A march to protest the fatal police shooting of a 46-year-old black man during a drug raid in Montreal North descended into bedlam Wednesday night when a small group of protesters vandalized cars, set fire to a bank and threw projectiles at a police station.
The event began peacefully, but erupted in violence later when some protesters began targeting shops and vehicles, police say.
The window of a Bank of Montreal branch was smashed and a fire was set inside. Bricks were also lobbed at police station 39 on Henri-Bourassa Street East.
Police in riot gear dispersed the vandals. The turmoil ended around 10:15 p.m.
Earlier in the evening several blocks away, about 100 people held a vigil to protest against the death of Bony Jean-Pierre during a drug raid on March 31.
Organizers said the event also coincided with what would have been the 26th birthday of Fredy Villanueva.
Villanueva was shot and killed by police on Aug. 9, 2008, after police moved in to break up an illegal game of dice in the park.
Protesters said little has been done to improve relations with police in the period since.
The vigil was held in Henri-Bourassa Park, followed by the march, which wound through Montreal North streets and stopped at Arthur-Chevrier Street, where Jean-Pierre was shot last week.
- Montreal North vigil to remember Bony Jean-Pierre, Fredy Villanueva
- Bony Jean-Pierre, man shot during Montreal North drug bust, has died
- 11 suspects arrested in Montreal North drug raid, 1 injured
Jean-Pierre was shot in the head by a Montreal police officer last Thursday with a rubber or plastic bullet. He died of his injuries earlier this week.
A total of 11 people were arrested in the drug bust on March 31. Two suspects, including Jean-Pierre, tried to flee the scene.
The Sûreté du Québec have been in charge of the investigation since the shooting, since Quebec law stipulates that a police shooting resulting in death or injury must be investigated by another force.
The SQ have been tight-lipped about the circumstances of the shooting.
Don Harley Fils-Aimé, a spokesperson for Regroupement d'intervenants d'origine haïtienne de Montréal-Nord, said Jean-Pierre's death reminds him of Villanueva's shooting death at the hands of Montreal police in 2008.
"If there could be a way for people to just stop dying for some things that I find petty, I would be really, really happy for that," Fils-Aimé said.
"I'm exhausted with it, frankly."
Protest taking shape in Montreal North. At 6, a memorial to Fredy Villanueva, who died at the hands of police (1/2) pic.twitter.com/AN09joGg3C— @CBCShaun
The wet snow has snuffed out the candles lighted in tribute to Villanueva pic.twitter.com/FwRTptJsgH— @CBCShaun
'Wrong message to public'
Critics have called for an independent investigation into Jean-Pierre's death.
"One life lost is one life too many," Kerlande Mibel, Projet Montréal's mayoral candidate for the upcoming Montreal North byelection, told reporters.
Quebec's Human Rights Commission has criticized the government for long delays in opening an independent bureau to investigate shootings, serious injuries and deaths involving a police officer.
The provincial government voted three years ago to create the independent bureau, but it is still not operational.
Those delays send "the wrong message to the public," according to Renée Dupuis, the commission's vice-president.
"Democratic societies no longer accept that whatever is related to... police force operations [are] dealt with by police officers," said Dupuis.
She said the commission has consulted widely on the issue.
"Everybody's waiting," she said.
Tributes to Villanueva being written in chalk on the back wall of the community centre; one says "justice & truth" pic.twitter.com/Nyy17BKUUN— @CBCShaun
'Operational as soon as possible'
A spokeswoman for Quebec's public security minister would not confirm reports that the independent investigations bureau is set to open next month.
"We hope it will be operational as soon as possible," said Marie-Eve Pelletier, adding that investigators are currently being trained.
Pelletier would not comment on what has caused the delays in setting up the office.
She also declined to comment on whether the new independent body would do its own investigations into Jean-Pierre's death or into the recent allegations of sexual assault by provincial police officers, made by several aboriginal women.
Protesters chanting anti-police slogans pic.twitter.com/zVV7SytD5A— @CBCShaun