Police brutality

I’m so frightened. I’m scared of the police.

I went to a demonstration tonight against police brutality with my friend Eric. We were walking peacefully down the street, yelling slogans, making noise. Not hurting a soul. And they chased us and attacked us with batons.

Fortunately, Eric and I weren’t hurt. But we were running so fast and I was absolutely freaking out. It was like another world. They chased us down Sainte Catherine to Saint-Laurent, then they chased us back down Sainte Catherine; we turned up Clarke, and they were waiting to chase us on Clarke. Fortunately Eric and I were able to turn quickly and hide in a parking lot. I was screaming and crying, absolutely scared out of my wits. I’m so glad that Eric was there to help me calm down. I’m still nervous.

Dammit! I hate the police. They’re supposed to protect everyone and protect our rights including our right to protest. We weren’t even doing anything. And even if some people were they have no right to use those kind of scare tactics on us. They wouldn’t do that to a lot of real criminals, I bet. I think they just want to stifle public debate and scare kids (most of us were young counterculture people), especially when we’re opposing their freedom to do whatever they want to anybody.

They do it illegally too. They use excessive force. Sometimes they don’t wear their badges even though they’re in uniform, which is completely illegal. Sometimes they arrest & attack people on trumped-up charges, like last month they broke a girl’s knee with a baton at Concordia University trying to arrest a completely different person for a charge which my friend James has shown me proof is a complete lie. (They were charging him for using a megaphone - a fucking megaphone! - on public property, and not stopping when ordered; James has tape of him not using the megaphone prior to being arrested, and even when he was using the megaphone it was on university land.)

I don’t feel safe in this city, but it’s because of the police, not the criminals. I hate this. I hate them. I’m so scared. And I hate so much that they accomplished their goal, which is to make me afraid.

But I’m going to keep protesting. They can crush all the flowers but they can’t stop spring.

Where the hell do you live ? Name places, don’t be vague.

I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

I had a cousin that was pulled over and pulled from his vehicle. They put a gun to his head and threatened him until they found they had the wrong person. He drove the right make of truck, that’s good enough for them. Fuck the Constitution. Not even an apology.

All I can say is I commisserate, and good for you for trying to do something about it. I live in L.A., where we’ve had a few troubles along those lines ourselves.


Matt… did you see on the news the other night when they attacked the homeless group demonstrating at Parliament Hill? Our police in Alberta are pretty sedate…

I am me… accept it or not.

Wow - I feel for you, but I gotta say you were damn lucky. I’ve been on the receiving end of police brutality. Three cops had surrounded me and one layed into me with his baton. I had done nothing. I made the mistake of hitting back, bringing down the officer who struck me in the head. I paid dearly for it. I couldn’t talk right or hold my head straight for two days. They beat me so bad, they felt a bit bad I suppose, because they didn’t even arrest me, they just left me there in the woods. I wasn’t charged with anything. I retrospect, I’m glad and lucky they didn’t fire the 9mm they pulled on me.

I’m also in the counterculture (just a different branch than you) and as such, I am a target. Big Bullseye. You don’t demonstrate against the police - ever. If you do have a legitimate complaint (which you do) take it to the commissioner or the mayor’s office.

You might want to do what I did when I was a teen - take a note reading “I BEAT MY WIFE!” and tape it to the officer’s rear bumper when he’s away from his vehicle. He won’t notice it for awile. But other motorists will!

I’m very glad you’re OK.

Hell is Other People.


Your post gave me a flashback to the 60’s and 70’s when I was a teenager and young adult. Let me first say I’m sorry you had a rough time of it.

My first experience of The Terror you describe was the '68 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Hairy. Much of the same followed in subsequent years. Long hair got me pulled over and searched quite a bit. I was jailed for shit that I can only describe as being bad stuff done by someone who had hair like mine but I was closer to the cop (my writing skills are deteriorating the longer I’m on this board). By the late 70’s (when I finally cut my hair - because I was tired of it) longhair meant only that you were probably not a professional in the classic sense (doctor, lawyer, banker). In the 80’s I began life in the corporate world and lived in short hair and business suits. To me, with the years of cop radar, etc. behind me, it seemed as though I’d become invisible to cops (uh, not entirely).

