By: Sultan Dhesi
The first to arrive was a modest sized marching band, they gathered in a corner on the right side of the Montreal Police Fraternity complex parallel to the Laurier metro station. As they warmed up by practicing simple blues scales, the People’s Potato cart moved up and down 480 Gilford Road handing out soy hot chocolate, and organic muffins to the early comers of the vigil.
A stack of small posters laid on the pavement that read the names of the victims that were to be celebrated that evening. Anas Bennis, Claudio Castagnetta, Ben Matson, Jean-François Nadreau, Quilem Registre, Gladys Tolley, and Fredy Villanueva lived on posthumously that frigid October evening.
The first to speak was Julie Matson, the daughter of Ben Matson who was killed by the Vancouver police in 2002 over a parking dispute. Ben was beaten down and kicked while he choked on his own vomit to death. Julie stated her fears of an increase in the militarization of the police due to the shootings that took place that morning on Parliament Hill, instead she demanded for the police to be disarmed.
The next victim to be commemorated was Jean-Francois Nadreau; a Montrealer who was shot dead by the SPVM in 2012. The police were called to Jean-Francois’ apartment when he threatened to commit suicide. Upon their arrival they encountered Jean Francois holding a knife; the frightened officers then proceeded to shoot him.
Jean-Francois’ elderly father was present at the vigil that evening supporting himself with a walker and his living son. A tearful Mr. Nadreau had to take a seat as he was crippled by his emotions.
The 22nd of October is a national day of protest marked to remember the victims of police brutality across the globe. This year holds a great deal of significance considering the events that took place this summer in Ferguson, Missouri when an unarmed teen named Mike Brown was killed by the local police. Similar vigils were organized in New Zealand, Quebec City, and across the United States that day to remember the stolen lives of those who were killed by law enforcement. This October 22nd marked the 5th straight year of protest in Montreal, but events have been taking place in the United States since 1996.
The families and event organizers felt it was important to hold the vigil in front of the Fraternité des policiers et policières de Montreal; they reiterated the belief that this is where the police make sure there is no justice. A similar event entitled “A Cry for Help” will be taking place on November 1st, at Place Émilie-Gamelin.