Montreal

Citing protesters' fear of police, rally organizers retract invitation to chief

Less than a day after inviting Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron to join a protest against racism and police brutality, one of the organizing groups retracted that offer, citing participants' fear of demonstrating in the company of police.

'The people are not ready for this step,' group says in message

Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron said the message indicated it was 'too early for the police chief to be present with demonstrators.' (Charles Contant/CBC)

Less than a day after inviting Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron to join Sunday's protest against racism and police brutality, one of the organizing groups rescinded that offer, citing participants' fear of demonstrating in the company of police.

In a text message posted on Facebook, the group, Nous sommes la ligue des noirs nouvelle génération, said it had to retract the offer because "citizens are terrified of the idea that he will be there."

"Here is the consequence when we lose trust in an institution that should be there to protect us that chooses to brutalize and instill fear," the message says.

"We had hoped to do otherwise but we work for the people … and they are not ready for this step."

Caron confirmed he will no longer be attending the event in an interview on Radio-Canada Saturday morning.

He said the message indicated it was "maybe too early for the police chief to be present with demonstrators." He said he understood the decision and recognized that "the presence of the police chief has to be constructive and positive."

In a video broadcast on social media, Pharaoh Freeman, an organizer with Nous sommes la ligue des noirs nouvelle génération, said the group had invited Caron in order to establish a dialogue, but did not give the community enough context about that move.

There was immediate feedback, some positive, some critical, and Freeman said he and other organizers made the decision to retract the invitation "because we hear and we understand where the community is coming from."

"The part that stood out to me the most is that by inviting the police and making it a public thing, it put the focus on them," he said. "That is clear, and that was definitely not our intention."

The invitation was not extended in order to create a photo op, Freeman said.

"The idea of creating these rallies is to create awareness … and from that awareness it's to be able to mobilize. Once we're able to mobilize, then it's to use that energy that we've been able to bring together to create solutions."

Moving forward with street check policy

In a message on Facebook on Saturday, the SPVM says the retraction "does not change our commitment to the implementation of measures surrounding the review of the Service's practices" around street checks.

On Friday, Caron said the SPVM will announce a policy for street checks on July 8, in response to a report last year that found black and Indigenous people were four and five times more likely to be stopped by police and asked to identify themselves. 

The group's invitation to Caron, sent not long after he offered to participate in the protest, was controversial from the start.

In a joint declaration, Hoodstock and Justice for Victims of Police Killings, two groups that promoted last weekend's Justice for George Floyd demonstration, urged people to contact the organizers of this Sunday's protest and ask them to rescind the invitation. 

"The presence of the Montreal police chief at a demonstration against police violence and brutality," they wrote, "amounts to reinforcing police impunity."

The protest last weekend drew more than 10,000 people calling for an end to anti-black racism and police brutality.

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