About 45 minutes after the anti-police brutality march started officers in riot gear stopped the protesters' march along St. Denis after a woman was hit in the face with a wine bottle. ((CBC))

Only a handful of protesters arrested are facing criminal charges such as mischief and assault following Tuesday's anti-police brutality march in Montreal, a yearly event traditionally marked by vandalism and violence.

About a dozen people were fined for disturbing the peace, but the vast majority of people taken into police custody were fined under Quebec's Highway Safety Code and released a few hours later.

Although the protesters have a right to demonstrate, said Insp. Philippe Pichet, the Code stipulates people cannot walk in the street without a proper permit.

"The thing is if we know the route we will close the street and if the street is closed they will be allowed to walk in the street, to do their demonstration," he said.

This year marks the 15th annual protest and as in previous years, organizers refused to disclose their planned route to police.

Hundreds of people turned up to take part in the annual procession, which only lasted about 45 minutes.


Insp. Philippe Pichet said police tried to talk to 12 different groups involved in the march to determine the protesters' intended route but received no cooperation. ((CBC))

The march wound its way across Ontario Street and up St-Denis Street, where some participants were quick to smash bottles and windows, including a front pane at a Gap outlet.

The rowdy crowd chanted and waved placards, but were outnumbered by police officers in riot gear who finally stopped the protesters' northward surge along St. Denis after a woman was hit in the face with a wine bottle.

"Then we advised people the demonstration was over," said Pichet.

"We asked them to leave the place. Some people did and some people decided to stay on the street and we arrested them," he said.

Police used several "crowd control" techniques to keep the situation contained, such as stun grenades, which emit grey smoke and high-pitched noise.

"This is no longer a democracy. This is a police state. We have no longer freedom of speech," said protester Xavier Philippe.

The Collective Opposed to Police Brutality, which organized the march, said it was there to denounce the police and the City of Montreal for routinely ignoring decisions by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that find police guilty of harrassment and racial profiling.