The August 11th Police Attack in St-Jerome

On August 11th, one week before the protests against the SPP summit in Montebello, the police attacked a communist demonstration in the town of St-Jerome (population 25,000), about an hour north of Montreal.

The police attack, IMO, was motivated by two factors.

On the one hand St-Jerome is a small town with none of the activist scene you’ll find in a big city like Montreal, and the cops are obviously quite happy to keep it that way. Indeed, it’s not unusual in such towns to find that neo-nazis and fascists are considered more acceptable than communists or anarchists. While there are real possibilities for political action in places like St-Jerome, this is funneled quite effectively into xenophobic and conservative politics, often with a nationalist tinge. As in most towns, those people who are interested in radical ideas do what they can to move to the city, which further maintains an unhealthy political situation. All of this suits the cops just fine, and keeping things this way is one reason why they would want to show a heavy hand to any radical organizers who might try to set up shop in the area.

The second possible reason for the police attack has to do with timing, as a way to try to demobilize one of the more militant groups in the lead up to the Montebello protests. The RCP in Canada is a separate organization from the u.s. RCP, and promotes militant confrontation with the police. Back in 2001 when the Summit of the Americas was held in Quebec City, police documents were found in which it was revealed that the RCP in particular was considered a possible source of militant resistance. In this context, and also keeping in mind that Ottawa organizers with People’s Global Action were arrested or bogus charges just before Montebello, it is possible that the August 11th police action was intended to discourage militant action the next week outside the SPP summit.

i was remiss in blogging about this at the time, but i’m doing so now as there is a demo planned this weekend (see next posting) in St-Jerome to protest this police repression. So read on… the following comes from the RCP website:


Here is a reminder of what happened on August 11th, based on reports in Le Drapeau Rouge-express and the local press:

The demonstration had been called by the RCP-Laurentides several weeks earlier, with the goal of promoting socialism and encouraging workers in St-Jerome to organize themselves for revolution. As planned, at 1pm roughly fifty demonstrators had gathered at Curé-Labelle Square. At which point members of the St-Jerome police force came to warn them that “they would respect their right to demonstrate on condition that they stay in the park or on the sidewalk”: which was to say that they had already made up their minds not to tolerate a demonstration in the streets of St-Jerome.

After a short speech by a comrade from the RCP who pointed out that this was the first time there was a communist demonstration in St-Jerome, and who denounced the harsh living and work conditions for workers in the region, the demonstrators enthusiastically took to the streets. Most of the demonstrators had red flags and chanted slogans against exploitation, for communism and for revolution. People on the street came up to the demo to find out more what it was all about; several seemed interested, and eagerly took the pamphlets and newspapers that were being distributed.

The demonstrators first stopped at the skate park, where another comrade briefly spoke about the conditions for young people in the region, who are faced with a high rate of unemployment, miserable wages and also a lot of repression : as in so many places, the police here target and harass those young people who they consider “marginal”.

The demonstration once again started moving. It was at the point of its second stop, in front of the Muller Forges, that a ton of cops (11 cars) suddenly rush onto the scene; there were cops from St-Jerome, of course, but also from other neighbouring towns like Sainte-Sophie, Saint-Hyppolite, Mirabel and Rivière du- Nord, as well as an agent from the Quebec Provincial Police’s intelligence unit. The cops jumped out of their cars and rushed the demonstrators, making a point of going after those who were holding the banners and loud speakers. Without giving any warning they started arresting people, yelling that everyone was going to be charged with “obstruction” (while in fact they were the ones who had come and obstructed a perfectly legal demonstration).

When a demonstrator – who was standing two meters away – simply asked a cop why they were doing this, the cop replied by dousing them with pepper spray. Another cop, who was doing as he was told but seemed completely confused, was also asked why people were being arrested; he answered that “You didn’t do anything but you did not ask for a permit, so I think that’s a case of obstruction”!

As the first people were arrested the majority of the demonstrators managed to flee through the surrounding streets and parks. In the end nine people were brought to the police station and given court dates to face charges of “obstructing a police officer”.

According to the police “logic”, the demonstrators broke the law by marching in the streets once they had been told not to. It seems that disobeying an order, even an order which is contrary to constitutional law, constitutes “obstruction” to police! It seems certain that such ridiculous charges will not hold up in court.

