Police Brutality and Racial Profiling Spark Riots in Montreal

Fatal shooting by police sparks Montreal riot

By JANIE GOSSELIN – 4 hours ago

MONTREAL (AP) — Montreal’s mayor on Monday promised a swift inquiry into the shooting death of a Honduran teenager by police after the incident prompted violent clashes between angry youth and authorities in a heavily Haitian neighborhood.

A police officer was shot in the leg late Sunday, cars were set ablaze, stores were looted and firefighters were pelted with beer bottles in Montreal North, a multiethnic area referred to by local police as the Bronx of Montreal for its poverty and crime.

Several hundred officers in riot gear fanned out in the area, searching for a group of youths suspected of torching eight cars parked outside a fire station. Six people were arrested.

The violence erupted after a peaceful protest against the Saturday shooting by police of three unarmed people, including an 18-year-old man, identified by his sister as Freddy Alberto Villanueva, an immigrant from Honduras who died of his wounds.

Jean-Ernest Pierre, a lawyer and owner of a Montreal radio station popular with the city’s ethnic minorities, said his station was beset with angry calls from people concerned about police treatment of minorities.

Some policemen are not well equipped to face what Pierre called the new Quebec, a multiethnic society, he said, adding that many minorities feel targeted because of the color of their skin.

“People don’t trust the police,” Pierre said.

He also said there’s a gang problem in Montreal North, where poverty makes many young people vulnerable to recruitment.

About 25 percent of the residents of Montreal North are immigrants. Almost 15 percent are black and 3.5 percent are Latino, according to census data.

On Sunday, men and women of all ages crawled through the smashed windows of a pawn shop, a convenience store and a butcher shop, grabbing anything they could. They could be seen running down the street clutching TVs, cigarette cartons and slabs of meat.

Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere said one police officer was hospitalized after being shot in the leg.

An ambulance technician was hit in the head by a bottle and a second police officer suffered minor injuries, he said. Both were released from hospital after treatment.

Three people were arrested for breaking and entering, one for drug possession and two others for charges still to be determined, he said.

Mayor Gerald Tremblay said he’ll meet with community leaders to ensure another riot doesn’t happen. “One thing is for sure — we have to do better than what we’ve been doing,” he said.

Tremblay promised a speedy investigation and said they must be up front about what prompted police to open fire on Villanueva and two others on Saturday.

City police have said the officers were trying to make an arrest in Henri Bourassa Park around 7 p.m. when they were surrounded by about 20 youths.

A few individuals allegedly broke away from the group and rushed the officers.

According to police, one officer then opened fire.

The officers were not wounded.

Quebec provincial police have taken over the investigation into the shootings.

Villanueva’s sister, Julissa, said the family wants answers.

“We only know what we see in the news, in the newspapers, that’s all,” she said, weeping as she spoke about her brother, a student who wanted to become a mechanic. Villanueva’s family came to Canada from Honduras in 1998.

Community leaders said many youngsters feel disenfranchised and are frustrated by what they see as heavy-handed police tactics.

“What we are seeing are youngsters, a community that is in revolt because they don’t like they way they are being treated,” said Pierreson Vaval, who leads a youth group.

“They don’t like how authorities interact with them.”

The melee Sunday night was the second large-scale riot in Montreal in four months.

In April, a downtown celebration after the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins in a National Hockey League playoff game turned violent when people began torching police cars and looting stores. Police arrested 56 people.

Police Chief Yvan Delorme said he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to mend ties with the community.

“We’re there to listen, to understand what happened (Sunday) night and to avoid these kinds of situations,” Delorme said. “We have to feel safe in Montreal.”

This incident reminds me of what happened in France about 2-3 years ago when French police brutality set off almost a week of rioting from the French Arab and Muslim communities.  The most disturbing part of all this was that I sympathised with the Arab Muslims during their rioting.

Its sad to see that years of racial profiling and lack of integration from the Quebecois have led to the rioting that happened last weekend.  It started when Montreal police tried to take Fredy Villanueva in for questioning while he was playing dice with a few friends at the park since he “fit” their profile for a suspect.

