that the coalition was formed in 2010 after the Forum Against Police Violence and Impunity was held in Montreal.

“[The families of the victims] met with a bunch of other folks who were helping organize the conference, and wanted to organize something that happened every year that was sort of in memory and to highlight the injustices that have been happening to all these families,” said Figueroa.

According to their website, the Coalition seeks “dignity, justice, and truth” because they believe that some of the investigations into the police-related deaths were inconclusive and dubious.

“The common demand they all have is that they want justice for their families, for their families’ members that have been killed, and nothing has happened yet,” said Figueroa.

After the march, the group gathered to express their solidarity with the families of the victims and to listen to their concerns. Julie Matson – the daughter of Ben Matson, killed by a member of the Vancouver Police Department in 2002 – addressed the crowd to express her worries about the reach of police impunity.

“If you look at us, we are all really normal people – this is the thing about this kind of violence, is that it affects everybody,” she said.

Lilian Madrid, the mother of Fredy Villanueva, was among the members of the Coalition that led the march down St. Denis.

“What we are asking for is justice… We want justice to be made,” said Madrid. “We want that police officer to pay for the death of my child. We are not asking for money, what we are asking for is justice.”

Madrid also told The Daily that she believed racial profiling played a part in her son’s death. “All the boys that were there…there were no Québécois,” she said. “They all were Latino and people that have come to Canada to seek refuge, people from other countries.”

Following the highly publicized investigation into Fredy Villanueva’s death, Dany Villanueva, Madrid’s other son and a key witness in the investigation, is facing deportation to Honduras.

Robyn Maynard, a social justice organizer in Montreal and Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes member involved with the march and vigil, agreed with Madrid.

“[Police brutality] happens to people who are socially profiled, people with mental health issues, people who are very poor, whose lives are not given as much value in our society,” Maynard said. “Those are the people who the police can kind of have impunity to kill because there are no repercussions.”