Quebec cops kettle and mass-arrest demonstrators


In the Globe and Mail a Canadian Press report by Nelson Wyatt on the mass-kettling and arrest of protesters in Montreal last night. A long-running and hard-fought student strike over tuition hikes led to the passage of a shameful law that limits the rights of protesters. Quebeckers are out in force to protest this law, and often in sympathy with the students' demands. The police have responded with "kettling," the tactic of cordoning off a large area and declaring the resulting space to be a civil-rights-free zone, such that anyone caught inside is arbitrarily detained without access to shelter, food, health services, or toilets. (Above, a photo of Montreal police pepper-spraying demonstrators at a march last week).

Riot officers stood impassively around the corralled demonstrators, feet planted and batons clutched in gloved hands. On a nearby street, a Quebec provincial police officer was seen snapping a rod topped with the flag of the hardcore anti-capitalist Black Bloc and tossing it between two parked cars.

Police on horseback also provided reinforcement as officers sorted out the crowd.

Emmanuel Hessler, an independent filmmaker who had been following the march for a few blocks, said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press from inside the police encirclement that he was surprised by the action, saying, “Suddenly, there were police all around us.”

While the crowd waited to be led away one by one to be handcuffed and sent for processing at a police operational centre – a procedure expected to take several hours – a man started reading poetry and the crowd hushed to listen. Someone else sang a folk song. At one point a woman called out the phone number of a lawyer which the mob took up as a chant.

Mr. Hessler, 30, was able to tweet to friends, “We are about to get cuffed and off in a bus. Don’t know what happens after. Wish me luck.”

Some demonstrators who had escaped the police cordon continued to march elsewhere while others milled about beyond the police lines and cheered as buses took the detainees away.

400 arrested as Montreal police kettle demonstrators (Thanks, Mom!)

(Image: IMG_6450, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 79393030@N04's photostream)

Kettled Youth: history of police kettling and protest

Dan sez, "From the editor of 'Fight Back! A reader on the winter of (UK) protest', a new piece of long-form journalism called 'Kettled Youth', about youth protests, activism, and the perverse UK police tactic of kettling (probably the most comprehensive exploration of kettling so far - looking at its history, packed with first-hand reportage, but also its symbolic impact in radicalising an entire generation of young people). This ebook is published (today) by Random House, who have commissioned a whole series of long-form journalistic essays on the UK and Arab Spring uprisings, under the banner The Summer of Unrest (also featured Mehdi Hasan, Peter Beaumont, and Tom Chatfield). Here's an interview I did this morning about Kettled Youth for Dazed Digital."
DD: Are protests like the ones in March 'useful', can they have a long standing impact?
Dan Hancox: They’re vital – vanguards are great for smashing through the lines of the kettle, but this has to turn into a mass anti-cuts movement, especially one with people who are older than 25 in it (I’m 30, cough cough). The impact and importance of 26 March for me was summed up perfectly in the front page of The Daily Mirror, lest we forget, the only tabloid in the country that dares to stick up for its mostly working-class readers, rather than turn them against one another. It depicted the incredible numbers of ordinary people who were angry enough to come out and protest against the government’s plans of austerity, cuts and privatisation – again, before the cuts have even hit. The headline ran Your Big Society has spoken, Mr Cameron. In contrast to a Tory government destroying the welfare state without a mandate, that is what democracy looks like.

DD: What are the main issues to march against now?
Dan Hancox: The same they were before – the perfect storm of a generation fucked over before they’ve even left school, an arrogant, brittle Tory government using a financial crisis caused by the rich to further benefit the rich while punishing the poor and the vulnerable, and the total public degradation of an entire elite – from the richest bankers still drawing multi-million pound bonuses, to the corrupt upper ranks of the police, to the Murdoch press, to the vast majority of Westminster. If 2011 was an Agatha Christie novel it would be called The Neoliberal Ecology Crack’d From Side To Side.

Kettled Youth (Thanks, Dan!)