montreal protest

Peaceful anti-racism protest in Montreal turns ugly

While the protests in response to death of George Floyd and countless other Black citizens at the hands of police have been generally peaceful here in Canada, authorities and demonstrators clashed in Montreal on Sunday afternoon, echoing the violence that has been seen in riots across the U.S. in recent days.

What carried on as a peaceful rally through the city's downtown core for about three hours deteriorated into a scene filled with tear gas, rubber bullets, smashed windows, looting and fires.

As a result, 11 people have been arrested for charges ranging from breaking and entering to assault with a weapon.

Montreal Police deemed the event illegal at one point due to "infractions" that included throwing projectiles at officers on the scene. They publicly ordered everyone to disperse from the area around 8:15 p.m., after issuing a warning over social media an hour and a half earlier.

"Warning given to the #manifencours: We are currently observing illegal behaviours. To ensure the event runs smoothly, we ask the participants to follow all laws and regulations," Montreal Police had tweeted out at 6:45 p.m after earlier that day expressing their dismay at the unnecessary death of George Floyd and their support for the movement.

Accounts from on the ground range from residents who say that police instigated the conflict, to those who were thankful for their intervention.

Others also pointed out that declaring a march of thousands of people illegal partway through made things confusing.

"The police declared an illegal gathering and one second later started blasting tear gas cannisters," one participant said.

As police force escalated and things got progressively more out of hand, subways in the area were shut down around 9 p.m.

Some rally attendees were caught on video smashing store windows and looting — for a total of 75 reports of mischief — though many are saying that these folks were outliers from the rest of those who were there to peacefully demonstrate against police brutality and systemic racism.

A Steve's Music Store along St. Catherine Street was among those that was broken into.

Descriptions of the event before things went downhill called it a beautiful, magical, organized, and powerful demonstration of solidarity.

"The protest I was part of today in Montreal was completely peaceful and was in no way associated with people who are using it as an opportunity to steal and cause damage. It is IMPERATIVE that people know that," one attendee tweeted late last night.

"Montreal had a beautiful, well-organized protest today with thousands and thousands of people being peaceful, marching and chanting in solidarity. A shame that a few idiots there exclusively for chaos take away from that," another said on the platform.

Some noted that they believed the ones causing trouble were not a part of the main group, but were "a bunch of white guys who don't fit amongst the the rest, all dressed in black."

"Stop calling miscreant criminals 'protesters'. I've been a protester much of my life and I've never smashed anyone's face, glass, property or ... anything. People who use violence aren't trying to convince anyone of anything. They like to see the world burn," one resident said on social media.

It was confirmed that there was indeed a smaller group who returned to the demonstration's starting point at police headquarters after the official march, which had included children and families, had ended.

More Canadian demonstrations for the cause, including another in Montreal on June 7, have been planned by various groups.

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