March 15 in Montreal: police attacked, kettle broken

  • Posted on: 17 March 2017
  • By: thecollective

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

A couple hundred people gathered yesterday evening at Place Valois in Hochelaga for the 20th annual edition of the Demonstration Against Police Brutality, organized by the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP). It was the day after the largest snowstorm of the year in Montreal, and the mounds of snow lining the streets meant obstacles for both demonstrators and the cops. Refusing the protest framework demanding less brutal police, we carried with us the memory of March fifteenths past and their legacy of anti-police revolt. Also, rocks.

The words of a report-back from the last March 15 in Hochelaga seven years ago still ring true:

“We went to that demonstration intending to attack the police. Apart from all the weapons we brought, we carried with us a desire to no longer see a single cop walk the streets the next day; at least without a limp, a headache and a feeling of fear that no overtime pay could reconcile. We went out into the streets to hit them as if we could actually smack them the fuck out of our lives, with no guilt, remorse or shame about it. While acknowledging that we have yet to realize the depth of our desires (cops aren’t yet running for their lives), we can still move our lives and projects in that direction.”
– Measuring the Meaning of a March, in March, in Montreal


After a speech by the COBP, the crowd set off west down Ontario Street, about a third of which was masked. A dozen black flags and a couple reinforced banners could be seen near the front of the demo, in addition to a leading COBP banner. There were no police marching alongside the demo, as they kept out of projectile range from all directions, and were likely also dissuaded by snow conditions. While some police followed along parallel streets, apparently at least some of the riot squad had to take the metro, possibly due to the storm disrupting their original transport plans. Some rocks were distributed and additional projectiles sought along Ontario, though without much success, as everything was covered in snow. We rapidly and uneventfully crossed Centre-Sud and reached the eastern edge of the downtown core, a firework set off above us to announce our arrival in comfortable and well-known terrain. Individuals in the bloc asked the front banner to slow down several times; it felt like the demo was running after itself, with no good reason to be. This made it very difficult for people running late to join, or the demo to stay tight. We would like to see future demos slow down, or even stop, when there isn’t an immediate threat from police – allowing more smashing, graffing, wheatpasting, barricading, dancing!

Approaching the area around the Montreal police (SPVM) headquarters on Saint-Urbain Street, police in cruisers and on bikes ahead of the demo were attacked with mortar fireworks. As the crowd amassed around the intersection of Ontario and Saint-Urbain, more fireworks were shot at the police mobilizing to defend their headquarters, then at half a dozen police on horseback approaching from the east. “Get those animals off those horses” almost came true as the horses bucked in fear, causing the horse squad to call it quits for the night.

Rather than congregate at the police headquarters and allow the cops to move in, we continued west on Maisonneuve. A few blocks later, more fireworks were shot at cops ahead of us. A photographer tracking and filming a member of the bloc from a close distance had his camera knocked from his hand, prompting a more general confrontation with media at the front of the march. Rocks and snowballs were thrown at a mainstream media cameraperson, who was then charged with a reinforced banner and knocked to the ground, while his hired goon was beaten with flagpoles from behind the banner.

A lone police cruiser was spotted to our left, parked on Union Street. A crowd quickly swarmed and thoroughly smashed it. On the same block, heading south now, display windows of the Bay department store (one of the oldest colonial businesses of Canada) were smashed and tagged with graffiti. After about fifteen minutes of a determined energy translating into conflictual action amongst the hundred-and-fifty-strong crowd, the cops executed an effective dispersal and kettling maneuver. Riot police lines ran up both sides of the demo, while bike cops chased and closed off exits from behind. Many dispersed on side streets ahead of the cops, but a few dozen people were fed east on Sainte-Catherine into a trap at Place-des-Arts, as more riot cops emerged from Saint-Urbain and blocked off the only remaining exit route.

