Thursday, 28 February 2013

Bonjour la pôlisse! Got a permit for your *protest*?

Too, too funny.

Montreal Police are holding a press conference and a "manifestation" - a protest or a demonstration - today in front of the SPVM headquarters for their union members.

During Le printemps érable - literally, the Maple Spring - last year, at the height of the student protests against university tuition increases, the Charest government put pressure on municipalities to enforce their by-laws regulating demonstrations in public areas.

Two veterans of those 100 and more days of protests, tweeted about the cops' media event.  Very droll these two.

frogsarelovely in particular, who documented each protest with her smartphone camera and her tweets, was roughly handled by SPVM cops one night. She was held overnight on a trumped-up charge; a cop claimed that she had uttered threats. She is a pacifist, and her tweets reflect that.

So now the two of them are thinking that this protest needs to have a citizens' anti-riot squad to control such an unruly group, one that has a history of behaving violently. It's a union!  Of cops!  Where's their permit, to show that they're holding a LEGAL protest?

Justin Ling a journalist who covered the Carré Rouge protests in Montreal shared his observations and personal experience of police brutality, here.

[...]I found myself handcuffed, sitting on the sidewalk on a residential street in the Gay Village. Waving around my semi-official press credentials elicited only blank stares and occasional instructions to shut up from police officers. My get-out-of-jail-free card came in the form of a Tweet I managed to mash out before getting carted off to a detention facility. I, luckily, was released before being sent up the river.

There's little doubt that SPVM tactics during these protests have been reactionary. The dragnet put out there to catch vandals and criminals has netted over two thousand of arrests, including journalists, confused bystanders and peaceful protesters alike.

There's lots of anecdotal evidence that the officers have treated press freedom like a bit of a joke. Student journalist Pierre Chauvin's press pass actually got laughs from a few SPVM cops.

My situation -- which spawned a whirlwind of press -- had much to do with my method of escape, and the SPVM's quick thinking on Twitter.

But here's a thought: the police shouldn't be arresting journalists.

[...]Mainstream media outlets have been challenged to shell out the overtime to get online reporters into the streets each night, and independent journalists have been pushed to churn something out other than the traditional cut-and-dried head-news that have dominated much of the strike coverage.

[...]I have spent most of the protest working for OpenFile Montreal. Along with a crack team of other young journalists, we've published nightly coverage that has been consistent, insightful, and -- if I may say -- pretty damn good.

OpenFile has proved itself a strong challenger to the Montreal Gazette on the protest coverage, and has, I think, surpassed other anglophone mainstays like CTV. Hard-nosed journalism that hurls itself to the frontlines, finally, appears to be getting some recognition.

Enter CUTV.

The little campus-station-that-could has far surpassed expectations, becoming one of the staples of coverage for anyone following the strike.

Yet its in-your-face coverage (maybe bordering on overly aggressive,) coupled with a hard pro-protester editorial line have made them persona non grata amongst the police force.

I've seen the CUTV camera crews out every night, throwing themselves into this strike like few others have. Whether or not that's always a good thing is still a matter of some debate. Has CUTV moved away from covering the story, and towards becoming the story?

Still, CUTV's on-the-ground footage has, amid some snickering, been picked up by local, national and international news. It has captured images of police kettling, bonfires that plagued the Latin Quarter and instances that probably constitute undue use of force by the SPVM.

One wonders if CUTV was on the invitation list for the police union's press event AND demo/protest.

Fortunately or perhaps unfortunately, matraque... ah, matricule 728 aka Stéfanie Trudeau won't be able to attend the protest.  She is currently attending court-ordered psychiatric treatment.  In any event, the judge also issued a restraining order which forbids her access to police premises and contact with her colleagues, allegedly because she alluded to Christopher Dorner during one of her epic rages, this one in the offices of the SPVM police employees' union.

Too bad. Some judiciously applied pepper might nicely balance the dose of heavy salt on those Montreal streets after the snow storm...

Added: Justin Ling is known these days for his co-authorship of this piece of investigative journalism

Update: The Montreal Gazette reports on the Police Union's *manifestation* today.

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