The way that cops treat students is different than the way they treat other advocacy groups
Thursday April 2, Montreal. A motley crowd in the street, a street flooded by the spring sunlight that is finally warming our faces, faces coloured with the red of protest, a protest suddenly halted by shots of teargas and the charge of police officers.
Montreal, Sunday March 29. On this chilly day, women take to the streets and step out of Émilie-Gamelin square while shouting chants aimed at reminding Couillard’s government that no one is to hinder abortion access. Around 500 people make their way towards Health Minister Gaétan Barrette’s office then turn back around. The police flank the march but never intervene.
In both cases, no itinerary was provided to the police administration. No “violent” incidents were noted by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM). And yet these two protests came to two very distinctive conclusions. Why?
“It’s quite obvious from the dozen recent protests: when they are not organized by student groups, but by feminist groups for example, they are not subject to the same treatment. The treatment is notably differential, and it amounts to political profiling.” Continue reading →
Montreal, April 1st, 2015 – In the face of the extremely brutal police interventions used to crack down on student strike-related demonstrations, the Ligue des droits et libertés, ASSÉ, SPUQ, SGPUM, FNEEQ, the Comités Printemps 2015, the Coalition opposée à la tarification et à la privatisation des services publics, the FFQ, the Observatoire sur les profilages and several other community organisations, unions and groups are outraged and deeply worried about the situation. They demand an immediate end to this political repression.
The violent nature of this repression has already been roundly criticized. The fact that it has come about in such a brutal manner, at the very start of the student strike movement, bears witness to an increasing will to crush the social movement and demonstrates the political character of this repression. Calls to order and other commentary offered by certain politicians such as Quebec City mayor Labeaume or Anie Samson – the official in charge of Public Security on the City of Montreal council who declared that this year there would be “zero tolerance and the police will enforce the rules” – confirm a clear political intention to nip the strike movement and student protests in the bud. Continue reading →
Since the establishment of the first universities in Europe, students have mobilized around academic and social problems, such as the cost of rent. Student activism is not new. Strikes, occupations, and event disruptions have been part and parcel of university life, including at UQAM. Often, these collective actions have been at the forefront of progressive causes working towards social justice: feminism, pacifism, the environmental movement, amongst others.
Historically, university administrations have been relatively tolerant towards activist initiatives, including occupations, some of which lasted as long as six months (like at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1968). In the 2000s, administrators began to change their approach, choosing to quickly call the police, who have intervened in a brutal way, as has been the case at UQAM (not to mention at the UQO and the University of Montreal in 2012, among other examples). This conscious change is part of a broader tendency on the part of authority figures to be more and more repressive towards social movements. They jump on a few isolated incidents to justify an increase in repressive measures. In line with this tendency, UQAM’s administration increasingly prefers the repressive tactics of intimidation and institutional violence. This has important costs (security cameras and extra “security” guards) and contributes to the degradation of the social climate on a campus that is well known for its community and activist environment. And yet, there is no academic consensus about the effects of repression on social movements. Some studies show that repression weakens mobilization efforts, while other reports show that repression provokes increased mobilization and a radicalization of activists. Continue reading →