mail iconContact the collective

mail icon Return to top

illustration

Section III :pdf
'Violence'—Police brutality and Casseurs

 

The brutality of municipal and provincial police forces was one of the most sensational aspects of the Québec student strike, described repeatedly as the worse show of state repression in the province since the 1960s. Many students who had never been involved in confrontations with the police suddenly found themselves physically attacked by officers during demonstrations.In response, they began to learn and practice street tactics to protect themselves, such as wearing masks and ski goggles, carrying vinegar- soaked bandanas to help breathing through tear gas, and milk or antacid to counteract the effects of pepper spray. The ongoing and mounting violence of the police, rather than intimidating the movement out of existence, arguably contributed to the sense of comradeship among protesters emboldened by collective outrage and organized resistance. As the government and police repression increased, the broader Québec public became increasingly concerned and the movement gained popular support. Journalists and activists from outside of Québec even travelled to Montreal to partake in or report on the movement first hand, documenting the scenes of enormous police presence, kettling and mass arrests, and riot police wielding pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.

This section offers testimonies and reflections about experiences of police brutality and the issue of violence in the student movement. Nicolas Lachapelle's beautifully evocative comic illustrates the personal conviction and frustration that led many to fight back against police repression. He writes, "As far as I'm concerned, I... want to hold on to democracy. If they attack it, I'll defend it, tooth and nail." Set during the protest outside the May 4 Liberal Party's convention in Victoriaville where the mass brutality against protestors by the police reached new levels, Nicolas's musings on violence reflect the sentiments of many who were involved.

Laith Marouf, an activist and journalist for Concordia University's community television station, CUTV, provides us with a comprehensive picture of the station's embedded live broadcasting from the strike, which quickly became a way for people to follow demos from afar, or to join up mid-way if they had missed the beginning of a protest. Reflecting on the CUTV crew's experiences, including those of systematic police repression and brutality, Laith describes how ultimately the station was able to break through walls of disinformation to play a critical role in challenging the historic French- English divide in Québec social-political organizing.

Finally, the testimony of Ethan Feldman in "We Were Supposed to Be in Class by Ten," documents one student's experiences at one of many early morning manifactions. Ethan describes the atmosphere in the streets of Montreal that morning, as two separate actions intersected and were mysteriously kettled. Ethan found himself thrown to the ground by a policeman, leaving him with a broken arm requiring surgery.

     » 'Casseurs'