by Xi Sophie Zhang, medical student at Université de Montréal May 21, 2012
Original French Text: http://yfa.awid.org/fr/2012/05/temoignage-dune-jeune-femme-sur-la-brutalite-policiere-au-quebec-sous-la-loi-78/
My position on the tuition hike and the strike have been clear since the beginning, but that is not what I want to talk to you about.
On several occasions, people have borne witness to police brutality and the biased coverage the media offers. I always believed it, but last night, I received the incontestable proof.
Between 9pm and 1am, sitting with a friend from school, my boyfriend, and four friends at Café l’Escalier, which faces Émilie-Gamelin park, we witnessed a terrifying scene!!!
On the other side of the windows, we watched the game of cat-and-mouse that the media has often described: protestors fleeing, the sound of bombs at their heels, along with police officers, riot police, and the Sureté du Québec.
As we were having beers and dancing salsa, the air thickened more than once with pepper spray, causing the café customers to cough suddenly. What followed was a horrified silence around our table. The first scene on the sidewalk of the park: a demonstrator fleeing in the direction of the metro, police in pursuit. A first bicycle cop reverses at full speed. A second comes in with his bike. Others jump on and arrest him in the most brutal way imaginable. The second scene, on the same sidewalk: another protestor fleeing, a police officer behind him. BANG: the blow of a nightstick in the back of his neck. He falls brutally. A second agent lifts up his bicycle above the protestor, who is now on the ground: BAM BAM BAM. Bicycle blows land on the immobile body.
A half hour later, there are still 10 cops encircling him. Everyone in the café is asking, “Why is he still on the ground”? The cops have an air of nervousness about them. They demand that a journalist put away his cameral. Passers-by approach, but stay on the periphery. A particularly enraged cop yells at them to leave and pushes them forcefully. He almost knocks over two observers: it’s pure provocation.
Minutes pass. The second arrested protestor is still lying on the ground. The number of observers is growing. Finally, an ambulance arrives and we understand: they have severely wounded him. We see the paramedics putting a spinal collar on the man and taking him away on a stretcher. The crowd is enraged. One woman approaches the police, screaming, pointing, and giving them the finger. From the café, we can’t hear her words, but we can see her emotion. We wonder whether she is the friend or parent of the wounded man and tell one another that we would react exactly the same way if it happened to us.
The salsa is finished. We leave the café and move toward the area of the incident. There are bloodstains on the sidewalk where the man was beaten. Our group of friends, by no means all red squares [translator’s note: supporters of the student strike], is shaking with fear and disgust. One of us is crying. It hurts inside. We wonder whether the demonstration will be reported on in the media the next day.
Without great surprise, this morning I read La Presse: “In the chaos, no fewer than 305 people were arrested and more than ten injured, one seriously. This was a man in his forties who received a wound to the head while being apprehended at Berri Square. The police had just been attacked when they charged, said their spokesperson.” According to Le Devoir, “There were reports of one serious head injury, but the demonstrator’s life is not in danger.” On Radio-Canada: no mention of the incident.
That’s all. The police were provoked, the man isn’t going to die. All is well in the world.
But questions remain that have not been answered. Why arrest demonstrators (considering that their “violence,” 99.9 percent of the time, consists of vandalism and altercations with police, and not real violence against people) using enough force to leave a person paralyzed? Why continue hitting someone who is already lying on the ground? Why intimidate witnesses who aren’t bothering you, unless you have something to hide? And above all, why doesn’t the press ever talk about the motives or the process of arrests, speaking instead only of the events that “justify” the brutality?
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.