Montreal is burning!


Usually, we riot after winning the Stanley Cup. Or, ever since the cup has made itself scarce in these parts, we riot after winning a first round series. It’s a bit of an embarrassment, sure, but at least it is easy for everyone to blame the participants. You’re rioting. After a hockey game. It’s akin to complaining about the help, or starting a fight after an orgy.

It was an ostensibly different story in Montreal North this weekend, though. Hundreds of rioters took to the streets Sunday night, most of whom were madder than hell at the shooting of Fredy Villanueva, an unarmed 18-year-old who was hanging out with his brother near the Henri-Bourassa arena north of the city on last Saturday. The ‘other’ rioters, as other rioters tend to do, took advantage of this anger to steal sneakers and t-shirts. One police officer was shot and injured. A fire station was vandalized. Several journalists were assaulted, including La Presse‘s Robert Skinner, who had his equipment stolen. And for what?

I’m already bracing for the inevitable knee-jerk comparison of Montreal 2008 to Paris 2005: You know, the death of a young person at the hands of the police in a poor, gang-ridden neighbourhood comprised largely of immigrants on the outskirts of a large French-speaking city. If you wanted an event that could immediately distill the towering insecurities harboured in Quebec –– towards the extent and scope of immigration, as well as the long standing belief outside Montreal that the city is a cesspool of vice and violence –– it came ready made the second someone decided fire and vandalism was an appropriate eulogy for Fredy Villanueva. Seems almost as hubristic as a hockey riot, no?

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Montreal is burning!

  1. “If you wanted an event that could immediately distill the towering insecurities harboured in Quebec –– towards the extent and scope of immigration, as well as the long standing belief outside Montreal that the city is a cesspool of vice and violence –– it came ready made the second someone decided fire and vandalism was an appropriate eulogy for Fredy Villanueva.”

    Immigration? What does immigration have to do with what took place in Montreal Nord? Anyone familiar with the area knows full well that there is a rather large number of “pure laines” living in that neighborhood.

    The common denominator is not race, it is the fact that they are all low-income.

    No offense Patriquin but if any sort of immigrant characterization comes from this, it will likely make its first appearance in the press. Yours is the second media commentary that I’ve read so far that makes allusion to the Paris riots and immigration. Patrick Lagacee was the first one.

  2. Anthony Griffin.

    Marcellus Francois.

    Richard Barnabe.

    Martin Suazo.

    And now Fredy Villanueva.

    Those who cannot remember the past, etc., etc.

    But so long as it’s the poor and the sick and the disenfranchised and – equally tragically – the poor buggers in uniform who are sent in to deal with the reality all of the above who are dying while the rest of us sit back and play comfy law-and-order armchair quarterback, who cares, eh?

    I’m mourning for my city today. Because we never learn.

  3. So what’s with the gross exaggeration in the title of this blog?

    I’m really not trying to nag here but let’s not blow this one out of proportion, please. Montreal is not burning. We sure didn’t use this line to describe the hockey riots.

  4. This 18 year old getting shot, first let me say this is a public park that was meant for families what are 20 people doing out there at night?Couldn’t they be in a home and do what ever that is that they do or even a pub, but no! it had to end like this and as you said they just go out and riot in family neighborhoods who have nothing to do with this mans death, anyone who had some anger to let out for destruction they could use it in his name and purpose and this is what their education has brought them to express themselves. I sound shallow I apologize I have remorse for the 18 year old in the fact no one needed to die, but how about the police officer who has been trained highly for these situations and acted so “foolishly” she has to live with this and the people and media going on a frenzy she will lose her job and be rescheduled and have to hide for the rest of her life unless they find her and kill her out of revenge, because this is what has been brought out, I wonder where the parents have been, to teacher their children hanging out with 20 people outside DOES make you look suspicious, and to stay home and study for school. No the parents are so self indulged and depend of society teaching them the lesson no you get gangs and groups on delinquents smoking dope at that park with children running around and drawing this negative influence over and over. I love my child and live close to the park, we’ve been considering to moving far away but after this wondrous event its definite i don’t want my daughter to grow up in such rotten place. For those of you who live in this area and have family’s and homes you will understand

  5. Ok, first of all, it wasn’t even twilight yet, it was barely 7 PM when the shooting occurred. Second, this thing about 20 people has been generally rejected by eyewitness reports; at most there were 7 or 8 people in the group around there. Third, the Mtl police spokesperson has stipulated that the kids were unarmed, notwithstanding rumours to the contrary.

    Fourth, it’s August, school’s out, so if you’re a teen, unless you’ve got a full-time summer job, you’re probably loose on Saturday evenings.
    For better or worse, teens loiter in public places everywhere, all the time, and this is not a helpful example of how to fix it.

  6. “If you wanted an event that could immediately distill the towering insecurities harboured in Quebec –– towards the extent and scope of immigration, as well as the long standing belief outside Montreal that the city is a cesspool of vice and violence –– it came ready made the second someone decided fire and vandalism was an appropriate eulogy for Fredy Villanueva”

    Those words appear to be a lament that the rioting will cause reactions.