My attitude toward cops has changed. Yeah, they can be nasty commissars who can fuck up significant parts of your life. And I most certainly avoid transactions with them if possible. I’ve also had a couple of cops as friends - but that’s outside of our public relationship with them. What would a perfect police force require? We rely on them to police the greater society, which means they have to deal with the underbelly of the beast. They’ve got very little time to assess a situation and they are the ones who must act, immediately, to bring a situation to peaceful resolve.

It’d take, for me, a salary (w/all the gov’t. bennies) of about $120K-$150K, and I could get most of the way there. That’s 3-4 times what we pay cops around here.

I recognize that certain individuals get harrassed - been there, done that. And I still think the cops of the world, or maybe I just mean the U.S. and Canada, could stand to rethink some of that. OTOH, Matt, how would you handle crowd control?

I don’t know anything about the domonstration you describe. I do remember some from my youthful stage, and we were trying to disrupt daily life as much as possible. A cop’s job is to make daily life continue, to the degree possible. I also remember that the organizers of protests were rarely looking for a bland event. They needed to organize a mass, but there were always some ringers in there who were going to do stuff the cops had to address.

So, I’m not trying to make you feel bad, Matt. As I said, I’ve been in that spot - - but I can see the other side of the playing field as well.


I’d avoid beating up young people peacefully expressing their right to political protest, for one thing. I can appreciate the need for cordons and what-have-you. But when they are actively trying to sow fear in the citizens and trying to make people think twice about exercising their democratic rights, something is dreadfully wrong. I fear the police now more than criminals, as I mentioned (and being friends with several non-violent “criminals”… and probably being one myself, somehow).

Sake: I know I’m lucky. I just hope that the people who couldn’t run as fast as I could, like that fifty-year-old woman in the pig suit, got out of it OK. I couldn’t tell (I was too busy running for my life).

beatle: Yep. The modern equivalent of long hair is punk, goth, drag, hippie, or raver, any of which will plant a bullseye on you. (I’m kind of goth lite.)

CanadianSue: Yeah, I saw it. Talk about proving our fucking point.

Here’s a sarcastic little article I wrote the day before the protest. (Copyright 1999 Matt McLauchlin, all rights reserved.)

PEPPER SPRAY. Liquid substance by which police officers demonstrate their solidarity with student activists.

One of the most striking vindications of the CBC is that it showed the wit to ignore the sexual pecadillos of the President of the United States during much of the autumn of 1998, preferring instead to focus on the issue of whether the prime minister of this country did or did not conspire with the RCMP to politically repress students who were protesting political oppression in foreign countries. The incident in question occurred on the campus of the University of British Columbia during a summit of APEC leaders in November 1997. Students turned out to protest Canada’s collusion with Suharto, then dictator of Indonesia and perpetrator of human rights atrocities which would fluster a Visigoth. The non-violent protesters were ordered to move away from a road through which the dignitaries’ motorcade would pass. When they did not immediately comply they were attacked with pepper spray.

There are many interesting facts about this altercation. The mounties did not give any time for the protesters to move, and assaulted several, despite that there were reporters all around. They strip-searched several protesters, despite that they were familiar with these particular people and knew they were not the sort to take abuses of their rights lying down. And there was the hasty, slipshod, and porous coverup thrown into place by the RCMP and Parliament Hill, even though many people already knew about the collusion between the RCMP and the prime minister’s office, there was documentary evidence to prove it, and the national media were covering the story assiduously.

The RCMP had many options. They could simply have moved the protesters or arrested them en masse, as happens in the demonstrations you don’t usually hear about. They could have committed a Tienanmen Square massacre, which would have had worse PR implications but would have gotten rid of several annoying dissidents. Or they could have conducted a more effective coverup.

That they did none of these things suggests that either the RCMP is completely incompetent at the basic techniques of political repression that any wet-behind-the-ears dictator knows inside-out, or they wanted the story to be leaked, the scandal to hit, and the students to receive an outpouring of public sympathy. Very little else could seem to explain all this. The same could be said for many other political protests, such as when homeless people are pepper-sprayed under the shadow of the Peace Tower or when activists are beaten with batons at anti-police-brutality demonstrations.

