2011-07-21 "Canada, Media: Montreal police squad accused of pursuing people for political beliefs"
She wouldn’t give her name but a woman who answered the phone Wednesday at a Montreal bookshop popular with anarchists took a swipe at the city’s police, calling them deceitful, full of plots and violent. ---- Her adjectives are the same kind used by police to describe people who vandalize property and assault cops during public protests and who are often dressed in dark clothes with their faces masked. ---- They are the focus of a new Montreal police investigative group called Guet des activités des movements marginaux et anarchistes – or GAMMA – which confirms the ongoing tango between police and so-called anarchist troublemakers. ---- The police group’s work led to the arrest of four people on June 29. They are alleged to have been part of a group that assaulted police officers during a May Day rally. Three officers suffered concussions. One went on leave.
“I think it’s surprising,” the woman at L’Insoumise bookstore on St. Laurent Blvd. said, about the use of the word anarchist in the police group’s name. “They’re not hiding what they want to do. They’ve given it this Orwellian title. It’s a reflection of how much power they have.”
She would not discuss violence as a means of expression in protests. “People have different definitions of violence. Some people think breaking windows is violent. Others believe people starving in the street is violence.” Police are pursuing people because of their political beliefs, not just because of criminal wrongdoings, the woman claimed.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if (police) have infiltrated many groups,” she said. “We often hear people say at meetings. ‘I can get guns’ or ‘I can burn this or that down.’ And it turns out to be undercover cops. There’s nothing new about that. I don’t think this (bookstore) has been infiltrated but I wouldn’t be surprised if this phone conversation is being wiretapped.”
This week, police insisted that GAMMA does not target people because of their political beliefs or clothing attire.
“The right to protest is primordial,” said Montreal police Lt. Ian Lafrenière said. “I’m a reservist in the military myself, and I believe in what the army is fighting for in Afghanistan. I believe in democracy, big time.”
Police do not believe anarchist vandals are organized criminals, just criminals who are organized, he added. The only reason GAMMA is part of the organized crime unit is that it is the only one with officers stationed across Montreal Island.
“We wanted a portrait of what is going on across the city, not just in one sector or another.”
Police are not using surveillance methods they might use with suspected biker gangs, street gangs and the Mafia, he added.
“I can’t tell you what we’ll charge them with until we charge them with something. If they break the law they will be charged. We’re still looking for those who assaulted our officers. We have a few more people to arrest.”