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Benoît Marsan, Graduate student in History at Université de Sherbrooke March 26, 2013
Original French textL
My graduate research has focused on the Communist Party of Canada and on Montreal’s unemployed during the Great Depression. As I was getting to the end of uncovering my sources at the same time as Bill 78 was tabled, I was hearing outrage from several people in my surroundings about the situation and their comments on the unprecedented media discourse, the justifications for police interventions and the event coverage in the mass media, the likes of which had never been seen in Quebec. However, following my reading of some archival documents, I had a slight feeling of déjà vu…
PHOTO CAPTION: Student demonstration on March 22 2012. Photo credit: Pascal Scallon-Chouinard
In tandem with the economic depression that has lingered since 2008, marking one of the most severe crises of capitalism since the 30s, social movements of contestation have sprung up here and elsewhere (Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Indignados, Idle No More, the general strikes in Portugal, Greece and Spain, etc.). The student mobilization of the spring of 2012 marks the greatest movement in opposition to austerity measures in North America since the beginning of the current crisis. Within the context of such exacerbated social tension, there’s a greater scale of repression and profiling in order to maintain the status quo. The notion here is not to claim that the current situation is historically analogous to the Great Depression. It’s obvious that a good number of contextual elements diverge from one period to another (the scale of effect of the crisis on institutions, state intervention, the unemployment rate, the international context, the strength of the international labour movement, the rise of fascism, etc.). Yet it’s possible to draw certain parallels. Like historian Ian McKay claims, periods of economic and social crisis radically alter the understanding of social relations. The liberal hegemony is thus questioned more broadly than solely by more or less marginal groups and movements. It is within this context of crisis that the Maple Spring’s police interventions can be more closely compared to those of the 30s. Repression is used to maintain “social peace” at any cost as soon as those in power feel threatened, no matter if the threat is real or imagined.
Between 1930 and 1935 in Quebec, the police and media mainly stigmatized the unemployed, the “reds” and immigrant workers. Despite a difference in scale and repercussions in many respects, 2012’s student mobilization experienced the same phenomenon of stigmatization of its principal stakeholders. This time around, it targeted students, “red squares”, “black blocs” and other “instigators”.
March 15th, International Day Against Police Brutality, had its own special developments this year following the repression exerted throughout the student strike and pursuant Maple Spring protests. In light of the numerous protests and demonstrations of the past year, this recent event was the site of a gargantuan police deployment and ended with the mass arrest of around 300 people. It therefore seems relevant to compare this new wave of repression with certain lesser known events in Quebec’s history, that is the repression upon the movement of unemployed citizens in Montreal throughout the Great Depression. Coincidentally, March 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the period’s most dramatic event, during which an unemployed man was killed by the cops during an unemployment protest.
A case of police impunity at the heart of the crisis in the 1930s
On March 6th 1933, unemployed worker Nick Zynchuck was gunned down by a bullet in the back shot by police office Joseph Zappa, in front of 3962 St-Dominique in Montreal, just as 2 000 citizens and neighbourhood residents attempted to prevent the eviction of the Wlostizozsk couple from their apartment. In 1933, at the peak of the crisis, thousands of renters were threatened with being kicked out onto the street. According to city councillor Jos Schubert, representing the municipal district of St-Louis, this context is responsible for the reaction on the part of Montreal’s working class to the Wlostizozsk eviction and to the death of Nick Zynchick.
Josée Legault March 27, 2013
Something is rotten in the realm of fundamental freedoms in Quebec.
Even abroad, many weeks were spent quibbling over a restaurant owner’s “freedom of expression” because the Office québécoise de la langue française (OQLF) would have reproached him his use of Italian words such as “pasta” in his menu, whereas the original complaint had been made about the English in his “English-Italian” menu that didn’t have one word of French.
However, when the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) decides to nip protests in the bud and, in so doing, to deliberately prevent citizens from exercising their fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, the government assents.
We can’t make head or tail of it.
One can’t help but notice that since the tabling of the Marceau budget – with few exceptions -, the government’s only “left” is its own gauche yoke of ill-advised political decisions.