It has long been puzzling why police, who are heavily unionized, show so little solidarity with students, who are also unionized. Perhaps the political repression is not political repression at all. Perhaps it is the police’s way of helping the activists to prove their point.

That sucks goat ass, Matt. I’m sorry…

You might want to have someone not involved in the event record anything and everything on a video tape. The media and other higher authorities might be interested in any egregious acts of unprovoked violence from those who are there “to serve and protect.”

Yer pal,

Matt, I thought it was interesting that CBC reported so well on the homeless demonstration the other day vs. the trash that CTV put out on it. CTV’s view was totally slanted towards the crowd attacking the police, when clearly, by bringing out the task force, of which they claimed was over 100 strong, and using the pepper spray and sticks only escalated the crowd of 40 or so.

A bunch of homeless people with pride vs. the bureaucratic bullshit and turning something that started out peaceful into a monkey jaunt for the press and totally missing the whole point of the demonstration.

I am me… accept it or not.

Matt, I’m not condoning police brutality by any means but it seems to me you’re living with some unreal expectations. By your own admission you were part of a large group that was publically shouting insults to the police and you’re surprised they took offense? Let’s say a large group of people got together and marched through one of Montreal’s gay neighborhoods shouting things like “Kill all the homos!” or “Queers burn in Hell!” Let’s say the local residents took offense to this and several of the marchers got the shit kicked out of them. Would you then be condemning the people who expressed their anger at being publically insulted? It seems to me that at the same time you were condemning the police for their brutality you were also relying on their sense of fair play and restraint.

I know what you mean. At a demonstration I went to a month ago, the Gazette reported the next day that “Students bashed car windows and attacked police officers”…

No, students did not do this. Four students did this out of a crowd of at least two thousand. And the students who attacked the police did so because the police were attacking them. But this was a blip. The other 1,996 students did not participate in these activities, but we got tarred with the same brush, including a front page photo.

The Gazette is of course owned by Conrad Black.

The CBC showed up near the end of the demo, and so reported a minor gathering of 150 and a bonfire, but at least they reported accurately and fairly on the part of the demo that they saw. I’m usually pretty satisfied with CBC coverage of demos, and I loved their breaking of the APEC scandal.

Oh, I’m sorry. I was labouring under the illusion that it is somehow illegal for police to attack unarmed peaceful protesters expressing their franchise in a democracy.

I knew perfectly well that the police were probably going to attack us. That didn’t stop me from 1) thinking that they might show the restraint they are supposed to this time, 2) knowing that if they attacked us, at least they’d prove our point, and 3) condemning them from breaking the law and standing against the democracy they are supposed to be upholding.

Your example is specious. I’d expect the people in the village not to commit acts of violence against the homophobes, if chanting slogans was all that they were doing (i.e. not assaulting anyone). I don’t expect that they would refrain from attacking them; I’d expect them to refrain. There’s a difference.

The police have a duty to uphold the rights of the citizens, which duty they derelicted last night and every time they assault protesters. I’m going to fight it each and every time.

I should clarify: the CBC showed up at the end of that demo (the one that the Gazette covered badly).

Question #1–Why March? Political change can be brought about in many ways. Lobbying (no, it isn’t just a euphonism for bribery) is effective, & can be inexpensive. Learn how, and you can. Petitions are not meaningless. There is a “spoiled brat” view of the world that all politicians are corrupt swine. Not true. Many may share your opinions, but lack the political “ammunition” to change things. A petition with thousands of names on it is GREAT ammunition.

Question #2–Why not sue? Sue the damn cops. Money doesn’t solve everything, but it sure does talk. If this is a problem, persuade the group that organised the protest march to file a lawsuit. The publicity will help your cause; & if you win, the cash can be used to assist the people you are trying to help.That video tape could be a case winner.

Question #3—Why not advertise? If the public had the full story ,many people would be horrified at what the dictator in question is doing. Also , buying advertising on some TV stations or in some newspapers will emable you to influence the editorial stance of the paper on your issue. No newspaper or TV station ever really wants to piss-off an advertiser, unless they must. See Money Talks above.
Finally—if you don’t want to change things, don’t come here & whine to us. **You knew in advance that a protest could turn to violence at the drop of a hat. Protests are volitile, even when the cops ARE honest, & the cause IS good. ** You knew this in advance.