    Well, we all know rioting is perfectly normal behaviour, and therefore I think you need not worry. Why bother ourselves with small things like riots, mayhem, chaos and theft? Might as well make an issue out of the wind.

    So there is no need to worry that the good name of Montreal will be sullied, which is after all, the most important thing. Image is everything.

    The riot? Well, that’s just nothing. It happens all the time after hockey games, people are just having fun, ha ha.

    “as well as the long standing belief outside Montreal that the city is a cesspool of vice and violence ”

    I don’t think anyone believes that. But your dismissal of the event as being meaningless is worse, and the fact that you concern more about Montreal’s image rather than about the event is telling.

  7. They are certainly framing this in the American media as a police-shoot-immigrant incident, perhaps because this is a frame that American news consumers are familiar with; they won’t say, “a poor neighborhood north of the city of Montreal,” they’ll say, “an immigrant neighborhood.” And so the idea gets pushed forward…

  8. Joe, the Americans aren’t the only ones. The Agence France-Presse had the audacity to run a wire story entitled “riots in Montreal’s Haitian quarters.”

    Maybe they originally wrote “slave quarters” before settling on a haitian instead.

    Anyone who knows Montreal Nord also knows that this neighborhood is as mixed as it gets so why single out haitians?

  9. Yeah ok, a riot broke out. ADQ is talking about this like its a gang problem. There is the problem of police brutality also.

    The details arent out yet. According to villanueva’s brother, there was no warrant on him,
    All they did was shoot dice in a park at 7:30pm. The bottom line is a cop has to be in imminent danger of death to use a firearm. Not one kid had a weapon, and it seems the younger brother reacted at his brother being roughly handled by a cop after he resisted arrest for… ? the details will come out, but if this was just your regular cop harrassement routine that ended up in a murder, with the cop getting a slap on the wrist, we better get ready for more explosions of anger at police violence and impunity.

  10. are you people kidding me? anyone who has lived in montreal in the past decade or so can tell you about an incident of police racial profiling or brutality. ethnoracial tensions in the black communities are only exacerbated by the police. this is sad – but not at all surprising. thank you d. andy jette for reminding us of the lives already lost.

  11. Funny to note the divergent media coverage of this whole affair.

    The very papers that refer to the police officer as a woman, are the same ones that say the kids were shooting dice, and have witnesses saying the kids encircled and threatened the police.

    The others don’t mention the gender of the cop, have the kids playing marbles, and imply that the cops just showed up and started shooting.

    Anyone who reads news from more than one source has every reason to be confused…

  12. Thanks for the kind words Brigitte. To be honest, I was a little young to pick up on the Anthony Griffin thing, but I knew who Marcellus Francois was growing up…and I sure as hell knew who Richard Barnabe was.

    Two things in response to everything else that’s been said. One, there is a recurring racial element with many of these cases, but not all of them. So it’s not just about race, it’s about people on the margins of whatever background or colour who, statistically speaking, are more likely to be drawn into the realm of criminal behaviour, or just find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obviously in Montreal these disadvantaged settings are overwhelmingly non-white. But it’s not just about race, and it’s not just about immigrants, as CNN (!!!) framed it. In Winnipeg for example, right now you’ve got a similar dynamic, but the tensions are with Aboriginal youth.

    Second, and this follows from my first point, is that Montrealers have been kicking this can around for 25 years and it always comes back to “improving police training.”

    With respect, bite me. If this was an issue that could be resolved with better police training, or hiring, or brainwashing, whatever the hell, it would be fixed already. As I tried to say in shorthand above, we prefer to sit back and send in the police to fix problems that ought properly be the domain of local community leaders, ministers (yes, a lefty just said church leaders can be part of the solution), teachers, social workers, addiction counselors, job placement officers and a bunch of other people who are invariably not on offer in the numbers needed to achieve real change.

    This has always been a political leadership issue, not a police issue.

  13. This has nothing to do with visible minorities, police profiling or racial tensions. This has to do with a group of youth acting suspiciously in a public park, one heavily entrenched in a notorious Montreal street gang with several arrests for armed offenses and firearm processions who the police were trying to arrest. That same gang has been involved in a bloody turf war with the Montreal mafia for the last month. In one night, just two weeks ago they placed two bullets in innocent bystanders. During the arrest attempt the female officer was getting a savage beating by members of the group as the male officer was struggling to arrest the other. When the female officers life was finally in danger the male officer fired. Rumor is the female officer is still hospitalized to this date. This is the word on the street.

    Secondly Montreal North and RDP are a warzone since this gang began terrorizing everyone in sight to gain control of what was Mafia turf. It is time that they stopped rioting against police that are virtually powerless against these monsters and start rioting against the street gang members that are the 100% cause of all this mess. The problem is the police are terrified, citizens are terrified and the mafia destabilized by a foolish antigang squad project in 2006 that everyone would result in this mess sooner or later.

    If Mtl North needs to riot in outrage, start by rioting against the streetgangs that you protect like Afganastin once sheltered the Alquaida. Its the exact same scenerio.

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