Red Flag Express №20

Justified revolt against Injustice

There’s no two ways around it: last Sunday’s spontaneous riot in Montreal North neighbourhood was completely justified.

Mao Zedong wrote decades ago, during the era of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, that the stance of Communists during these times of social upheaval and civil unrest should be clear-cut and decisive; in his mind, these spontaneous movements “express your wrath against and your denunciation of the landlord class, the bourgeoisie, the imperialists, the revisionists and their running dogs, all of whom exploit and oppress the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals and revolutionary parties and groups”. He added that those upheavals “show that it is right to rebel against reactionaries.” And even when these revolts become uncontrolled and uncontrollable, they should be given our support as the raw and morally justified expressions of anger against injustice.

Last Saturday, the murder of young Freddy Villanueva, an 18-year-old Hispanic youth from Montreal North, was the proverbial drop of water that broke the dam. Those who were there to witness the resulting public outcry could see it, feel it. The spontaneous demonstration held the next day to denounce the latest in a long line of increasingly common police “incidents,” and the “flood” of protest that followed, were fully justified; as hundreds in the community echoed one after another – both young and old – it is completely unacceptable that a young man like Freddy was killed in cold blood over what occurred that night.

As terrible as it sounds, these kinds of tragedies are becoming more commonplace in the ranks of our “protectors,” our supposedly democratic and peace-loving police force. For some time now the local residents in Montreal-North have been reporting an increase in police harassment, racial profiling, and the systematic targeting of youth by police. And it is because of this increase in heavy-handed police tactics that the Montreal Police Department (the “Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal”, or SPVM) has become almost a symbol of the poverty, exploitation and oppression faced by the majority of the people of this community. Interestingly, a local “moderate” community leader has said that the problems facing the community is much deeper than just “tension” between neighbourhood youth and the SPVM, going on to say that what occurred on Sunday was truly a “rebellion against the system”.

Despite this, the reactionary chattering mouths of most mainstream media, and the police department’s own specialists in public relations, have tried and continue to try to portray the problems in Montreal North as a problem with “crime.” Journalists covering the riots on Sunday seemed desperate to poke and prod Montreal-North residents for some spark of denunciation against the rioters; all they found, however, was a neighbourhood in which far, far too many people had their own negative personal experience with their “community servants” and that far from denouncing the riot, they saw it as a perfectly natural, and even justified reaction.

And as is natural during such times, local leaders made an appeal for a “return to calm,” urging those upset by the murder – excuse us, “unfortunate death” of Freddy Villanueva to “await the results of the investigation” and to “respect the course of law.” What a load of horseshit! We might as well have convicted murderers and rapists serving on Juries – they’d be more likely to convict their fellow criminals than the police have historically been at dealing justice to their own ranks. Just look at the case of Mohamed Anas Bennis, gunned down by two policemen nearly three years ago in Cote-des-Neiges. Nearly three years, and justice has yet to be dealt. And then there’s Quilem Registre, killed by a Taser last December in Saint-Michel. This is the reality that cops like those who killed these working-class minorities face – paid vacations, hollow promises and, eventually, a sweep under the rug.

What occurred last weekend was a sign of escalation. It was a flashing neon sign for all to see, a sign pointing out the violence, poverty, discrimination and misery which afflicts working-class people of that community, and the possibilities of expressing anger and defiance against that misery.

Between the calls for calm from Mayor Tremblay and those for increased police repression from Sylvie Roy (from the rightist “Action Démocratique du Québec”), the next step for the ruling class will be to maintain the status quo and, if possible, to benefit from this. In every community there are always more conservatively-minded people who, despite the obvious truth facing them on a daily basis, fail to grasp the reality of these situations and who for one reason or another feel the urge to bow down to authority, and it is these people who the police and the city administration will attempt to cow in an attempt to divide the people of Montreal North, into diametrically opposed camps, one housing the “good citizens” and the other “criminal elements.” This “investigation” they have promised us will undoubtedly seek to form a close link with the “good citizens,” assuring them that the importance of law and order is paramount and that come hell or high water the actions of the SPVM are always justified in the pursuit of public protection – even if this means the occasional “accident” or “unfortunate incident.” Spin-doctors will argue that the occasional death of an innocent minority youth is a justifiable sacrifice in return for keeping at bay the droves of criminals who, they say, lurk in every dark corner, down every alley, behind every dumpster.

After all, to question the police, the symbol of order and societal harmony, is to call for anarchy, for the violent breakdown of society into warring bands of hoodlums, gangsters and other assorted criminals. The police must be given carte blanche, they say, to “protect us,” because to them, the ends always justify the means. The question therefore becomes, to what end exactly does the murder of Freddy Villanueva serve?

In any case, the riot of Montreal North has served as a very important event, and has established some critical truths: Where there is oppression, there is resistance, even if that resistance does not always express itself in predictable fashion. As Mao said, “the masses have boundless creative power.” The toiling proletariat of Quebec should see in these events a ray of hope, for they show that the urge to revolt against injustice is still alive and well in our society.

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