Filed under: Action, Quebec, Repression, The State
Critical notes and reflection on recent riots that have broken out in Montreal against curfews. Originally posted to Montreal Counter-Info.
On Sunday April 11th, in response to Legault’s re-instatement of the 8pm curfew, people took to the streets in Montreal to enjoy the spring weather and express joyous rage at this shit world that continues to steal our lives away from us. Without any stated political intention, a call-out was made on social media to gather in the Old Port to party and defy the curfew. A number of anarchists joined what turned out to be a mixed crowd of people, mostly younger, whose main commonality was anger that their few freedoms were being further curtailed by the government. The atmosphere prior to 8pm was excited and raucous, with ‘fuck Legault’ being the most frequent and loud chant. Motorcycles revved their engines, people danced, drank, and laughed with their friends to celebrate spring in defiance of this bullshit world.
The first SPVM cruiser to drive by was met with boos and middle fingers, the second with eggs, bottles and rocks. Revolt was in the air, and we were delighted to be in the midst of such a rowdy display, especially after such a long, bleak winter. As the curfew approached, we noticed riot cops gathering to the East on Rue de la Commune and Rue St. Paul. There were only a few cruisers West on de la Commune. At that time they kept their distance, monitoring the demonstration.
Around the same time, ‘reporters’ arrived from Rebel Media, a far-Right, Toronto-based news outlet. Rebel Media is famous for employing reporters with ties to Stormfront, a prolific neo-Nazi website, and working with other racist, transphobic, alt-right personalities, as well as peddling anti-immigrant, COVID-denying conspiracy theories. Despite Rebel Media’s desperate attention-seeking behavior, they are pretty obscure failures, even as YouTube provocateurs (note: as of April 14 they were suspended from YouTube). It was clear that the vast majority of attendees did not know who they were, so unfortunately many young people excitedly and positively interacted with them.
The vultures from Rebel Media produced a laughable and pathetic report that blamed ‘antifa’ for the property destruction and looting that happened that night, rather than showing how a real cross section of Montrealers respond with legitimate rage and a desire to be heard in a world that marginalizes their voices.
We felt we lacked the numbers to deal with Rebel Media, and it seemed likely if we did intervene, the crowd may have taken their side, because no one knows who Rebel Media is, let alone that they were being used to create far-right propaganda. It was a frustrating situation.
At the same time, fires were being lit by small groups within the demo, but were extinguished by what appeared to be a small but organized group of white men wearing tactical gear and patches associated with far-Right types attached to their jackets, one of who had a go-pro camera on his head. They were seen at times having a group discussion before moving in and around the demonstration to monitor the crowd. Despite some unrelated fights and confusion here and there, the vibe was still extremely positive, people partied and chanted, and celebrated being in the streets together.
Later, larger groups began starting even bigger fires in the square, and this time the LARP-ing paci-flics didn’t intervene. There was some resistance as riot cops began tear-gassing and trying to disperse the crowd, but most people began running and scattering away as the cops entered the square. West of St. Laurant was seemingly free of cops, and multiple groups of people autonomously began setting fires, looting and destroying shops and other property as they left. Even though we wish it lasted longer, in that short time it was heartening to see people work together to take a little bit of their lives back by looting from the bougie shops in the Old Port, as well as generally fucking shit up. A city bus being used to transport riot cops was also liberated and covered in graffiti while others partied in and around it, celebrating a small victory if even for a brief minute.
In a media comment, Mayor Plante called the revellers ‘stupid’, and cried about the damage done to small businesses, asserting ‘we must remain united and stick together’. This is just the usual shitty liberal narrative: suddenly ‘we are all in this together’, all equal as ‘citizens’ when it’s time to maintain social order. They gloss over the very real divisions within society, held together through oppressive structures by which the wealthy, predominantly white property owning classes exploit working class, poor and predominantly POC folks.
At the same time, leftist identity politicians on social media condemn the riots, claiming they are responsible for causing further harm to those already most at risk. Others fall for the narrative of elusive ‘outside agitators’, white anarchists, who infiltrate peaceful crowds to cause violence. While we acknowledge the very real dangers that marginalized people in particular face from COVID19, we’d point it it was mostly people of color who showed up, and acted on their own initiative during this riot.
It is not revolt and militant solidarity in the streets that causes harm, but the institutions and laws which govern capitalist civilization. These are what keep us chained to shitty jobs where we are the most at risk of catching COVID19,that harass and murder us, and protect an economic system based on the theft of indigenous lands. We accuse these IDPOL clout-chasers of taking power away from the marginalized people who showed up and threw down. We accuse them of doing the work of the police and the politicians by trying to pacify, alienate and delegitimize the rioter’s rage.
Demonstrations continue to be called on the nights following April 11th. So far, the second and third demos were quite a bit smaller than the first, and were heavily repressed by the police. Nevertheless, with no real end in sight to the curfew, we think it is imperative to keep up the struggle. In this sense we are ‘all in this together’- we have militant solidarity with the youth (and others) whose futures are also increasingly bleak.
There are a number of tactical considerations we would like to consider in light of the events on the 11th. While the paci-flics were able to intervene when smaller groups were starting smaller fires, when bigger fires were being lit they were not able to. And as soon as the crowd was dispersed, they were not ready to deal with looting or vandalism. Clearly they are relatively weak, and small in number. While there weren’t enough of us to feel confident in confronting them at the time, we believe if anarchists and anti-authoritarians showed up in larger numbers, acting together, its possible we could shut them down and even force them out of the crowd if they attempted to pacify folks. Our numbers will lend us a greater legitimacy to others present, and likely allow us to have critical conversations with them about who these people are and why we defend certain actions.
In regards to the police, they didn’t engage with the crowd until large fires were lit. We feel it may be possible to strike at the police first, before they intervene, but it didn’t seem viable at this time. Rage is growing against the police, and it is possible that at later times we may be able to take action first, but this would also require us having sufficient numbers, and reading the vibe of the crowd. In any case, in order to allow us to hold the streets in these situations, we must also be able to defend against dispersal techniques. Specifically this means dealing with tear gas, which has been effective at quickly breaking up crowds. Coming prepared with projectiles, or having the means to break up paving stones etc in order to provide them for those present would be advantageous as well. We also need to have the numbers to be able to act as a distinct group, to deal with tear gas, and to calmly resist the riot cops. We believe that this would build confidence within the crowd, facilitate a more combative engagement with riot cops, and show that we don’t need to simply retreat.
We must continue to counter liberal narratives intent on pacifying revolt, taking us off the streets, and giving our power back to the politicians and self-appointed experts. We can do this during demos when pacifists try to speak and act out against violence against police and property, and after the fact by responding to IDPOL types and media reports with our own analysis. As anarchists and anti-authoritarians, we must be present for these defiant events. This is where we build complicity and affinity with rebels outside our circles, and when possible, have critical conversations with those present about tactics and targets. Equally, we need to be able to push out far-Right grifters and reactionaries who are there to exploit our revolt.
This summer is gonna be hot, let’s throw gas on the fire and burn this fucking prison world down!
Solidarity with the rioters and revellers!
Fuck the curfew!