Jennifer Pawluck, a 20 year old woman from Montreal, was taken into police custody yesterday [April 3] and questioned after she posted a photo of a graffiti mural on her Instagram. The mural showed a caricature of a Montreal police spokesman Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière, with a bullet hole in his head.
After she posted the image to Instagram, police came to her house and took her in for questioning, releasing her several hours later. The police say that there are secret reasons they detained her, beyond taking a picture of graffiti and posting it, but they won’t say what they are.
Pawluck participated in the mass student demonstrations in Montreal and was part of the ensuing mass arrests. She will have to appear in court on April 17, and is barred from going with a kilometer of police HQ and from communicating with Cmdr Lafrenière. She has not been charged.
This arrest occurs in the context of the Montreal police’s new 2013 gambit to snuff out the embers left from last year’s student strike. Because despite the election victory of the PQ – which was meant to be the nail in the coffin of last year’s historic upsurge – the embers are still hot and little flames keep on popping up.
The SPVM’s response has been to enact zero tolerance against any but officially State-sanctioned protests in Montreal. Unless organizers have given police their route ahead of time and asked permission to protest, police have been attacking demos, kettling people, making arrests, and enforcing Montreal’s new P-6 bylaw (one of three pieces of repressive legislation passed during the 2012 strike). Under P-6, merely being in attendance at a demonstration deemed “illegal” for failing to be sanctioned by the State is sufficient to earn you a $637 fine.
P-6 was passed on May 19, 2012, as part of the (not immediately successful) attempt to clamp down on the student strike which led to the toppling of the Liberal provincial government in September of that year. It was not implemented during the strike, which had the support of a critical mass of the broader population, including social democratic and nationalist forces. In the new context under the current PQ government, where the student question is supposed to have been “settled” and with much smaller numbers willing to take to the streets, P-6 was first implemented on March 15 of this year, at the annual International Day Against Police Brutality demonstration. It was quickly then used at two other demonstrations, all of which were suppressed by police before they could even begin. So far hundreds have been ticketed under this bylaw.
The situation continues to develop, and which way things will go will depend largely on whether people back down or stand up to the police’s campaign of intimidation. This is the context in which both Pawluck’s arrest and the widespread use of P-6 so far this spring must be understood.