Montreal Police attack Anti-Capitalist May Day Demonstration

Yesterday a demonstration organized by a number of radical left organizations, including anarchists and Marxist-Leninist and others, was attacked by police in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, a predominantly working class Quebecois neighbourhood in east Montreal.

As can be read below, neo-nazis were used to provoke a minor incident, which was then used as a pretext by the police to attack the march. This is not the first time neo-nazis have attacked members of the radical left in the area, nor is it the first time some of us have wondered at their relationship with the local police.

The communique from the Anti-Capitalist May Day Liaison Committee is reproduced here, translation courtesy of yours truly:

Comrades and Friends,
Here is a communiqué which will be sent out to the media throughout the day, to follow up on yesterday evening’s events in Montreal, where the police brutally attacked the May Day demonstration. At least three people were arrested, one of them is to appear in court this afternoon (Friday), though we do not yet know what charges they are facing.

The groups who organized the anti-capitalist May Day demonstration will meet early next week to review the event. In the meantime, we are asking for your solidarity. Please send any information you may have regarding the Montreal Police Department’s attack, the arrests, people who were injured (including photos and videos) to:

Thank you everyone, in solidarity!

The liaison committee

P.S. A video is already up at

CommuniquĂ© – For Immediate Release

Montreal : the Police Attack an Anti-Capitalist Demonstration

(Montreal, May 2, 2008) In a brutal and unjustified intervention, last night the Montreal police attacked the anti-capitalist May Day demonstration, on international workers’ day. Organized by twenty collectives and social, community and political groups (see list below), the demonstration brought out 800 people in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood – one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada, where people suffer the heaviest exploitation.

All day, Place Valois, on the corner of Ontario and Valois streets, was occupied by militants from the BAILS committee [trans. note: in French, “bail” means lease], who denounced the gentrification going on in the neighbourhood, the rent hikes and the more and more difficult conditions people in the neighbourhood are facing. Around 5pm, Place Valois was filled for a community supper, some entertainment and some speeches. It was a festive atmosphere, and many people from the neighbourhood were present, workers of all ages, whole families with their children. This was in striking contrast with the aggressive atmosphere which reigned amongst the police, who were already there in great numbers, and who seemed to be looking for any excuse to ban the demonstration. At least two superior officers from the Montreal Police Department (SPVM) were on the scene with their megaphones, ready to decree that it was an “illegal gathering”, even though nothing illegal had taken place and the participants simply wanted to exercise their right to demonstrate, as officially recognized by Canadian law.

Around 6:30pm, the demonstration began heading west along Ontario. It was a lively march, the crowd was shouting out slogans and many onlookers came to join and find out why people were demonstrating.

Suddenly, two people who are well known in the neighbourhood as neo-nazi militants appeared around a corner, decked out in all their gear, to heckle the demonstrators, in what appeared to be a clear provocation. Quick on their toes, some demonstrators went up to them to let them know that their presence was not appropriate, and that it would be better for them if they got lost. A dozen SPVM officers on bicycles were present beside the hecklers when they appeared but did nothing to separate them from the demonstrators.

After this incident, it took only a few minutes for hordes of riot police to circle the demonstration; then, without warning, they attacked the demonstrators, using their clubs and pepper spray. Remember that the crowd included a good number of families, children and elderly people, as the SPVM officers present at the rally had seen for themselves. The demonstrators attempted to regroup to defend the rally. Some of them succeeded in continuing the demonstration through nearby streets and to make their way to Papineau metro, where the demonstration ended.

The liaison committee of the anti-capitalist May Day demonstration vigorously protests this latest attack by the SPVM, an attack on democratic freedoms. We wish specifically to refute the SPVM’s claim that they intervened because “fights had broken out between demonstrators”. The truth is that there was no “fight” inside the demonstration; on the contrary, there was a festive atmosphere, full of solidarity, in the spirit of May Day. As we have explained, the incident which occurred was caused by two provocateurs who had nothing to do with the demonstration. That the police preferred to use this incident as an excuse to attack and break up a legitimate demonstration instead of simply neutralizing these provocateurs says a lot about what they had decided right from the start: for them, the anti-capitalist demonstrators do not have any civil rights and it is up to them to decide if the political views of this or that demonstration are worthy of being heard. It certainly seems that the champions of the police state who are in charge of the SPVM are more interested in “neutralizing” the anti-capitalists than in taking care of the neo-nazis who are making trouble in working class neighbourhoods.

We also protest the fact that the police carried out at least three arrests; one of the people arrested will appear in court this afternoon (Friday), though we do not yet know what charges they are facing. We demand their immediate and unconditional release.

If it wasn’t for this illegal, unjustified and brutal attack by the SPVM, the anti-capitalist May Day demonstration would have been a great success. The enthusiasm of the 800 or so participants made it one of the most important anti-capitalist rallies in Montreal over the past five years. Now these anti-capitalist militants will be joined by all those who defend the right to demonstrate and democratic freedoms and refuse to live in a state where the cops do as they please.

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