This never should have been allowed to happen; our strength is on small streets that give police less mobility, so of course they funneled us towards the most open space downtown. Turning west on St. Catherine against traffic, and offensively attacking the vulnerable bike police who succeeded in intimidating us towards Place-des-Arts, would have at least allowed for a better dispersal.

Instead, hearts sank as the cops quickly tightened the kettle of thirty people against a side of a Place-des-arts building. But with shouts of “On fonce!” (“Let’s push!”) and an inspiring confidence and swiftness, before secondary cop lines could form, those kettled pushed against the riot cops blocking the sidewalk from the east and broke free. More riot police tried to block off the new exit routes, but there weren’t enough of them, as people raced through snow banks and snow-covered parking lots, for the most part getting away. Unfortunately, around ten people reportedly ended up in a new kettle that formed in the parking lot outside the SPVM headquarters. They had backpacks seized and were presumably photographed, but were let go without any tickets or charges. The demo ended with no arrests.


For combatting the police’s inevitable dispersal strategy, with some planning ahead, a reinforced banner crew could have moved to one of the sidewalks to block or at least delay flanking police lines from getting in position (perhaps accompanied by fire-extinguishers that could be discharged to slow their advance). Throwing projectiles at the flanking cop lines has proven ineffective, as most of the crowd is moving too quickly to fight in cohesive units, making it difficult to throw enough rocks to have an impact on police movements. Let’s also bring the lesson into the future that mortar fireworks were somewhat successful in keeping police at a distance, especially in a terrain where more conventional projectiles were hard to scavenge.

In recent years, the prospect that the black bloc could take time and space away from the police on March 15th has felt remote, so yesterday was definitely inspiring. On one of the two days of the year (the other being May Day) that police prepare for year-round, we were still able to significantly evade police controls, and get conflictual with confidence. This speaks to how we should prepare for demos throughout the year with more confidence in what could be possible. It’s clear that we can bring conflict to the streets in a way that doesn’t signal the end of the demo, as we’ve come to expect, but rather the start of something.

We’re also left with some strategic questions in relation to demos that we’d appreciate a conversation around. When the police are intentionally and constantly keeping their distance from the demo, when and how should attempts be made to seek out confrontation with them? What other goals do we have in such situations? How can we use the space and time we have in these moments to better prepare for the eventual police attack?


A note to the independent journalists of the city: it can be hard to distinguish you from mass-media, who generate incriminating evidence that they readily hand over to police (and who we are going to attack at every chance we get). Distinguish yourself by your behaviour – only film from a distance, and don’t film the attackers themselves, only the attackers’ targets. Despite whatever good intentions you likely have, if you film people doing crime, it can and will be used to solidify evidence against them (even when wearing a mask, other clothing items or facial features are regularly used by police to identify suspects). You don’t wanna be that guy that actively endangers demonstrators by exposing them to police violence, so please take this seriously.

Two more things: never film at the starting point or in the first fifteen minutes of a demo, to allow everyone who plans to wear a mask to have an opportunity to put it on safely. And before publishing videos, always blur the bodies of people who are masked. Check out this tutorial if you’re not sure how.

For example


We’re thrilled that this year the COBP decided to stop using the failed strategy of denouncing the most egregious behavior of the police, and instead called for decentralized direct actions against them, while expressing inspiration by several attacks on police and surveillance over the last year. The COBP explicitly supported the conflict with the police in their communique the day after the demo:

“We applaud all the autonomous groups that mobilized for March 15th, and that get organized all year long to build a balance of power against the SPVM and all police forces…”

“…We witnessed a proactive March 15, with diversified, offensive, and effective actions.”

“We salute the way in which militants fight the police state, and this despite the violence of its response.”

We’d like to see this taken one step further by next year’s demo being called as against police, period. This year the itinerary was chosen based on the locations of past police murders, and a symbolic acknowledgment of the struggle against gentrification in Hochelaga. Walking through the residential streets of Centre-Sud for a half hour to meet this symbolic goal of starting in Hochelaga didn’t feel worthwhile to us. We think for future years it makes more sense to prioritize routes that give us fighting advantages, because revolt is the best form of memory.



