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Mainstream media attempting to criminalize anti-austerity movement

by Stefan Christoff

Mainstream media attempting to criminalize anti-austerity movement

Many mainstream media reports on anti-austerity street protests in Montréal over recent days work to criminalize the thousands joining the actions and to justify police violence.

Absent from media reports are any specifics on the injuries taking place due to the multiple police assaults, or any serious info on the heavy use of pepper spray and flash bang grenades.

Ta blessure de flic, is a social media page that has been set-up for people to share info on police brutality and photos of their wounds, working to raise awareness of the real physical repression coming down on the growing anti-austerity movement in Québec.

One youth participant in the recent night rally had two teeth smashed by a police shield. In a social media post, the person describes the incident, outlining that a full-on hit to the face took place after some simple street banter with the riot police, the type of exchange that is so common to demonstrations. Below is a translation of the original text :

On March 24, I was walking on the sidewalk at the corner of Robert-Bourassa / University and Sherbrooke.

I am actually far away from the demonstration. In the middle of nowhere, on the sidewalk, two armed police with shields and batons cross my path. In shock by all that I had just seen, I mumbled to them :

''Have you have no shame?”

They seem to not hear me, only one of them then responded to me in what seemed to be a relatively friendly tone :

“Excuse me, I didn’t hear you, come closer, so that I hear your question.”

So I moved closer and told them, in a tone that wasn’t resentful, but more sounding like an open question :

''Have you no shame hitting demonstrators who are young and mostly non-violent?”

Here was the answer : A full face shield bash that pulverizes my two pallets (teeth).

These cops then decided to not give their ID #s, or their names, preferring instead to flee quickly in a Montreal police van.

In short, last night, a person walking on a sidewalk downtown was attacked by two police officers after asking a simple question. Repression is powerful, and today it works, because today I am scared, I am terrorized. Is this not terrorism?

Please share.''

No mainstream media outlets have seriously covered this incident, zero written reports in the Anglophone press, an illustration by example on how the media often works to normalize police violence against social movements by generally failing to report on such specific examples.

CTV Montréal anchor Mutsumi Takahashi introduced a painfully bias segment on Tuesday’s night protest this way, “It was a rough and sometimes aggressive crowd that confronted police last night.” Having been present on the ground throughout the entire protest this framing is simply ridiculous, the demonstration was festive and emotionally buoyant, even including a beautiful saxophone soloist playing passionately throughout the action.

Beyond missing the many important messages and ideas vocalized at the protest, the CTV report also described the current movement as “anti-democratic,” an incredible and false assertion about an organizing process that is intrinsically constructed on the grassroots power of general assemblies.

Also the CTV report unraveled with a classic set-up, running commentary and banter between a ridiculously bias news anchor and reporter, both questioning the legitimacy of the protest and then moving to only quote the notoriously propagandistic police spokesman Ian Lafrenière. A report that fails to even achieve mainstream journalistic standards in refusing to broadcast any voices from the protest, or the growing anti-austerity movement.

Politically the protest was focused not specifically on the police, but on larger ideas, an expression of collective opposition to the austerity policies of the Québec Liberal government, that disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in society. Also missing in the mainstream media coverage, is the real sense of urgent concern expressed within the movement about the environmentally destructive path that neo-liberal economic models are now enforcing on Québec, through corporate friendly ploys like Plan Nord.

As usual the vast majority of media coverage is failing to focus on the ideas being expressed at the protest, the many reasons why there is an unprecedented mobilization against austerity currently taking place in Québec.

Absent in the coverage is any focus on the dreams of a movement that is focused social justice, on reversing government policies that will only equal increased economic violence and inequality in our society.

Stefan Christoff is a community organizer, musician and media maker living in Montreal, find Stefan @spirodon


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

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

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