It remains to be seen how far it will go to keep on alienating itself from the support it needs nonetheless from its allies and traditional constituents. Que sera, sera, as the song goes.
That it stands firmly behind an abuse of power that consists of aborting protests under the pretext that these do not respect a municipal bylaw otherwise contested in court and highly criticized, namely by the Barreau du Québec [the Quebec Bar Association], crowns this whole situation in a quite spectacular manner.
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/justice/359443/pour-une-commission-d-enquete-publique
As teachers and lecturers of various disciplines and several universities in Quebec, we have, accompanied by solidarity, the Quebec student movement in the most important and longest strike in our history. We have therefore been witness to the biggest wave of police repression in the history of contemporary Quebec, marked by 3387 arrests from February 16th to the 3rd of September, 2012. (this assessment is without doubt partial: see the website of the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality)
Several of these arrests were performed during the circling mass practice for which Montreal Police Department (SPVM) have been criticized by the United Nations’ Council of Human Rights in November 2005, which had even asked to hold a commission of inquiry that never happened. Often these arrests were carried out in a brutal manner, the prison conditions were harsh and they were not permitted to talk to a lawyer or relatives.
That’s not counting the numerous injuries, two eyes lost, teeth broken, fractured skull, broken arms and legs. The Media and the broadcasted videos in cyberspace have also revealed that the police forces seemed animated by a profound contempt for students, which is expressed by the insults, including by way of sexist and homophobic.
Marc-André Cyr August 28, 2012
Original French Text: http://voir.ca/marc-andre-cyr/2012/08/28/la-democratique-invisibilite-de-la-matraque/
It has begun again… At Université de Montréal, officers of the riot squad are forcing teachers into giving their classes, filming students, threatening, sequestering, and making arrests . They are even using kettling tactics at a general assembly and barring journalists from entering. Those who have been closely following the strike are now accustomed to these scenes… However, and we are also very familiar with this yes-man rhetoric, it’s the students who are being accused, once again, of “violence and intimidation”.
In the rather tawdry flyer, the Journal de Montréal, it was stated this morning that
“At UdeM, despite the police presence around the Jean-Brillant pavilion, at least four classes have been disrupted by demonstrators.
A group of students had even barricaded itself in one of the building’s rooms. The SPVM had to intervene by virtue of the Criminal Code, given that allegations of misdemeanors had been reported to the authorities. Nineteen people have been placed under police surveillance” .
And in the pages of the Liberal party’s official bulletin, La Presse
“As part of the start of the new university semester, the SPVM is also present at UQAM in order to ensure that the return to classes goes smoothly.
July 6 2012
Original French text: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/353985/une-coalition-s-active-a-recenser-les-victimes-du-conflit-etudiant
A coalition has started compiling a list of victims of acts of political repression since the start of the student strike in mid-February.
The Ligue des droits et libertés (League of Rights and Freedoms), the legal committee of CLASSE (Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante / Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity), as well as the Association des juristes progressistes (Association of progressive lawyers) will collect testimony from persons who suffered police intimidation or brutality, or reprisals because they wore a red square.
Launched yesterday, the gathering of testimony will continue until August 13, even though CLASSE “foresees that the student conflict will last beyond this date set by the special law for the resumption of classes”.
The coalition is calling for all those who were “victims” or “witnesses” of “any police action, violent speech or physical act of violence, arrest, ‘kettling’, body search, search of personal effects, handcuffing, being photographed, questioning about your status or political opinions, detention […], being given a ticket for an infraction, enforcement of article 31 of the criminal code, a criminal charge or other [incident]” to provide their testimony on the web site of the Ligue des droits et libertés.
Those who received “directives” or who “were subject to reprisals or received disciplinary warnings in their workplace” because of their wearing the red square, as well as those who were restricted from access to public or private property, or who were denied service for that reason are also invited to share their stories.