1 - Google has developed a technique/program to un-blur or de-pixelize faces. Not perfectly, though quite enough for the pigs to identify you. Look it up.

2 - I don't see where it's wrong to forcefully remove the camera/cell phone from anybody filming without being related to an accountable activist group, in any way that's verifiable.

3 - (TRIGGER WARNING: Rant Mode on) Communication... communication... communication. When I see ad hoc assemblies and other kinds of conversations freely happening between people in these riotous demos, then I'll be convinced things are progressing towards interesting outcomes.

I AM NOT blaming this on any one in particular, nor pretending I ain't part of the problem... I'm socially awkward myself in daily life, being way too often dominated by my negative shit. I know there's people, some who're hanging here, hating me deeply for stuff I've said in the past, as well as some misplaced behavior I had, and I don't feel too proud or edgy-cool for this.

Really I'd just like people to feel comfortable to come together in some way, and stop being so insecure with everybody outside of their mates. It is in your power to create any social events that facilitate interactions instead of making them harder. I've met quite a few amicable and open-minded girls, boys and queer with anarchistic sensibilities in this big town, and they didn't even care about me not being part of any counterculture... but no friendships were built out of these moments.

I'd like this to change, or improve. I know the ball is partly in my camp, but isn't there something better we could come up with... collectively?

3 1/2 - Could you also not keep organizing nearly EVERYTHING at the same two niche (and potentially unsafe) melting pots in the East? I look at this month's "anarchist calendar", and that's bluntly what I'm seeing. What's the deal... starting a monopoly of anarchy? I'm sure there's potential to do interesting shit elsewhere in town, that would vastly be beneficial to the spread of the critique and its whatever praxis.

4 - What are the goals or rationality in what you are doing? Is it...

  1. A) just fun with friends (which is... objectively okay, I guess, as far as I'm not concerned by said "party with friends"), and/or...
  2. B) something more

So if you've chosen "B", or "A" + "B", then after 20 years we haven't observed deterioration of the popo's apparatus, neither its violence. Even though there was a relative smoothing of their practices lately, but I don't see where that was caused by acab protests.

5 - Jaggi is a good dude who does what he does with enthusiasm and diligence. I still regret having bullshitted him, on this site, a while back. Doesn't mean he should be made a saint or rock star. Nobody deserves that treatment. It's the relationship of authority we gotta fight, first and foremost. Including with other guys from the area, you know...

6- Even if that's very likely to fall flat, I invite anyone, locally, who wants to put an end to these rants, to just come at me for the comments, questions, slur and violence, during one of my discreet public appearances.

7 - I gotta go to sleep now. Bye.

sorry, the formatting code went wrong somewhere above. After point "B",, it falls back to regular text...

And no, # 6 doesn't mean I'm going to be trolling here all the time.

Why the fuck would you trust Google to pixelate faces for the purpose of anonymity? You might as well hand the photo straight to the cops.

You need to work on your reading comprehension ...

If faces in video or photos are covered over with solid black and not pixilated, Google can't take footage submitted by the cops and reverse that. The exception would be any format (as in some poorly redacted PDF's) that suppported exporting to a multilayered image, which so far as I know is a still photo problem. In GIMP merging an image down to a single layer prior to export will guarantee nobody can remove your black spot covering someone's face, pack, shoes, or whatever.

Still, the safest rule when the overall image needs to be published is "when in doubt, crop it out." This goes double after something like J20 where pigs are trying to match shoes in one photo with packs in another, and eventually to faces in yet other images. Sometimes it is necessary to show only the deeds and not the doers.

