Since the last February14th, a vast strike movement is shaking the post-secondary studies sector (colleges and universities) in the province of Québec. This general strike movement, mostly lead by a left-wing coalition of student unions – the CLASSE (French acronym for Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Syndicalist Solidarity) – has set itself, as an immediate objective, the cancellation of the recent 25% tuition fees raise implemented by the neoliberal government of Québec, the second such raise in 4 years, after more than 15 years of tuition fee freezing. The movement is now 125,000 striking students strong and many strike votes will be held in the coming weeks by student assemblies. Many massive street demos gathering thousands of people, as well as blockade actions have been organized, triggering more and more police repression.
On the last March 7th, the repressive violence has gone up a notch, as almost 1,000 people were blockading a downtown building in Montréal, hosting the offices of the public lotteries (Loto-Québec), and those of the Conference of University Rectors, a relatively reactionary organization that has declared itself in favor of the tuition fees raise. Under a radiant sun, about 200 people have gained entrance to the building, blocking access to the elevators, as the others occupied the doorways and the adjacent streets, erecting a barricade out of metal railings in order to block off Sherbrooke street (one of the main streets in downtown Montréal) and to use as protection against police assaults. The riot police squad has then deployed and attacked the crowd, hitting the protesters with clubs and shields, and soaking them with pepper spray and throwing many “stun grenades”. One of these devices, that produce a deafening bang as well as projecting fragments and pepper gas, has seriously injured a student protester, who received splinters in the right eye and has been taken to the hospital.
On March 8th, he is currently being operated for retinal detachment and he might lose the use of his eye. Apparently, the riot police have voluntarily delayed the ambulance call after having acknowledged the result of their “intervention”. Three other protesters have also been injured during the assault and five more have been arrested.
On the same night (March 7th), at about 9pm, a group of about 300 people has gathered at the Berri Square, in response to the police attack, and has taken the street shouting “Cops, Pigs, Murderers!”. Reaching the administrative headquarters of the municipal police, some angry hooded ones tried to smash the glass doors of the entrance with metal crowd barriers, before being pushed away by a few authoritarian pacifists who preferred to play the cops themselves in order to “preserve the movement’s image”, thus provoking the hostility of a certain number of the protesters that started arguing strongly with them. Chased by a considerable police force, the demo has wandered through the downtown streets before dispersing, at about 10pm, leaving behind two arrested protesters and a few smashed windows.
These despicable – although predictable – actions from the City of Montréal’s Police Service can be better understood in the broader context of the rising police violence and political repression in KKKanada, as illustrated by the mass arrest and illegal detention of more than 1,000 protesters during the G-20 counter-summit in Toronto (June 2010), the creation of a special squad by the Montréal police to repress the anarchist movement, as well as the high number of murders perpetrated by police officers. For example, the murder of young Freddy Villanueva in 2008, that has sparked riots in the north of Montréal, the murders of the homeless Mario Hamel and hospital worker Patrick Limoges in summer 2011, the first having been shot down during a psychotic episode by policemen that knew him by name, and the latter killed by a random bullet during the same event. Since the beginning of 2012, two other persons suffering from psychological distress have been shot dead by Montréal cops: Farshad Mohammadi, a homeless Kurdish-Iranian refugee suffering from severe post-traumatic troubles, and Jean-François Nadreau, a man going through a depressive and suicidal phase. Both have been shot at point blank range after having turned their rage against the police.
So many reasons that make more relevant than ever the traditional March 15th demonstration, part of the International Day Against Police Brutality, that is taking place this year in Montréal under the thematic of political repression.