The creation of a Montreal police unit targeting anarchist vandals is “a declaration of war” and further proof that cops discriminate against people because of their political beliefs and lifestyles, an anarchist sympathizer says.
Alexandre Popovic, a spokesperson for the Coalition against repression and police brutality, said a Montreal police unit called Guet des activités des mouvements marginaux et anarchistes (surveillance of marginal and anarchist groups’ activities), or GAMMA, highlights police use of social stereotyping to hinder the legal expression of opposition to social and legal policies.
“It’s ridiculous,” Popovic said. “They have a stereotypical cartoon image of anarchists.”
Anarchists believe in opposing authority, he said, but they also have families, host book fairs and have intellectual discussions.
“Most of our members are peaceful and have never thrown a rock in their lives.”
A complaint about the new police unit has been filed with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, he said.
“The commission needs to remind the police that we are not in a police state. We have the right to disagree and even have thoughts they might not like.”
Jacques Robinette, an assistant Montreal police chief and head of special investigations, said GAMMA was created in January to deal with increasing vandalism and assaults on police officers during public gatherings and protests.
The unit is an adjunct of the organized crime unit. Tactics employed by investigators to monitor gangs can be used to watch anarchist leaders who infiltrate otherwise peaceful protests, he said.
Robinette refused to say how many police officers are in the unit.
In the past, police have trained video cameras on protests to identify troublemakers.
“They often have flags and sometimes the flag poles become sticks they use to break windows and hit people,” Robinette said.
About a dozen protests have turned violent in the past year, he added.
“They are using various protests – like those about (police shooting victim) Fredy Villanueva, tuition fee hikes and even St. Jean Baptiste – as a pretext to vandalize, throw projectiles and assault police officers,” Robinette said.
The unit’s work resulted in the arrests of four people on June 29, he added.
They are alleged to have been part of a group that assaulted police officers during a May Day rally. Among objects cops seized were a metal bar and a Molotov cocktail.