Montreal: Riots against Police Repression
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 4; November 2008)
In Montreal rioting almost without precedent in Canada erupted beginning Sunday night into Monday August 11, at the end of a demonstration denouncing the death an 18 year old Honduran immigrant youth, Freddy Villanueva. He had been shot down by the police Saturday in Henri-Bourassa park, in Montréal Nord, a proletarian district of the city. 85,000 people live in this district, including 40% below the poverty line; the official rate of unemployment there is 12% compared with only 8% for the remainder of the province of Québec. There is a large proportion of Latin-American and Haitian immigrants here who are subjected to police harrassment and who often experience discrimination in hiring and on the job. (1).
According to information from the press and Radio Canada, some 500 police officers were deployed to the scene, but they had extreme difficulty containing the rioters, who set fires in a score of places and committed other “acts of vandalism”. Two cops were wounded during the operation, including one who took a bullet in the leg. An ambulance attendant also received a Molotov cocktail to the back of the head. A cameraman was struck in the the face and rocks were hurled in the direction of reporters’ cars. Seven cars belonging to firemen working from a station near the park were torched. Another car was also set fire to and a fire started at a building on Roland boulevard. Six people were arrested.
Freddy died Saturday when a policeman fired on three young people who, according to the authorities’ version, were rushing to surround the police. Two other people were wounded. According to the police, the officers, who sought to apprehend a suspect that they had just located playing dice, were about to be encircled by a score of young people in the park. The young man apprehended was Freddy Valenzuela’s brother.
The cops evidently want us to believe that they opened fire against young people (unarmed!) to defend themselves when faced with their menacing attitude, but according to witnesses it was the cop who first struck one youth who then shot his brother when others approached in protest.
The media portrayed the victims and the rioters as gang members; and the cops, as reported in various media outlets, intimated that “professional agitators” had mixed with the demostrators! In actuality, a youth interviewed by Haiti Close Network, Maxime, 23 years, spoke about the relationship with the police: “Here, the police force acts like a form of gang. The difference it is that it operates as a gang with authority”. In other words, brutality and police impunity are the rule.
A representative of the Haitian community declared to Radio Canada: “This is a revolt against the whole system”! Stressing that it is not only the police that had been confronted but the whole ensemble of institutions”. He reckoned that the events of Sunday were foreseeable in the context of the tension created in the neighbourhood by the murder of the young Villenueva; according to him the anger of the young people of the black community of Montréal-Nord is exacerbated by racial “profiling” (blacks and other visible minorities are disproportionately targetted by the police force). “People cannot accept being treated as criminals” he added
The Canadian police are so infamous for their brutality (and which has nothing in common with the images of the “Mounties” in the cartoons) ; that on November 2, 2005, the Committee of the Rights of Man of the UN declared in its report on Canada its concern that: “the police force, particularly in Montreal, perpetrates mass arrests of demonstrators”, which persecutes freedom of expression and of assembly. The committee invited Canada “to carry out an inquest” into the Montréal police. To ask a State to inquire into its own police force, it had to be the UN Committee on the Human Rights that thought that one up!
Against this kind of UN hypocrisy, Lenin explained long ago why even in most democratic of Republics, the famous democratic liberties of expression, of assembly, etc, in fact only existed for the ruling classes. Another example, which failed to give rise to interest at the UN: in Quebec, the other large city in the Canadian province of Quebec, the local police force has put in place an operation called “Respect” (!) to prohibit the presence of homeless people, beggars, and other working poor, on the streets and in the parks of the city ( a demonstration against police repression demanding the abrogation of this operation and the end of the criminalization of poverty gathered together some hundreds of demonstrators last July 7); in Ontario (an adjoining province whose capital is Toronto), where, in a big democratic production, an investigation is obligatory when people are killed or wounded by the police, a recent report showed that this official service supposed to control the acts of police force was actually used to cover the police “excesses”: since 2003 out of 31 investigations after murders perpetrated by police, the cops where white-washed in 29 cases (with 2 investigations not being finished)…
Anxious to restore calm after the riot, the various social firemen have appealed to await the result of the inquest opened into the murder of Freddy. We know what these investigations mean: bury the problem. Two and-a-half years after the assassination of another young person by the police force in a nearby district, we’re still waiting for the results of the inquiry opened back then! The COBP (Collective Opposed to Police Brutality) has registered the fact that of 43 victims of the Montreal police force in 22 years, only 2 cops were put on trial–and they were both acquitted! It also points out that in 1996 an investigator of the police had publicly acknowledged that it was a constant practice to adulterate investigations to clear the accused police.