You might have a raw clip shot diagonally towards the Nazis down a front line when the rocks began to fly. Great clip of Nazis cowering behind cops as the rocks rain down-but the camera caught some of the throwers at the edge of the frame. If you zoom in so not all the image fits anymore, then slide it over and crop it down to focus on the Nazis and keep all of your own crew out of the scene, you now have that perfect scene. When you are done. DESTROY the camera card, and overwrite those kind of raw clips with random numbers. If you do this kind of video at all, use only encrypted computers for editing as a further defense.

Make sure to get out of the action with those raw clips too, and never use cameras with storage you can't quickly remove and destroy where kettles and arrests are risks. If it's really hot, get out with the clips as soon as you can.

Also full-disk encrypting your device, if smartphone/tablet, is a no-brainer. Be sure to also change the passphrase once encrypted, so that it's not the same as used to log into your session. Not sure how much that last part helps, but it might, possibly.

The computer that edits the video files must also use full disk encryption, and that goes double if any raw clips of anything are retained. Even if they are not retained, "deleted" files remain a risk and overwriting a 2TB disk with random numbers in a video editing computer is so time consuming as to be impractical to do every time you release a video. Even cleaning camera cards this way can take half an hour, and that's for only 16GB or so.

This brings up an interesting and related point: smartphones are among the only cameras that can be encrypted, but have the potential vulnerability to attack software written to stream the video right to the cops. I do not know if any such software now exists, and shooting at the highest resolution would make the cell carriers scream about the bandwidth requires to export multi-GB files. The cops would have to work with the carriers on the bandwidth issue to make that attack successful.

Removing the sim card so the phone is not activated, or using a brand-new burnphone would make such an attack more difficult. Possibly a bigger risk is software or hardware now known to be under development to forcibly turn off phone cameras, which the cops would love to use while beating people up.

A camera with encryption but no network access would be best of all. A tablet that does not support connecting to the cellphone system at all (no cellular radio), has wi-fi turned off, runs Android 5.0 or later, and is full disk encrypted might be the most secure camera of all. Be aware that many (maybe all?) Android 5.0 devices cannot encrypt camera cards so would need to shoot to internal storage only, while the newest devices can also encrypt the camera card. This does complicate moving the files to a desktop for editing of course.

With a camera that does not support encryption (almost all devices that are only cameras), camera cards that can be quickly removed become the defense. Even mainstream media videographers learned decades ago to quickly change tapes (used at that time) after filming anything where the cops were expected to go after the raw footage.

Lastly, if you get an encrypted phone or computer stolen and then returned by police, never boot it again to the encrypted system, as it may have been modified to export the passphrase and send it over the network to the cops. If they made a copy of the encrypted filesystem, they can then unlock it. Destroy the device or factory reset/reinstall from scratch and never use it again for anything requiring security or encryption,

Isn't formatting the file system enough to definitely erase the contents from SD card/USB key? I believe it is, though not 100% sure... I know there's disk-sweeping programs that make multi-layered formatting, but are these measures really necessary?

Depends how badly someone wants your data

Okay... suppose I got my hands on a full list of all the personal addresses of the pigs and judges in my area, as well as the juicy transaction details they had with some rich people, mafia and whatever. I transfer the files to a disk on a device behind seven layers of encryption... but I wanna erase all the dangerous infos I store on my USB key that I carry everywhere (so if I get caught for something...).

No way will formatting erase data except by chance, it's like erasing the table of contents of a book only, and maybe overwritng a few pages to make the new table of contents. Overwrite the whole card with random numbers. If a partial picture saved in a "block" that just went read-only (they do that as they wear out) could send someone to jail, destroy the card. The cost of one hour of a lawyer's time will buy dozens of camera cards.

For the info... The Qualcomm TrustZone backdoor was found a year ago and Google had to issue some critical security updates (...likely after years knowing of the problem). So Android 7.0, at best LineageOS, should be a priority to install for anyone with devices using these leaky processors, whenever they can.

Portable devices are such fly-fucking when it comes to security matters... Tech corporations have locked the bootloaders on some devices so you can't make safer data spaces out of those. So do extensive research if you wanna get a smartphone.

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