Montreal Mass Arrests: Protesters Want a Public Apology

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Mass arrests in Montreal: protesters want a public apology

The demonstrators are also asking the authorities to abandon certain police practices. (File photo)

Although they will receive compensation totaling $6 million, protesters bullied by Montreal police between 2011 and 2015 are asking Mayor Valérie Plante and SPVM director Fady Dagher to apologize verbally and to take more measures to put an end to certain police practices.

Despite the legal agreement approved on February 22 between the City of Montreal and the demonstrators' lawyers, the latter deplore in particular that the municipal apologies were quickly buried in the depths of the City's website.

In this letter of apology, which only appears when you click on the bottom of a press release, you can read that the City admits that certain actions taken by the Police Department of the City of Montreal (SPVM) and the municipal administration violated certain fundamental rights of the demonstrators, causing them damage.

We would like the authorities responsible to pronounce this letter of apology, summed up Guillaume Perrier, who represents the demonstrators arrested on March 15, 2013.

“ Apologies only have meaning if they are clearly, explicitly and publicly expressed and taken on board. »

— Marcel Sévigny, representative of those arrested on June 7, 2012

In all, 16 class actions have been launched for the illegal arrests and detentions of approximately 3,300 people between 2011 and 2015. The demonstrators denounced in particular the increase in tuition fees or police brutality. These arrests left their mark.

To this day [10 years later], I still have nightmares and I'm afraid to protest, testified Isabel Matton, who says she has been peppered, molested, handcuffed and kept for hours.

During the whole time of our illegal detention [in buses], we were deprived of water, food and the possibility of going to the toilet, added Sophie Vallée-Desbiens, who lived through events similar at a demonstration which was held one after Mrs. Matton's.

“It was oppressively hot in these buses, some had fainting spells, others had panic attacks. All this for an alleged municipal by-law (P-6) that turned out to be unconstitutional. »

— Sophie Vallée-Desbiens, former protester

These arrests often took place before the demonstration even started on the pretext that the route had not been communicated to the police forces under regulation P-6, explained Linda Khelil, spokesperson for the League of Rights and Freedoms.

She pointed out that although the validity of by-law P-6, adopted under the administration of former mayor Gérald Tremblay, ultimately failed in court and was repealed (along with the practice of the mousetrap), his organization calls on municipal authorities to account.

Police officers use cayenne pepper during a demonstration in June 2012 in Montreal.

The League wants to know what concrete measures are and will be taken to ensure respect for the right to demonstrate and demands that these explanations go beyond the empty phrases to which the authorities have accustomed us so far.

She gives as an example the fact that the removal of rubber bullets from the police arsenal was part of one of the promises of Projet Montréal and Valérie Plante in 2017 and that this promise was not held to date.

By email and then on Twitter, the Plante administration reiterated the apologies of the City of Montreal to all those who were affected. But the mayor's office did not respond directly to the question of a public apology, merely mentioning that the Plante administration was the one that repealed By-law P-6.

However, it is expected that she will speak on the subject on Wednesday, during a press briefing.

According to Marcos Ancelovici, it is the police's ways of doing things that must be scrutinized.

The issues are not just police training, it is also how the police understand their role, how they are framed by the civil power and why we have more police per capita than Toronto. For the police, you can never cut budgets, while we do in health and education, he stressed.

He points out that while police crackdowns on protests may seem remote, police are still grappling with a problem of racial profiling and that new chief Fady Dagher defended bylaw P-6 before city council in 2014 when he was deputy director of the SPVM.

The organizers of the press conference called on the approximately 3,300 people illegally arrested during 16 specific demonstrations, on 14 different dates, to contact the law firms concerned.

  • Melançon Marceau Grenier Cohen (8 class actions): protests of June 7, 2012, March 15, 2013, March 22, 2013, April 5, 2013, May 1, 2013, March 15, 2014, and May 1, 2014;
  • Arsenault Dufresne Wee: March 15 2011, March 15, 2012, April 9, 2015, May 20 and 23, 2012;
  • Ray Casgrain: May 1, 2014 and March 15, 2015.

When legal fees are deducted, the amounts to be distributed range from $1,500 to $2,000 per case.

Nevertheless, several protesters who were arrested during demonstrations other than the 16 events targeted by the class action lawsuits will not receive any compensation, laments Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Green Party of Quebec.

The latter was arrested with dozens of other demonstrators on May 22, 2012 and March 13, 2013, before undergoing the same treatment already reported: hands handcuffed behind his back for hours, verbal and physical intimidation by the part of the police and many hours wasted in court contesting the tickets.

We did not have the means at the time to defend ourselves in court to assert our rights, he explains. Court deadlines for bringing a class action have passed, so Mr. Tyrrell is now turning to the City of Montreal to extend its apology and compensation process to all those who have been arbitrarily arrested.

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