But that didn’t stop the COPB from calling for a new “public and independent inquiry” and putting the police on trial: either one is a democrat or one is not...
“Québec Solidaire”, an electoral gathering of various left parties, published an official statement on August 11 which commenced by condemning the rioters, declaring that: “the violent activities which unfolded in the streets of Montréal Nord yesterday evening are unacceptable” and ended with a call for “the most open dialogue possible” “to put an end to the climate of mistrust and of suspicion” which reigns between the youth and police authorities”
“Québec Solidaire” proposes as a remedy for the problems of the “disadvantaged districts”, “an extensive policy of prevention and integration” of which the only points cited are “the reduction in the number of pupils per class” and to provide teachers support worthy of the name by professionals: social workers, speech therapists, etc.as well as “increased support for community agencies” (2)… Without doubt “Québec Solidaire” has found the right solutions to the problems of the proletarians of Montreal who will finally be able, thanks to the speech therapists, to dialogue with the cops and to make themselves comprehensible to the bosses!
Following the riots an association of young people was organized, the “Citizen’s Movement of Montréal-Nord Republik”; it organized a demonstration of 200 people on August 20 in front of the district town hall with the following demands: resignation of the district mayor (who had declared: “Everything goes well in Montréal-Nord, there is no problem. I have never seen anything coming”), a public and independent inquiry into the death of Freddy, end of abuses by the police force, the creation of a monument in his memory, recognition of the principle that as long as there is economic insecurity, there will be social insecurity (3)
The absence of authentic class struggle and any proletarian organization has as a consequence that the attempts at organization which do appear are immediately drowned and sterilized by the dominant democratic orientation; on August 31 Montréal-Nord Republik held a public meeting for “the implementation of a more participatory citizenship” in the district…
The problem is not to implement a better democracy, because “democracy” is nothing other than an alluring decoy which is used to mask the reality that under capitalism the “citizens” are divided into social classes with opposite interests; and that the most democratic capitalist society is nothing other than the capitalist dictatorship whose faithful agents are the murderous pigs. To make believe that a bourgeois institution like Justice, can defend the proletarians against another bourgeois institution, namely the Police is not only an idiocy: it is actually a conscious lie to dissimulate the class nature of the Judiciary, as anti-proletarian an institution as the Police and the remainder of the State apparatus.
The Spartacists of the ICL (who publish “Spartacist Canada”) and their dissidents of the Internationalist Group have both produced apparently classist statements, but they are hollow phraseology. They speak of calling “upon the power of the organized working class”(IG); with the “labour movement of the Montreal area” (ICL), as if the working class today was not organized by collaborationist apparatuses resolutely hostile to any class action! But moreover, both mingle with their allegedly classist declarations; with their calls of solidarity with immigrant workers; the demand for Quebec independence, thus showing their complete capitulation before bourgeois nationalism.(4)…
Against repression, only proletarian struggle can succeed in forcing a sufficient relationship of forces to force back the State and its forces of repression; but for this to be effective, the struggle must proceed on an authentic class basis, independently of the collaborationist orientations imposed by the trade-union bureaucracies and sundry social firemen with the support of all parties, right and left
In Canada, as everywhere under the reign of capitalism; exploitation, imperialism (the Canadian contingent is one of the most important at the side of the American troops in Afghanistan), racism and repression go hand in hand
Beyond the various particular details it is social tensions which are at the origin of a situation where a police crime incites an explosion of revolt. On both sides of the Atlantic, misery and oppression incites and will inevitably incite the resistance of the oppressed and the awakening of the class struggle
These skirmishes of “blind” violence and “vandalism” denounced by the media and the defenders of the established order, prefigure the social conflagration which will burst into flame tomorrow, and which will destroy capitalism, this unjust and murderous order, when proletarians succeed in breaking with all the nationalist, pacifist, democratic lies and organize themselves on exclusively class bases and who under the leadership of their class party will launch forward with the insurrectionary revolutionary struggle!.
(1) See the precise details in the sociological text published on: www.cmaq.net/node/30802
(2) See the official statement on the site: quebecsolidaire.net. Taking part in“Québec Solidaire”, the so-called far left more or less Trotskyist groups “Socialisme international”, “Gauche socialiste”, “Masse critique” and the Communist Party of Quebec: it can be seen that they are nothing other than pure reformists
(3) cf www.montrealnordrepublik.blogspot.com/
(4) Oddly, the IG also advances in its article on the riots of Montreal, the demand for a “sliding scale of wages”! cf www. internationalist. org / montrealnordrevolte 0808 . html. The article in Spartacist Canada n°158 can be read at: www. spartacist.org / english / spc / 158 /j eune.html
International Communist Party