Politically Targetted Repression
In an article published in the August 24th edition of Saint-Sauveur’s weekly Accès newspaper, sergeant Robin Pouliot of the St-Jerome police confirmed the purely political nature of the police action. The reporter who spoke to him reported that “the banners which read ‘It is right to rebel!’ seemed to shock the police.” She quotes him as saying “When people distribute hateful pamphlets and break the law, they should expect a response…” Sergeant Pouliot doesn’t actually say what “law” the demonstrators broke: the “St Jerome police law” perhaps? or maybe his own private law?

These statements, as well as the presence of an officer from the QPP’s intelligence unit (who subsequently explained that she was there “to monitor the party”), shows that this was a case of deliberate and targeted political repression: the police admits having acted in order to prevent the expression of a communist point of view, which it considers “hateful”.

At the August 16th court appearance, the Crown Prosecutor assigned to the case tried to get additional release conditions imposed on the nine arrested demonstrators – whom she described as “dangerous criminals” – including forbidding them from returning to St-Jerome and most importantly, forbidding them from participating in the Montebello demonstrations against the SPP summit, which was taking place the next week. This request was denied by the court for technical reasons because the accused were not present, seeing as their presence was not required at that point of the legal proceedings. All of which makes the political nature of the August 11th police action even more clear.

A Political Battle Which Concerns Everyone

The RCP has already been active for some time in St-Jerome. Activists in the area are working to mobilize the workers and proletarian youth in the struggle against capitalism. This obviously doesn’t suit the local bourgeois, or the cops who defend them.

In 2005, during the student strike, the communists were there when the police targeted the student activists with repression. On the picket lines at the cegeps [kind of like colleges – translator], some cops acted like real pigs, punching students in the face with their bare fists.

It is clear that the police action of August 11th was no accident, whether it was motivated by a simple desire for “revenge” from the local police, or by a decision taken higher up to criminalize revolutionary communists (or some combination thereof). Regardless of what motivated it, this action should not be allowed to go unanswered.\

It goes without saying that the accused and their lawyers are preparing for a political battle in the trials which the State has imposed on them. The prosecution and the police are going to be made to publicly explain why they are still trying to apply the “padlock law” of Maurice Duplessis, which used to forbid “all communist propaganda in the province of Quebec” and which the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in… 1957!

But this battle does not only concern the accused, or the RCP, or the people who demonstrated on August 11th, and it has to do with a lot more than the courts : this case is of concern to all those who support the right to demonstrate, to resist and to rebel and to express dissident and revolutionary political ideas.

So let’s all go back to St-Jerome on September 29th!

Here is a reminder of what happened on August 11th, based on reports in Le Drapeau Rouge-express and the local press:

The demonstration had been called by the RCP-Laurentides several weeks earlier, with the goal of promoting socialism and encouraging workers in St-Jerome to organize themselves for revolution. As planned, at 1pm roughly fifty demonstrators had gathered at Curé-Labelle Square. At which point members of the St-Jerome police force came to warn them that “they would respect their right to demonstrate on condition that they stay in the park or on the sidewalk”: which was to say that they had already made up their minds not to tolerate a demonstration in the streets of St-Jerome.

After a short speech by a comrade from the RCP who pointed out that this was the first time there was a communist demonstration in St-Jerome, and who denounced the harsh living and work conditions for workers in the region, the demonstrators enthusiastically took to the streets. Most of the demonstrators had red flags and chanted slogans against exploitation, for communism and for revolution. People on the street came up to the demo to find out more what it was all about; several seemed interested, and eagerly took the pamphlets and newspapers that were being distributed.

The demonstrators first stopped at the skate park, where another comrade briefly spoke about the conditions for young people in the region, who are faced with a high rate of unemployment, miserable wages and also a lot of repression : as in so many places, the police here target and harass those young people who they consider “marginal”.

The demonstration once again started moving. It was at the point of its second stop, in front of the Muller Forges, that a ton of cops (11 cars) suddenly rush onto the scene; there were cops from St-Jerome, of course, but also from other neighbouring towns like Sainte-Sophie, Saint-Hyppolite, Mirabel and Rivière du- Nord, as well as an agent from the Quebec Provincial Police’s intelligence unit. The cops jumped out of their cars and rushed the demonstrators, making a point of going after those who were holding the banners and loud speakers. Without giving any warning they started arresting people, yelling that everyone was going to be charged with “obstruction” (while in fact they were the ones who had come and obstructed a perfectly legal demonstration).