Fredy tried to ask what had happened and even resisted going with the police.  Later local youths crowded around the scene and one of the cops panicked.  The cops shot three people and killed Villanueva in the process.  His parents said the police did not notify them until it was too late.

This extreme use of force prompted a peaceful protest from the community on Saturday and degenerated into rioting on Sunday.  Apparently most of the ethnic minorities in Montreal North do not speak French as a first language and are mostly working class residents.

I found it disturbing that the cops would shoot to kill instead of giving off warning shots or using nonlethal force to take down some of the restless youths.  I didn’t think they would try to kill a few teenagers just because they were crowding around them.

I never experienced incidents of racial discrimination in Montreal; but that was probably because I hung around their Chinatown and Old Montreal, which were major tourist sectors.  However, I was discriminated when I was enrolled at a Quebecois school in Brossard (back then there were no Chinese people in that town).  The racism was so bad at times that I decided to unlearn French when I moved to America and I still feel I can relate to those ethnic minorities who rioted in Paris and now Montreal.

For those who don’t know about Montreal, I would suggest simply going there as a tourist.  Enjoy the local festivals, the low drinking age, the marijuana, the strip clubs, the fine dining, and the historic districts.  Other than that, I strongly advise against living in Montreal or its nearby suburbs unless you’re White and willing to learn French.

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2 thoughts on “Police Brutality and Racial Profiling Spark Riots in Montreal

  1. Yes, I’ve been living in Montreal for too long to remember. I’d arrived from the States, and after having lived in Washington, D.C. and Miami. I was first struck by how peaceful the city was compared to back home. Then I was struck by how white it was, and by how the whites fear non-whites way out of proportion to reality.
    In some ways the police here are just following the North ‘American trend of acting like an army of occupation-the Iraq model. The paranoia by the “pure laine” majority is such that the last couple of years when I went to the local Dominican festival, the Sunday after church in the park affair that you see throughout the Americas (I’d lived in Mexico for a while), now looks like South Africa under apartheid. They put up a chain link fence around the whole park, surround it with cops and search everyone going in, as if it were some hip hop gangsta scene. It’s humiliating to see all these families- mothers, fathers, grandmas, kids and all who are just going for a Sunday of food and music being treated like criminals. The same goes for the festival Nuits d”Afrique, the African music festival. It is surrounded by chain-linked fence, and at the end of the concert, some white guy gets up and in French tells everyone to “go directly home,etc…” it’s demeaning to say the least.
    It’s gotten to the point that anytime there’s a gathering of more than three or four non-white people, the cops are there on full alert.
    As far as the cops go, since they are starting out with fifty something thousand a year, they live mostly in the white bread suburbs and they’re attitude towards people of color are from what they see on the tube-NYPD, COPS, that type of thing.
    Nothing will ever come of it, since Quebec society lives in total denial, which was evident after the school shooting at Dawson a couple of years ago. Even when I heard about it, I said that the shooter would turn out to be some anglo speaking ethnic-it was. And after Jan Wong, a Chinese Canadian from Toronto wrote a piece about endemic racism toward minorities, particularly English speaking ones, she was attacked herself for “racism.”by the Montreal media.
    As far as the rest of Canada goes, you have to keep in mind that most of the race hatred is directed toward native Americans, and being of native background, I know all about it. To show how absurd the situation is here, I’d gone to work in a film here(normally I work in native productions), and at the fitting I was confronted with the typical white Canadian redskin hater, and she’d put me threw a humiliating scene, after she’d first dressed me in a pair of pants that were a foot too short, and I’d laughed…she said, “so you find it funny?” walked up to me and took out a razor, slashed the pants to shreds, sat down and chatted up her friends leaving me holding the shreds together. Finally, out of exasperation, I said loudly that I’m telling my agent that I don’t want to work with whites anymore.
    I got a call the next day from my agent telling me I was fired from the film and that I was guilty of “a hate crime,”meaning racism toward the French.
    Now that the Canadian government has become a full-fledged America colony, sending troops to Afghanistan and assisting in the Haitian coup d’etat, the militarization of the society is evident. Just like the States, as I mentioned, the police are acting more and more like an army of occupation. Like everywhere, it’s the war of the white and rich against the increasingly impoverished non-white majority.

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