Friday saw two protests in Montreal’s Gay Village, one calling for increased police presence in the neighbourhood, and a counter-protest of around 100 people opposing the calls for more police. The call for an increased police presence stems from an alleged spate of violent attacks in the Village, the most recent dating back to December 12.
The march and rally in favour of an increase in police presence was organized by a group called the Collectif Carré Rose Montreal (CCRM). According to the CCRM’s French-language Facebook page, the group, which uses the pink square as a symbol, aims to fight homophobia and “promote security in the Village by using preventative and positive actions.”
Not everyone agrees with the goals of the CCRM. Mona Luxion, one of the organizers of the counter-protest and a former Daily columnist, asserted that police do not make a neighbourhood safe for everyone.
“When you look at the role of the police, they’re not simply a neutral body that exists to protect everyone,” Luxion said. “They serve specific interests – namely, protecting private property and the interests of the capitalist [and] colonial state.”
The founder of the CCRM, Louis-Alain Robitaille, works as a real estate agent in the Village and around the city. According to Luxion, the commercial interests of Robitaille, along with other CCRM members, are apparent in the CCRM’s goal to make the neighbourhood safer for “businesses, customers of all the area’s businesses, workers in the area, tourists, et cetera.”
Robitaille could not be contacted for an interview by press time.
The counter-protesters took to the streets at around 5:45 p.m. and were met with immediate police resistance. The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) declared the protest illegal within minutes of demonstrators moving from the sidewalk to the street. After an altercation with an officer, where one protester was pushed to the ground, the group blocked the intersection at Ste. Catherine, just steps from the CCRM rally.
Separated by a police line, the majority of the demonstrators eventually dispersed to join the March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women down the street at Place Émelie-Gamelin.
Yet some protesters remained. Approximately 300 people supporting the CCRM began their march at around 6:45 p.m. and tensions rose between the pink square wearers and the Pink Bloc, an anti-capitalist queer activist group. Throughout the CCRM rally and march, the Pink Bloc often broke out into song and dance, and denounced the CCRM as a ‘social cleansing’ project.
Pink Bloc members pointed to the open invitation extended to Denis Coderre, Montreal’s mayor, as an illustration of the alleged gentrifying and social cleansing goals of the CCRM.
During the march, one Pink Bloc member argued with a CCRM member about the role of the police moving forward. The CCRM member denounced the number of social service organizations in the neighbourhood, saying that they “attract homeless people” and other people that make the neighbourhood feel “less safe,” and suggested that the police were needed to fix the problem.
The Pink Bloc member disagreed, and said, “Police can never be part of the solution because they are part of the problem.”
Luxion agreed with the sentiment, and stressed, “We have to ask who is made safer by police presence and at whose expense.”
The CCRM march dispersed at around 7 p.m..