The Protesting without fear (Manifester sans peur) campaign calls for a ban on plastic bullets and explosive weapons
Montreal, February 6th, 2018 – Protesting without fear (Manifester sans peur) calls to relaunch the public debate on the issue of so-called “non-lethal” or “less lethal” weapons used by the police in protests.
A recent court decision (Grenier v. ville de Montréal) reveals that the SPVM had not subjected stun grenades (Rubber Ball Blast Grenade or RBBG) to functional tests before their use in the March 7th, 2012 protest, where a fragment from one of these grenades destroyed the eye of Francis Grenier, a student who was leaving the protest. In his decision, Judge Reimnitz asks if it was necessary to use a grenade with such an explosive charge in order to disperse the crowd. Moreover, the grenade had been launched in the crowd, an important detail that the overseeing police officer has voluntarily omitted in his event report. Furthermore, according to the judge, each police officer linked to this case denied or minimized the risk of serious injuries and death associated with the use of RBBGs even though such risks are clearly detailed in the manufacturer’s technical specs. One of the testifying officers is none other than Philippe Pichet, then commanding the police response to the March 7th protest. Several months following the event, he has sent a memo to his superiors in which he compares the manufacturer’s warning to a simple caution on a cereal box.
According to Judge Reimnitz, the SPVM has thereafter behaved in such as way as to prepare an eventual defense rather than to clarify what happened and to assume responsibility for the injury. From the night of March 7th, 2012 and up until the trial, the SPVM has taken a stand defending the institution and the work of its police officers, denying that an RBBG grenade had injured Francis Grenier. We now know that this weapon endangers the health and safety of protesters.
More recently, the Enquête (Radio-Canada) report Opération casse-gueule has shed light on similar police behaviour at two different events. During protests at the Summit of the Americas in 2001, Mathieu Harvey was severely injured (crushed skull, three days in a coma) by a plastic projectile launched by the RCMP. Following the incident, three police squads walked by him without intervening. It was only after a group of protesters intervened that Harvey was finally taken to the paramedics. The Enquête team also revealed that ten plastic bullets had been shot by a Sûreté du Québec officer without prior authorization during the May 4th, 2012 protest in Victoriaville. The officer does not know where nine of these projectiles landed. On that day, many protesters suffered serious injuries caused by plastic bullets, notably Alexandre Allard (skull fracture and concussion), Dominique Laliberté-Martineau (double jaw fracture and loss of six teeth) and Maxence Valade (loss of one eye, lung contusion, facial fractures and head trauma). Once again, it was other protesters who attended to the injured and the police denied causing their injuries. Furthermore, the subsequent interventions by the police seems done with a view to clear the police from any responsibility.
With all this in mind, we’ve come to the conclusion that the weapons used are inaccurate and dangerous, and that various police forces use them recklessly and without concern for the risks to protesters. Following the tragic events involving these weapons, law enforcement keep justifying their use and have been keeping the public in the utmost darkness. This attitude of wanting to clear themselves of all responsibility in the matter of the injuries strips away the dignity of the protesters, victims and their loved ones. It’s important to also note that the SPVM has not dignified the Grenier decision with a comment, and that the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec and the Public Safety Ministry have not responded publicly to the Enquête report’s findings.
Action is urgently needed, particularly in light of the protests that will take place at the G7 Summit in June at La Malbaie. Faced with the threat these weapons pose to the lives and safety of protesters, the Protesting without fear (Manifester sans peur) collective is asking for a ban on the use of impact projectile weapons (plastic bullets) and of explosive weapons for the purpose of crowd control in protests and calls on all in Quebec to join their struggle. Together we will intervene in the public sphere for as long as it takes and by any means necessary as long as this goal is not achieved.
Julien Villeneuve, Protesting without fear collective : 514-394-1180
Lynda Khelil, Protesting without fear collective : 514-690-5113
Lysiane Roch, Ligue des droits et libertés : 514-715-7727