When a demonstrator – who was standing two meters away – simply asked a cop why they were doing this, the cop replied by dousing them with pepper spray. Another cop, who was doing as he was told but seemed completely confused, was also asked why people were being arrested; he answered that “You didn’t do anything but you did not ask for a permit, so I think that’s a case of obstruction”!

As the first people were arrested the majority of the demonstrators managed to flee through the surrounding streets and parks. In the end nine people were brought to the police station and given court dates to face charges of “obstructing a police officer”.

According to the police “logic”, the demonstrators broke the law by marching in the streets once they had been told not to. It seems that disobeying an order, even an order which is contrary to constitutional law, constitutes “obstruction” to police! It seems certain that such ridiculous charges will not hold up in court.

Politically Targetted Repression
In an article published in the August 24th edition of Saint-Sauveur’s weekly Accès newspaper, sergeant Robin Pouliot of the St-Jerome police confirmed the purely political nature of the police action. The reporter who spoke to him reported that “the banners which read ‘It is right to rebel!’ seemed to shock the police.” She quotes him as saying “When people distribute hateful pamphlets and break the law, they should expect a response…” Sergeant Pouliot doesn’t actually say what “law” the demonstrators broke: the “St Jerome police law” perhaps? or maybe his own private law?

These statements, as well as the presence of an officer from the QPP’s intelligence unit (who subsequently explained that she was there “to monitor the party”), shows that this was a case of deliberate and targeted political repression: the police admits having acted in order to prevent the expression of a communist point of view, which it considers “hateful”.

At the August 16th court appearance, the Crown Prosecutor assigned to the case tried to get additional release conditions imposed on the nine arrested demonstrators – whom she described as “dangerous criminals” – including forbidding them from returning to St-Jerome and most importantly, forbidding them from participating in the Montebello demonstrations against the SPP summit, which was taking place the next week. This request was denied by the court for technical reasons because the accused were not present, seeing as their presence was not required at that point of the legal proceedings. All of which makes the political nature of the August 11th police action even more clear.

A Political Battle Which Concerns Everyone

The RCP has already been active for some time in St-Jerome. Activists in the area are working to mobilize the workers and proletarian youth in the struggle against capitalism. This obviously doesn’t suit the local bourgeois, or the cops who defend them.

In 2005, during the student strike, the communists were there when the police targeted the student activists with repression. On the picket lines at the cegeps [kind of like colleges – translator], some cops acted like real pigs, punching students in the face with their bare fists.

It is clear that the police action of August 11th was no accident, whether it was motivated by a simple desire for “revenge” from the local police, or by a decision taken higher up to criminalize revolutionary communists (or some combination thereof). Regardless of what motivated it, this action should not be allowed to go unanswered.\

It goes without saying that the accused and their lawyers are preparing for a political battle in the trials which the State has imposed on them. The prosecution and the police are going to be made to publicly explain why they are still trying to apply the “padlock law” of Maurice Duplessis, which used to forbid “all communist propaganda in the province of Quebec” and which the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in… 1957!

But this battle does not only concern the accused, or the RCP, or the people who demonstrated on August 11th, and it has to do with a lot more than the courts : this case is of concern to all those who support the right to demonstrate, to resist and to rebel and to express dissident and revolutionary political ideas.

So let’s all go back to St-Jerome on September 29th!

—————————–


The Communist Party of Quebec and the North East Federation of Anarchist Communists Denounce the Police Action

The Laurentian section of the Communist Party of Quebec, some of whose members were at the August 11th demonstration, made a point of denouncing this “flagrant example of police repression, which reminds us of what we experiences at our worst moments under the rule of Maurice Duplessis.” : “It is clear that the police will not accept being challenged or called into question… We denounce the police abuse which took place on August 11th.”

Comrades from NEFAC also expressed their support : « We in NEFAC have our differences with the Maoists (sic!) but we are not so sectarian as to remain silent in such an obvious case of police repression… We ourselves have often found ourselves faced with this type of police repression, and so as NEFAC activists we are expressing our solidarity with the activists of the RCP.”

sketchythoughtssketchythoughtssketchythoughts

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