Rearview Mirror Glance at August’s Riot

As most readers will know, Montreal’s unusually cool summer included a very hot August, hot with the bitter heat that comes from tragedy.

On August 9, a group of teenagers were playing in a park in the proletarian neighbourhood of Montreal North. Cops drove up and busted one of the kids, who had a warrant outstanding. His younger brother, the 18 year old Freddy Villanueva, was one of many kids who got in their faces about this. While accounts differ as to the exact chain of events, what is clear is that within a few minutes a police was firing their weapon into the kids, hitting three of them, including Freddy. The kid died that night.

The next night there was a vigil called in the neighbourhood. This happens sometimes (rarely) when a cop murders someone in this city. More often than not there is nothing for weeks or months, or even ever. But this time it was the next night, already a “good” sign, if one can talk of “good” in this context.

But what came next was better… youth from the neighbourhood, many of whom (like the young Villanueva) children of the immigrant working class, started to set things on fire, and to fight the cops. There were molotov cocktails, and one cop got a flesh wound, shot by a rioter.

All this points to the fact that inspiring, high levels of consciousness exist just out of (whose?) sight, that some people understand what solidarity means, even though (unlike leftists who rarely riot) they it may not be word they drop into every conversation. That this level of consciousness exists in one of the key neighbourhoods of the immigrant working class in Montreal is no coincidence, no accident.

Of course, consciousness can play both ways. Police were able to engage “law abiding citizens” in its post-riot repression, using images from local business’s security cameras to catch rioters – according to a news story that appeared today, 71 people were arrested, 51 of them due to this latest police tactic. This had already been used earlier this year during the largely apolitical Hockey Riots, and it seems it is going to be a regular problem in cases of mass resistance. It remains to be seen how long it will take for rioters to mask up as a matter of course.

i am of course not saying that everything, or even most things, that happen during a riot are “good” or “correct”. Nor is it a matter of assuming that everyone who displays advanced consciousness in such a situation is a comrade in the next. But what it does point to is a much more promising and less decayed situation than one normally finds after a cop killing.

And the effect it had was exactly what everyone and anyone would expect. Within twenty four hours sections of the establishment were opportunistically distancing themselves from their pitbulls in blue, were talking about the need for an “impartial investigation”, for a “public inquiry”, for an end to police harassment and racism. While other members of the establishment played the same old racist tune, insisting that people in Montreal North should be better parents and then their kids wouldn’t be shot by the nice police officers. Both developments predictable, and positive because by forcing matters quickly the ruling class was prevented from putting forward a united front.

So yeah, i haven’t been blogging much, but hope to get back in the swing. In the meantime, if only for posterity, i thought i should jot down these few sketchy thoughts…


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