11 arrested following Montreal protest against police brutality and racial profiling
MONTREAL -- Eleven people have been arrested following a protest Sunday by thousands of Montrealers against police brutality and racial profiling.
The event turned violent as some people who attended clashed with police and threw rocks, lit fires, smashed windows and looted some local businesses.
Steve’s Music Store was smashed in tonight and as I was biking home I saw many expensive guitars in people’s hands. This is the storefront as I got on scene. @CTVMontreal @CTVNews pic.twitter.com/SXeRvcVKHq— Andrew Brennan (@ABrennanCTV) June 1, 2020
"I have nine arrests for breaking and entering, one for armed assault, and one more for misdemeanor," Montreal police spokesperson Raphaël Bergeron told CTV News on Monday. "The investigation is ongoing this morning as there may be other information from stores that have been vandalized."
Bergeron said more people may be arrested once they analyze surveillance videos from stores and "images they were able to obtain from the protest."
About three hours after the march that snaked its way through downtown Montreal on Sunday afternoon had ended, Montreal police declared the gathering illegal after they say projectiles were thrown at officers who responded with pepper spray and tear gas.
Tensions flared after the formal rally had concluded and some demonstrators made their way back to the starting point, in the shadow of Montreal police headquarters downtown.
Windows were smashed, fires were set and the situation degenerated into an hours-long game of cat-and-mouse between pockets of protesters and police trying to disperse them.
Some people were seen looting local businesses, including a music store, a fast-food restaurant and a sex shop along Ste-Catherine St. E., not far from Montreal police headquarters on St-Urbain St.
The STM, Montreal's public transit authority, shut down service on a part of the Montreal metro's green line, which covers the stretch of downtown where Montreal's police headquarters are located, for about an hour starting around 9 p.m.
Demonstrators had gathered to denounce racist violence and police impunity before marching -- both in the U.S. and at home.
“Racism is a Quebec Problem Too,” “Black Lives Matter” and other slogans were written across signs from the thousands who started gathering around 4:30 p.m. at the corner of Maisonneuve Blvd. and St. Urbain St.
The protesters joined the massive protests and unrest across the continent and internationally sparked by the death of George Floyd – the Black man who died after being pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer, who has been charged with murder.
Organizers drew attention to Floyd's death, but also others across the United States and Canada. They publicized the event on the Justice for George Floyd & All victims of police racism Facebook event.
"It's important for everyone to be here today so that we can have a lot of voices to say the George Floyd event is not a singular event," said Marie-Livia Beauge, one of the Montreal protest organizers. "It keeps happening and it's happening here in Montreal so to be here together is to show solidarity and denounce the injustice."
Montreal police were out in large numbers to watch the crowds, and organizers attempted to keep people physically distant from each other without much success. The vast majority of protesters came with masks.
Around the start of the demonstration, Montreal police took the unusual step of issuing a tweet saying they were dismayed by the death of George Floyd.
"Both the action taken and the inaction of the witnesses present go against the values of our organization," the force tweeted calling on for a peaceful demonstration.
"We respect the rights and the need of everyone to speak out against this violence and will be by your side to ensure your safety," the police said.
After having listened to several speeches, the demonstrators headed for the American consulate.
Similar rallies took place outside the United States in London, Copenhagen and Berlin this weekend as well.
Thousands of Torontonians also took to the streets Saturday a few days after the death of Régis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from the balcony of a 24th-floor apartment in the presence of police.
In a series of posts on Twitter earlier today, Mayor Valérie Plante condemned "violence, racism and systemic discrimination."
"No matter the status, origin or skin color, everyone has the right to expect fair and equitable treatment and I will not make any compromises in this regard in Montreal. The City is engaged in a major project to combat racial and social profiling," she wrote.
Her message was badly received by activists who took turns on the microphone before the start of the march to demand more concrete actions.
"Where is she?" asked social worker Vincent Mousseau, cautioning against empty words from leaders. "In fighting this, we need to ensure our movements are not co-opted to stifle our anger with their kind word and simultaneous inaction."
Story by Daniel J. Rowe and Katelyn Thomas, CTV Montreal