All it takes is 5 or 10 drunken fools to turn a protest march into a riot. Maybe if you create your own internal security for your marches , & tell the cops in advance that you are weeding out drunks & assholes; that might persuade them to show a little more restraint.

Is an appreciation of beauty a function of the human soul?

Why do you think that if we did one, we haven’t done the other? I’ve seen petitions against police brutality up the wazoo.

That would be nice if our coalition had been made up of actual rich people rather than students, anti-poverty activists, and the homeless. Besides, we know what happens when the police get sued… we’ve seen miscarriages of justice in the Barnabé case, we’ve seen the APEC inquiry get so bogged down that it’ll probably take longer than the OJ trial.

Once again… that would be nice if we had any money. The prevalence of the means you mention ensure that, once again, the rich will have more political clout than the poor.

And what the hell is your point? Show me where I said I didn’t want to change things. Just because I knew that the police were going to be violent doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying to protest that. You think I want the police to be violent? I’m not out protesting for my health. (That would be the Medicare protest next Tuesday.)

I attend the university matt mentioned so I might be able to give some information here.

Firsty, the student with the megaphone was resisting arrest. Or at least this is what the police claim. He was arrested holding a megaphone. He was obviously using it or intending to do so. Whether or not he was actually using it, you should still expect trouble when you resist arrest. If you disagree with a charge you talk about it in court.

Secondly, these protests were set up by your typical long-haired, pot smoking, Chomsky-quoting whiners. The stuff that these guys print reads like a communist party newspaper. All they’re missing is a banner saying “Proletariats of the world unite”.

That doesn’t mean that what they say is not true. However, having read a lot of what they have written, it seems to me that about 90% of it is complete trash.

Being a long-haired, hot-headed youngster myself, it takes a lot to make me side with the police, and in this case I do. I didn’t see the the actual demonstration matt is talking about but I did see the demonstration where the guy with loudspeaker got arrested. I didn’t see when he got arrested but during the rest of the demonstration the police seemed to act just as they should have.

Don’t worry Matt, you won’t always feel this way. Someday you’ll graduate from college and hafta get a real job. You’ll have more important things to do than walk the streets taunting police; you’ll have rent to pay, food to buy, and maybe even a family. You’ll cut your hair (or stop cutting it all off, whichever) and watch kids 10 years your junior doing exactly what you’re doing now and wonder why these kids aren’t getting with the program. And as you’re walking your dog around the neighborhood you’ll see a cop car roll through and you’ll thank God for 'em. That’s just life. Sorry.

PS. Think that sucks, wait 'till you get you first grey pubic hair.

Exactly, this is what the police claim. Which is why my best friend James, a Concordia journalism student who was there covering the affair for his class and who has the entire incident on audiotape, is trying to bring the story to the press, because the police are lying and he has proof of it.

I’ve heard the tape. He was not using it for at least five minutes prior to the arrest. And any rate, he was intentionally staying on Concordia property while using the megaphone, since it’s only illegal to use a megaphone while on city property. He was in fact arrested inside the Hall building.

There is no evidence of resisting arrest on the tape, which I’ve listened to, and James says that he wasn’t even given time to resist arrest, simply grabbed without charge and flung to the ground whilst another woman was having her knees broken with batons. On the tape, the police do not pronounce any charges, which is a necessary first step for an arrest. They simply move in and start grabbing people.

I don’t see what your point is.

Maybe you got normal. I’d sooner die. I’m sorry, but I’ve had my mind expanded far too much to go back to the way I used to be. That’s probably what you said back then, so you’re probably laughing at this point. Go ahead and laugh. But I’ve chosen my career and my politics on the basis of my ethical beliefs, and I don’t intend to go back.

The fight for social justice is not just a phenomenon of the youth, as the Raging Grannies, the Revolting Hags, the forty-year-old teachers at the International Socialists, and the fifty-year-old woman in the pig suit the other day will be willing to testify.

I am a dissenter and I intend to stay a dissenter until things get fixed. For the rest of my life if necessary.