Sunday, 21 October 2012

Bonjour la pôlisse! ... et Matricule 728

For years, community activists, political and social critics, humourists and citizens have demanded that the actions of the Service de protection de la ville de Montréal be scrutinized, independently investigated and that those responsible for systemic brutality and corruption be held accountable.

Recent events, precipitated by over one hundred nights of demonstrations in support of the Grève générale illimitée, have thrust into the spotlight the case of Matricule 728.  But as journalist Josée Legault demonstrated in her excellent reflection here and here, the behaviour of one Stéfanie Trudeau embodies the convergence of police powers and political ideology, in the context of a bigger and quite disturbing picture.

Marc-André Cyr elaborates further on this theme, in Voir.  I have loosely translated parts of his piece to post here. 
It was in 1838 that the first modern police service was created in North America, in Montreal for the purpose of preventing crime, and to monitor the political activities of insurgents and rebels.
The first provincial police was established in 1869 with the objective to intervene during riots - many at the time - and to ensure compliance with new federal and provincial laws.
Four years later, it was the turn of the North-West Mounted Police to see the day. Its mission is clear: Western Canada must become "white, English and Protestant", to monitor the Métis and ensure French Canadians do not overpopulate the west. Faithful to its noble mission, the organization was involved in the crushing of many indigenous revolts and workers throughout the second half of the 19th century.
The Mounted Police became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in 1919, following the Winnipeg General Strike. If the fear of communism is still in its infancy, it is nonetheless intensified by the growing influence of trade unionism. Some agents, such as John Leopold, aka Jack Esseilwein, spying upon the Communist Party for many years, became as a result of their governments work "national heroes".
[...] In 1984 CSIS was designated the official national political police. It watches the Left, and especially after 2001, Islamists groups. As well, Aboriginals, Métis, communists, feminists, artists, homosexuals, unions, immigrants are still prime targets for "observation".  Thus the actions of Matricule 728 are anything but strange.  That part of the population is perceived as "rats", "guitar scratchers", "goddamned red squares" and "shit-eaters" by the police.
That view is in fact necessary to justify beating, pepper-spraying, gassing, blinding, causing concussions and imprisoning defenseless people considered as representatives of "evil".
This hatred and violence are traditionally necessary to law, order and security. It is not at all an "exception" to the rule and the norm: it is the rule and standard. 
It was on October 2 that the infamous *incident* which made headlines in Québec and in the rest of Canada was recorded on a cell phone, the evidence that allowed Radio Canada and other media to pursue their own investigative reporting into the history of the abusive actions of Matricule 728

Trudeau's colleagues thought that they had confiscated all the cell phones of witnesses to their violent disruptions, including that of Karen Molina.

She was handcuffed, arrested by the police that evening and charged, allegedly for "obstructing" police work.  The charges against her still stand.  She was the fourth person charged that evening; the other three are the original individuals apprehended by Trudeau during her rampage.  

Here is Molina's recounting of what she did that evening, how she called the SPVM to report what she observed to be inappropriate and incorrect police conduct.  Her cell phone was taken by the police; it's still being held.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that her phone was "unfortunately" damaged and the recording made on October 2 cannot be retrieved - though hopefully her 911 call was not "accidentally" deleted.  In news accounts on Radio Canada, one reporter thought that Molina was a landed immigrant and that she feared that the charges against her, though visibly unfounded, could be used to disrupt her application for citizenship.

Remember police actions in Toronto during the G20?

The first video clip is part of an ongoing series from québecois humourists Rock et Belles Oreilles - RBO -  which gently and savagely at times, lampooned police forces. 

UPDATE: Charges against the original three targets of Matricule 728's abusive actions appear to be on hold for the moment.


Godel Noodle said...

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that her phone was "unfortunately" damaged and the recording made on October 2 cannot be retrieved

This would be very sad--especially given how easy it is to set up a phone to automatically upload photos (and I think, real-time video). Then if your phone is stolen (sorry, "confiscated"), the police are left holding only a copy of the evidence.

The problem is that you have to actually set this up in advance and most people probably aren't anticipating a need for it.

It *is* handy for more pedestrian reasons too, though. It's a good idea to back up your photos somehow just in case your phone breaks. And having it set up to back up your photos as you take them offers the most protection and arguably the best convenience (depending on your data plan, anyway).

Cops shouldn't be able to destroy evidence just by stealing your phone.

deBeauxOs said...

There's been speculation that the police are much more careful about flouting people's civil rights and physically abusing people since witnesses have been recording their public actions.

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