At 8 p.m. on March 15, over 500 people gathered to participate in Montreal’s annual march against police brutality. In stark contrast to the previous year’s march, where more than 90 people were kettled, not a single protester was detained or assaulted by the police, and the event ended peacefully at around 9:30 p.m.
Meeting at Rachel and Garnier on the corner of Parc La Fontaine, protesters heard a series of speeches before marching southwest toward the downtown area.
“Until the killing, the occupation, the profiling and the abuse come to an end, there will always be an anti-police brutality demonstration.”
Addressing the crowd in both French and English, organizers pointed to the fact that over 1,000 people in the U.S. alone were murdered by police in 2015, and made reference to the numerous instances of police violence committed with impunity against marginalized communities across the globe.
“Until the killing, the occupation, the profiling and the abuse come to an end, there will always be an anti-police brutality demonstration,” said one organizer. “We are not powerless. We will always outnumber them.”
Many people present said that they had personally experienced police violence.
“We’re here because we’ve experienced police brutality,” one protester, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Daily. “We think it’s unfair […] that a certain segment of the population […] is able to use violence against us when we’re doing nothing wrong.”
“We don’t have the right to express our opinions, and I think that’s really sad.”
“Certain people are [attacking city property] but they’re a minority. […] We don’t have the right to express our opinions, and I think that’s really sad,” the protester continued.
“But I’m really surprised,” another protester told The Daily, roughly 45 minutes into the march, “because it’s unusual for [the police] to let us march for such a long time. […] Last year [at the anti-police brutality march] I got pepper sprayed and hit with a police baton.”
Protesters adjusted their route when they were blocked by squad cars, police on bicycles, and riot lines. Marching west on Sherbrooke from La Fontaine to St. Denis, they briefly turned south before continuing west on Ste. Catherine.
Police presence was light compared to previous protests, although roughly a dozen officers on horseback followed throughout the march. Many activists expressed surprise at the police allowing the march to continue, since an itinerary had not been provided, making the event illegal under the controversial municipal bylaw P-6.
“Protesters didn’t have a planned march route because most of them expected police to shut down the protest minutes after it started.”
According to the Toronto Star, “protesters didn’t have a planned march route because most of them expected police to shut down the protest minutes after it started.” At last year’s anti-police brutality protest, riot police kettled the demonstrators at an underpass near Berri and Ontario, barely ten minutes after they began marching. On that occasion 95 people were arrested or ticketed, including student journalists from the Link who had been covering the event.
One protester, who also preferred to remain anonymous, expressed guarded optimism based on the police’s relative restraint. “I think that since the death of Fredy Villanueva, and the 2012 [student] strike, there’s been more open discussion [of police brutality] and a certain amount of anger against Quebec law enforcement. People are trusting them less and less, and to a certain extent, they’re no longer willing to […] injure and kill as arbitrarily as they used to,” they said.
“People are trusting them less and less, and to a certain extent, they’re no longer willing to […] injure and kill as arbitrarily as they used to.”
At roughly 9:30 p.m., the march ended peacefully at Cabot Square near the Atwater metro station.
No marchers were detained or assaulted, and no tickets were issued that night.