Here’s a thought: adopt a new symbol.
Specifically, adopt the flag of the Gay Pride movement, and make sure to carry as many of these flags as possible at all the demonstrations forthwith.
Also – start talking to the media, and let photographers and videographers do their jobs.
The symbol is universally understood to represent the LGBTQ community and general Gay Pride.
Can you imagine what the reaction might be if photos and videos were taken of Montreal police beating protesters holding such flags?
To put it plainly, it’s bad PR for a city that has spent twenty years developing a reputation for gay-friendly tourism, not to mention general openness and inclusivity. If the next protest featured hundreds of rainbow flags the police would be put in a very awkward position.
Think about what it would look like if they attacked.
It doesn’t matter that the current cause is anti-austerity and not gay rights (these are not mutually exclusive social efforts, and I can imagine there are many people in the LGBTQ community who both support the demonstrators and condemn violent, targeted police repression of social activists). The symbol is powerful, evocative. It reminds of a time when Montreal police did regularly beat up and jail members of the LGBTQ community for trivial offences and persecute the community with impunity.
Twenty-five years ago the Sex Garage Raid (and subsequent aftermath) generated a profound and nearly immediate negative reaction that resulted in the suspension of anti-gay activities by the morality units of the Montreal police. The city could not afford the bad public relations.
Just four days after the Sex Garage Raid, Nelson Mandela came to Montreal, addressing 15,000 people on the Champs de Mars and thanking the city and its citizens in combating Apartheid (both in direct terms of Montreal’s boycott of South African firms and of local activism in support of the African National Congress).
It’s likely mayor Jean Doré may have done some last minute petitioning, given Mandela was not originally supposed to visit Montreal on his two-day Canadian trip in 1990. Perhaps Mayor Doré wanted to remind people of Montreal’s latent progressivism and support of oppressed and persecuted peoples, despite what Montreal police from station 25 had done just days earlier.
The point is, if it was wrong to target and inflict violence upon the LGBTQ community in 1990, why should it be permissible to attack and beat student protesters in 2015?
Why not demonstrate the link with one of the world’s best known symbols?
Nobody’s going to finance and build a baseball stadium, nor will Major League Baseball consider moving a team to Montreal, if video goes viral of the SPVM beating people holding Gay Pride flags.
That’s one way to get Denis Coderre’s attention, at the very least.
What’s most important is that protesters start talking to the media, and stop preventing journalists from doing their work. This is a near constant with many protests in this city. Though I have personally never been refused an interview with student activists and the leadership of various student organizations, I have been told by the leader of a pro-Palestinian public demonstration that they would not speak to me on account I was reporting for CJAD.
This is hopelessly idiotic behaviour and I’ve witnessed more or less the same thing at student demos. In particular, video from this week’s protests at UQAM shows several activists trying to cover the lenses of television videographers and photographers, or otherwise interfere with the work of journalists.
Stop doing this. Most of us are sympathetic to your cause, all of us will report the facts fairly if you give us a chance to do so. A combative attitude to your allies in the media will only result in losing our support, which does nothing in support of the anti-austerity cause.
Furthermore, we’re well aware there’s a history of using agents-provocateurs by the SPVM and Sureté du Québec to incite violence and then justify police reprisals. We’re well aware of the history of police brutality against protesters.
Let us do our job reporting it, and help us report this injustice.
The reason why Montreal police no longer beat gays and lesbians for sport in this city is because the LGBTQ community cooperated more or less fully with the media to help expose the brutality of the Sex Garage Raid in particular and the persecution of the community more broadly speaking.
Things changed for the better afterwards.