October 11, 2012

The case of officer 728

As progressive-minded activists look back on the past months of protest, a bitter reminder of the police violence and repression has come forward in the form of what is being called "Le cas de l'agente 728."

Officer 728 of the Montreal police, Madame Stefanie Trudeau, was widely condemned last spring for her excessive use of force against student demonstrators (see photo at left). While hardly unique, the incident was caught on YouTube. Now, in a video and audio recording presented by Radio-Canada, the violent arrest of four people, for reasons still unclear, by Trudeau has also been exposed.

Home invasion

In the video, Officer 728 with other police invade a residence and grab an individual by the throat, chocking him. The assault took place on October 2nd, when Rudy Orchietti, a resident of Plateau Mont-Royal, opened the door to some musician friends who came to his apartment on rue Papineau, not far from down town Montreal.

Orchietti has a beer in his hands. He is standing on the sidewalk by the door. At that moment, Officer 738 launches into action. Things quickly become chaotic and violent. Orchietti is arrested. When a friend intervenes the police lash out. They force their way into the apartment as if on a hunt. The friend is caught -- pinned by the neck and immobilized.

Officer 728 then confiscated the cell phones of those arrested, but triggered involuntarily a recording on one phone. In the conversation she had with her supervisor, broadcast on Radio-Canada, she speaks of rats referring to the people in the apartment, the fucking red squares, and asshole artists. "I didn't pepper spray them," Officer 728 adds, even though she "was on the edge" -- but fear she would wind up on TV again prevented her.

QS demands more

The SPVM apologized for the "disturbing" images and suspended Officer 728 during an internal investigation. But left-wing political party Québec solidaire expressed distrust of the ethics committee studying this case.

"These committees are composed mainly of former police officers. They are not independent enough, "says MNA Amir Khadir. "We must also tackle the root of the problem, the culture of permissiveness... This culture is of "racial profiling" and "social profiling." And also the lack of accountability," he said.

The violence comes after renewed calls, this time by teachers and educators, for a public investigation into the police violence of last spring and summer.

Over 3000 arrests in Quebec

During the massive mobilization by the Quebec student movement which grew to include widespread public support, and coming less than two years after the brutal G20 protests in Toronto, Quebec was witness to the biggest wave of police repression in recent history, marked by 3387 arrests from February 16th to the 3rd of September, 2012.

(Several of these arrests took place during the notorious "kettle" tactic for which Montreal Police Department (SPVM) have been criticized by the United Nations’ Council of Human Rights. Often these arrests were carried out in a brutal manner, the prison conditions were harsh and they were not permitted to talk to a lawyer or relatives.)

Police brutality also inflicted numerous injuries on demonstrators including, two eyes lost, teeth broken, a fractured skull, as well as broken arms and legs. "Media reports and on-line videos revealed that the police forces generally seemed animated by a profound contempt for students, expressed by the insults, often sexist and homophobic," educator Francis Dupuis-Déri wrote in Le Devoir.

A broader problem

Police brutality is widespread across Canada, compounded by the "law and order" and "war on terror" rhetoric of right-wing politicians and the corporate media, who consistently glorify the police and attempt to justify police crimes.

For example, since November 11, 1987, when Officer Allan Gosset killed Anthony Griffin, police in Montreal have killed at least 37 people. Most have gone unpunished, as coroners, prosecutors, and cabinet ministers cooperate to protect the cops.    The situation in Montreal is not improving. Moroccan immigrant Mohamed Anas Bennis left his Montreal mosque at 6:30 am on Dec. 1, 2005. At 7:20 am, at the corner of Kent Street and Cote-Des-Neiges, he was shot twice and killed by a police officer. The shooting took place during a joint operation by the Montreal police, Quebec Provincial Police, and the RCMP, allegedly targeting "Algerian scam artists" linked to "international terrorism."

Quebec City police were assigned to investigate the killing, starting a process which can only be described as a cover-up. Eleven months later, it was announced that no charges would be laid, since there was "no evidence" that a criminal act had occurred.

In this context the Young Communist League has stepped-up its call for civilian and community control over police and prisons, ending racial profiling by police, and the dismantlement of the RCMP and CSIS.

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