On Friday, March 15, I went to the annual demonstration against police brutality in Montreal. I went knowing that police brutality is an awful thing, and something I should protest. I went having never been subjected to police brutality. I went with an understanding that many other protesters would have more personal reasons for being there.
But I also had the naïve and slightly self-centered idea that the only people who got arrested at these demos were trouble-makers who, though they probably had valid reasons for their actions, were still doing something they knew could get them in trouble.
Looking back, that was the most ridiculous thing I could have thought. Within ten minutes of arriving at the starting point, I saw cops pushing over cyclists and threateningly cracking their batons on their shields. Five minutes later, they randomly snatched a girl from her group of friends and held her face-down on the street. From that point on, lines of riot police began to section off the group, herding them in different directions. My group ran from one cluster of cops and ended up face to face with another line, and were then pinned against the wall of a building and held for almost two hours. We were arrested, handcuffed and put on city buses which took us to a police station by Langelier metro. This was all, from what I had seen, unprovoked, unwarranted, and completely unnecessary.
The police don’t care whether your demo is peaceful or not, whether you walk on the sidewalk when they tell you to, whether you wear a mask, or if you yell “fuck the police.” They are there to do a job, and that job is to crush any dissent, any voice that even whispers a question about their authority. To them, you are deserving of a $637 fine just for standing with your friends and believing that police brutality is wrong.
The police weren’t there to serve or protect anything that night except their own interests. The people that kept me and my friends safe during the ordeal were those who shared their Goldfish crackers and water bottles and chanted the number of a lawyer. Those who maintained my faith in humanity, as stupid as it sounds, were the protesters who waited for us with food and coffee, hugs and solidarity, after the cops let us go. The actions of the police removed any lingering belief I had left in their capacity to support social justice, and the actions of my fellow ‘criminals’ reminded me why we should not give a shit about the police.
*Anne Arky is a pseudonym. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.