On Tuesday night i was one of a hundred people who gathered on the ground floor at the Palais des Congres conference center to protest against the racist reasonable accommodation hearings being held there (on the third floor) that night.
(i would have posted about this earlier, but have been without internet for a number of days - i'm not actually posting from a public terminal right now)
The protest was organized by No One Is Illegal Montreal, and attracted people from a number of organizations and communities, including Solidarity Across Borders, the IWC, NEFAC, the PCR, and i'm sure many many others whose affiliations i did not get.
There were speeches, some more inspiring than others, some great poetry... and then we went up the escalators to the hearings, leaving some befuddled security guards behind (it's difficult for a half a dozen secuirty to stop a hundred people who want to go somewhere...)
We were up there for hours, more speeches, music, chanting, etc. At about 9pm, after our numbers had thinned, a group of people tried to actually enter the room where the hearings were happening. They were physically blocked by the security guards, and this time they failed to get through. (It's trickier to open a door towards you with security in front of it than it is to just walk up some stairs.)
At which point the cops, who had been lounging around, came to reinforce the conference center security. It was obvious that nobody was getting in to these supposedly "public" hearings, and so we left, at this point numbering perhaps fifty, walking down all those stairs to the ground floor with some now hyped up very young cops shoving people from behind, including people on the stairs who were trying to leave as quickly as was safely possible.
In my opinion, the reason the cops were being aggressive is because they felt stupid for having been caught sitting on their asses not noticing when folks tried to get in to the hearings. They were embarassed that the conference center security staff was left to "guard the gates" on their own, and they didn't like being called pigs by the demonstrators as they were leaving.
What happened next was a perfect symbol of the hearings, of "accomodation" in an unreasonably racist Quebec, and of plain old Montreal policing.
As everyone was milling around on the ground floor, surrounded by cops, it was announced that we all had to leave. It was obvious at this point that there was no point in resisting: there were many people there who could not afford to get arretsed, there were little children, and we were outnumbered.
So immediately, people started filing out of the building. The only reason for some delay was some people had to pick up their things, including a sound system. Nobody was staying behind or resisting, but the cops had already identified a few people they wanted to get, and they moved in to do so, grabbing folks, throwing them to the floor, all the while others charged at the remaining stragglers, shoving them with their batons.
This all happened less than one minute after it was announced that everyone had to leave. There was obviously no intention of allowing the demo to end peacefully.
Four people were arrested. Two inside the building, and two others outside as they waited there, loooking in through the windows at the police and their arrested comrades. Police pulled out their tasers and "shot" them in the air, and were obviously enjoying the fun.
This is reasonable accommodation. This is what it's all about. Hearings thoughout Quebec where the state legitimized the most crazy racist and anti-semitic conspiracy theories, thanking bigots as they make their submissions, making it clear that if nothing else, there is not thought of not accomodating racism.
When the hearings come to Montreal, it is no surprise that they get protested. It is no surprise that activists come out to denounce them.
Now, as i already mentioned i have no internet access. On top of that, i had ot go out of town, so i was not at the follow up demonstration scheduled for last night. i hope there were lots of people there, because it strikes me that the police made an error in attacking people. By marring the second Montreal hearings with arrests and gratuitous violence, there is an opportunity to rip a hole in the democratic mystification surrounding these hearings. Hopefully, this opportunity will be/has been capitalized on.
While today some people have difficulty denouncing the hearings, the idea of "no platform for racists" being less easy when the mass media and democratic politicians are the ones supporting this crap, in the future it will be of obvious importance how one responded to the fragmentation of (social-democratic, "sovereignist" sections of) the Quebec left and the consolidation of a racist political pole in 2007.
What follows is the rpeport from the No One Is Illegal blog:
At least 75 protesters gathered in the lobby of the Montreal Congress Center, before proceeding past security guards upstairs, near the hearing room. The protest was well heard inside by participants. After more than 90 minutes of protesting outside the hearing, at least 20 police officers entered to remove demonstrators. During the police attack, uniformed officers pushed and punched protesters, and used batons; several police had also drawn their taser guns. The protesters included small children, as well as elders, who were pushed.
-- Police attack and arrest anti-racist migrant justice protesters at Bouchard-Taylor Commission
-- Protest and speak-out against the commission to continue on Thursday
MEDIA REQUESTS: Contact Leila Pourtavaf at 514-994-4595
Wednesday, November 27, 2007 -- Last night, No One Is Illegal-Montreal and
allies began pickets and speak-outs against the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on
A statement on the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, and the racist "reasonable
accommodation" debate, is available here.
At least 75 protesters gathered in the lobby of the Montreal Congress Center, before proceeding past security guards upstairs, near the hearing room. The protest was well heard inside by the some 190 participants.
After more than 90 minutes of protesting outside the hearing, at least 20 police officers entered to remove demonstrators. The protesters proceeded back to the main lobby of the Congress Center, where security had earlier said the protest could continue unimpeded. But, after an eviction order, protesters began to leave. Without provocation, police targeted individuals for arrest.
During the police attack, uniformed officers pushed and punched protesters, and used batons; several police had also drawn their taser guns. The protesters included small children, as well as elders, who were pushed.
Ironically, one officer, who didn't have ID, identified himself as "Stante". When asked if he was Giovanni Stante, the officer said "yes". Giovanni Stante was implicated in the murder of Jean-Pierre Lizotte in 1999. More background info available here: http://www.ainfos.ca/02/aug/ainfos00058.html
During the speak-out outside the Commission, demonstrators addressed issues like poverty, police brutality, racism, immigration status and more, thru speeches, music and spoken word.
Photos and updates from the Commission pickets will be posted at http://nooneisillegal-montreal.blogspot.com
No One Is Illegal and allies refuse to be intimidated by police attacks, and will return to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission this Thursday for another picket and speak-out outside the commission. The protest will begin at 6:30pm at the Montreal Congress Center at the corner of Viger and de Bleury (near metro Place d'armes).
For more info:
No One Is Illegal-Montreal
514-848-7583 – firstname.lastname@example.org