Original French text:http://www.bloquonslahausse.com/2012/07/la-classe-lance-un-appel-aux-temoignages-sur-la-repression-policiere/
The Ligue des droits et libertés (League of Rights and Liberties), the legal committee of the CLASSE (the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante / Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity) and the Association des juristes progressistes (Association of progressive lawyers) are joining together to collect testimonies, from now until the 13 August 2012, from students and citizens who, since the start of the student strike, have been the subject of intimidation, police brutality, arrests, detention, any form of accusation or reprisals, or who have been denied access to public spaces or services because they were wearing a red square.
The three organizations intend to produce a report with these testimonies, which will thus allow a more global view of the breadth of the repression by the policing, judicial, and political systems. We invite you to examine the attached explanatory document (which includes a memory-aid to help you write your testimony, and to send us your testimonies at this address: email@example.com
For more information, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or consult the Facebook page.
Nicole Filion, Ligue des droits et libertés (www.liguedesdroits.ca)
Andrée Bourbeau, Comité légal de la CLASSE (www.bloquonslahausse.com)
Sibel Ataogul, Association des juristes progressistes (www.ajpquebec.org)
Virginie Larivière - Doctoral student in Environmental Sciences at UQAM and author and spokesperson for a petition of 1.5 million signatures against television violence in 1992.
June 19, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/actualites-en-societe/352769/malhonnetete-ehontee
Dear Premier Jean Charest,
I hope, in this space, to express my trouble with your repeated appeals condemning the banalization of violence and intimidation. Not because I do not condemn these myself; I was even inclined to denounce the banalization of televized violence at the beginning of the 1990s, after the murder of my young sister Marie-Ève.
If my activism is nowadays less public, know that I always denounce and condemn the recourse of violence and intimidation in all situations. In one breath, and like you, I condemn the smoke bombs in the metro, the riots of April 20 around your salon du Plan Nord[event announcing the government’s plans for exploiting natural resources in the north], the Victoriaville riots, the breakers of the windows, the “sung” violence of the music group Mise en demeure.
That said, since the beginning of the student conflict and the social crisis that are shaking Québec, your government has demonstrated a shameful dishonesty by appropriating the themes of violence and intimidation, posing at the same time as victims of this and as ardent defendants of law and order.
Louis-Philippe OuimetJune 2, 2012
The injured protesters who were part of the rare protests that turned into clashes with the police remain bitter but determined.
They reflect upon their experience with Louis-Philippe Ouimet.
Anchor: You surely remember these images of serious violence in Victoriaville. For the protesters who found themselves in the front line of the chaos, the memory is particularly painful. This is the day that Macence Valade lost an eye. He is among many injured during the long student conflict. We have spent much time talking about the injured, but we’ve heard little from them until now. Louis-Philipe, you have met with several, and they have much to say on the conflict which has marked them for the rest of their lives.
Louis-Phillipe Ouimet: Yes, they have a lot to say. Among all those injured demonstrators, many speak of police brutality. We will speak to Rémy Boutros, Maxence Valade, and Jérôme Benedetti. All three were gravely injured during the student conflicts, but they still protest for the cause. This is what they had to say:
Benoit Jutras Literature Professor at Collège de Rosemont 2 juin 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/actualites-en-societe/351469/la-poesie-de-la-police
Dear Mr. Parent,
Let’s start with the least interesting: the Québec police Code of Ethics. I know, I know, even though this Official document defines and establishes Quebec police practices, it is a tiresome document; there are no strong images, no narrative passages, no actions, it’s a document that troubles you in its context and I understand.
The proof: during television or radio interviews, when a question involving the Code is asked, out come the strategies you’ve learned and put into use so easily - digression, deviation and other rhetorical back flips to save your guys’ image, to make things whiter than white. You are such a circumspect acrobat in speeches, I can only tip my hat to you.
Philippe Teisceira-Lessard and Gabrielle Duchaine La Presse June 1, 2012
Maxence Valade and Alexandre Allard are the two protesters who have been the most severely injured since the beginning of the student conflict. Both suffered traumas to the head during a Victoriaville riot on May 4. In the hours following the event, friends and family were left wondering whether one of them would even live. La Presse met with the two young men.
The only moment Alexandre Allard remembers from that night is when fellow protesters transported him away from the police line, from where tear gas was being launched. The rest is a complete blur.