Printemps 2015

VIDEO: A day in the life of a student striker

Police behave badly as Quebec students go on strike
Screen capture

Few out there are as talented at letting their pictures do the talking as Mario Jean, aka MADOC, and this short unnarrated clip is no exception. Jean rose to prominence during the Maple Spring of 2012 when he became one of the primary photographers of the Quebec student movement, producing many short videos that reached an international audience and earned him numerous accolades.

Here he takes viewers on a six-minute tour of the highlights, or lowlights, of Monday’s student strike against austerity in Montreal. His camera rolls as police repeatedly force their way through the middle of a peaceful protest, seemingly attempting to provoke a confrontation. Finally, we see a cop violently shove a protester before the group of police unleashes a brutal flurry of fists, feet and batons on non-violent students.

Other instances of police brutality are also documented alongside the use of tear gas. (Pepper spray was also used indiscriminately on passive protesters, but is not seen here). No one is spared, as an angry news cameraperson is seen knocked to the ground by police. For those who aren’t from Quebec, or are unfamiliar with police conduct, this must seem like a dream world. But it is all too real.

A small number of protesters were cornered and kettled in Chinatown, where police issued them tickets. It was also reported that a piece of ice was thrown at police, and several protesters reportedly interfered with a TVA camera crew.

A master of maintaining camera position and focus in dangerous and fast-paced situations, Jean has captured some of the most compelling protest images to come out of Quebec in recent years.

Join him below for a day in the life of a striking Quebec student.

NOTE The law under which the protest was pre-emptively declared illegal is Bylaw P-6. Enacted alongside since repealed provincial legislation at the height of the 2012 student strike, the bylaw deems a march illegal if protesters have not sought prior approval for their route from police, among other restrictions. A Feb. 9 ruling by Judge Randall Richmond found that the way police have used the bylaw represented a “shocking” violation of the law that “not only risked condemning innocent people, it seriously shakes the confidence in documented proof used ever year in thousands of legal proceedings.”

The precedent set by this scathing judgement led the city to cancel all tickets issued under the bylaw. However, police continue to use P-6 with the blessing of Montreal’s mayor, as they did at the recent police brutality march. They know that they can’t write tickets under it, because the courts are likely to follow the existing precedent regarding the law’s enforceability, so they apply the bylaw to declare the protest illegal and kettle participants. Demonstrators are then issued tickets for other offences, often highway code provisions meant to prevent people from running around in oncoming traffic.

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