BECAUSE the Societe de Transport de Montreal already reflects the realities of an unjust society. Whereas a disproportionate number of STM users are people of colour, and an absolute majority are women, over 80% of those employed by the STM are male and over 90% are white. (Source: STM 2005 Annual Report).
BECAUSE young people – and especially young people of colour and working class youth – already experience violence at the hands of metro security guards. These young people are treated like criminals, fined if they do not have their student ID, harassed when they are going about their own business, beaten and arrested for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The case of Winston Roberts in 2002, who was beaten by six metro security guards simply for being a Black teenager who wanted to use the pay phone, is exceptional only in that some journalists chose to speak of it. For young people throughout Montreal such traumatic events are neither unknown nor unexpected – just ask around Villa Maria, Atwater or Parc metro stations around the time that school gets out and this will become clear.
BECAUSE the Montreal police already have a history of violence, most especially against people of colour and the poorest and most marginalized sections of the working class. From Anthony Griffin, who was “accidentally” shot through the head by police officer Gosset in 1987, to Martin Suazo who was “accidentally” shot through the head by police officer Garneau in 1995, to Mohamed Anas Bennis who was shot twice downwards through his body (as if he had been kneeling or sitting) by officer Bernier in 2005, who made a ludicrous claim of “self-defense”… over the past twenty years at least forty people have been killed, and countless more brutalized by Montreal police. Coroners, courts and politicians have all worked hand in hand to deny and semblance of justice for these victims of police murder.
BECAUSE “non-lethal weapons” are like “low tar cigarettes”, in that they can kill you despite the fact that they are marketed as being somehow “safe”. Non-lethal weapons are rarely used instead of guns – rather they are used to supplement the police officer’s fists and truncheon, as a weapon to enforce compliance or to torture someone who has already been subdued. We saw this last year when Stephane Datey, a university student in Quebec City, was pinned to the ground, covered in a blanket, and THEN pepper sprayed. Datey died as a result.
BECAUSE tasers represent a further militarization of the police, and their use will increase the amount of police violence. As in the case of Stephane Datey, as in the case of the thirteen year old Entessar Mounem who was hospitalized after Montreal police pepper sprayed her last week, tasers will be used against people a police officer may be angry at, but has no reason to actually hurt.
We see this across the United States, where Amnesty International has called attention to the fact that “many US police agencies are deploying tasers as a routine force option to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who do not pose a serious danger to themselves or others. In some departments, tasers have become the most prevalent force tool. They have been used against unruly schoolchildren; unarmed mentally disturbed or intoxicated individuals; suspects fleeing minor crime scenes and people who argue with police or fail to comply immediately with a command. Cases described in this report include the stunning of a 15-year-old schoolgirl in Florida, following a dispute on a bus, and a 13- year-old girl in Arizona, who threw a book in a public library.”
Just last week an Edmonton police officer received a conditional discharge for tasering a man who was polite and obeying police orders. The man had been stopped for jaywalking. This is not surprising and it will happen here too.
BECAUSE this is an ongoing trend. Already in 2001 Montreal SWAT teams were supplied with these electroshock weapons, then in 2004 the police operational centres were supplied (“we use them on prisoners when they get too violent,” one cop bragged the media) and as of last summer the four “intervention groups” – the ones who are in charge of attacking demonstrations – were given the weapon.
But this is an important moment, as today for the first time police armed with tasers will be in charge of controlling and repressing “ordinary” working class people on a day-by-day basis.
BECAUSE we do not trust the police, and with every new weapon and power they receive we trust them even less.
For these reasons and many others, we are outraged, disgusted but not a all surprised by the fact that the STM and the Mayor of Montreal have chosen to allow police armed with tasers to patrol the Montreal metro.