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Corporate media fails to convey police violence against anti austerity movement

by Stefan Christoff

Corporate media fails to convey police violence against anti austerity movement

Riot police are on the attack, moving violently against anti-austerity protests in Montréal over this past week.

Corporate media coverage is not conveying the repression taking place on the streets, failing to transmit the reality of a coordinated wave of police brutality. Pointing to the strong anti-protest, anti-activism bias in the mainstream media is not new, however outlining examples of seriously unbalanced coverage as it unfolds is important.

Last night a feminist night protest against austerity, open uniquely to the participation of women and trans folks, was attacked by the Montréal police. People joining the action reported on social media that police first blocked the protest and when participants tried to take the streets collectively, the response was excessive police violence : cops hitting people with bicycles, launching tear gas bombs and pepper spraying.

After the action took place, traumatized and angry demonstration participants gathered at La Passe, an anti-authoritarian arts venue and important downtown meeting space for the anti-austerity movement. At the venue, a crowd had already gathered for a community benefit concert with Ce qui nous traverse and other artists supporting La Flèche rouge, an east-end Montréal bookshop and art space. As many participants from the feminist night protest gathered at La Passe, the descriptions of police violence were vivid and enraging, words outlining baton strikes, the random firing of flash bang grenades, that include a chemical gas charge, all deployed within the context of clear moves by state power to violently repress a growing anti-austerity movement in Québec.

A Canadian Press report on the protest is absurdly bias, “the protesters tried to impose their itinerary to the police,” outlines the report, continuing, “around 10 p.m. some protesters breached the police cordon and a melee ensued forcing police to use pepper spray. Montreal police then ordered the protesters to disperse. Tear gas and sound bombs were used to break up the crowd.

Missing from this report is any recognition of the fundamental right to publicly protest without police permission, a right reaffirmed in the recent legal victory over the P6 bylaw in Montréal. Also missing is any acknowledgement of the massive unbalance of police force involved, the sound bombs and baton strikes are being used against an unarmed civilian protest.

On Monday evening, police moved violently and quickly against another night protest against austerity, indiscriminately using tear gas and violently charging the crowd. Mainstream media basically failed to report on this incident of nighttime police violence. Joining the protest was inspiring, again hundreds and hundreds had converged together to raise our voices against austerity, chanting collectively and reclaiming the streets together.

Around half-an-hour after the protest began, an announcement randomly was blaring out from police truck speakers declaring the demonstration “illegal.”

Challenging this arbitrary move by the Montréal police to regularly declare public protests “illegal” is important. On what legal basis are these police calls made and how does the call measure up to our rights under both the Québec and Canadian charters of rights and freedoms? Clearly these random police declarations of demonstrations as "illegal," violates at minimum, the freedom of assembly recognized in both charters.

Mainstream media is simply not questioning the legal legitimacy of this wave of police brutality and repression toward the anti-austerity movement. Highlighting this as a clear example of a systemic inability in the corporate media to profoundly critique structures of power in our society is important.

In this CTV report on the massive anti-austerity protest last week, that clearly involved tens-of-thousands, the demonstration is simply described as having “thousands,” a intentionally hazy description of an event that involved massive crowds. CTV’s report also fails to quote a single protest participate, or student spokesperson, instead the report references their own journalist and Québec’s Liberal Premiere Philippe Couillard, who is driving this wave of austerity.

A CBC headline reading “UQAM classes interrupted by masked student protesters,” fails to fully explain that the classes interrupted at UQAM were within faculties where student associations had voted democratically to strike, this key information is simply missing. Also the CBC report, similar to 2012, uses the term “boycott” to describe the student strike, a term used by politicians in the halls of power to delegitimize the process of students collectively asserting their political voice through strikes.

Generally speaking there is a massive gap between the reality on the streets over these past weeks and the picture that the corporate media is broadcasting.

Above are some examples that highlight the difference in narratives, between a mainstream media that consistently adopts the political orientation of the powerful and those of us within this anti-austerity movement on the streets, who are often criminalized and misrepresented by the press.

Stefan Christoff is a community activist, musician and media maker living in Montréal, find Stefan @spirodon

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Stefan Christoff (Stefan Christoff)
Montreal, Quebec
Member since April 2010


Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based journalist, community organizer and musician.

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