Hundreds of protesters call for defunding of police in Montreal

About 200 people marched through the rainy streets of downtown Montreal on Saturday demanding that police budgets be greatly reduced and the funds spent on social services.

One of several demonstrations held across Canada

Protesters march through Montreal Saturday afternoon demanding the police be defunded. (Maryanne Dupuis/Radio-Canada)

About 200 people marched through the rainy streets of downtown Montreal on Saturday demanding extensive cuts to police budgets and increased spending on social services.

It was one of several demonstrations held across Canada organized by a coalition of Black and Indigenous activists.

"Making this march happen is one step forward instead of staying home and doing nothing," said Sénam Messie, who helped organize the Montreal demonstration.

With chants of "No justice, no peace. Abolish the police," the protesters attempted to show that calls to defund police departments have not subsided, three months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

After the demonstration drew to a close at Place Du Canada, some activists pulled down the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald that sits prominently in the square.

Calls to halve police budgets

The protest comes amid unrest in Kenosha, Wis., following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, on Aug. 23. Blake was shot in the back seven times as he attempted to enter his vehicle as three of his children sat inside. His family says the shooting has left him paralyzed.

But protesters say that police shootings of Black and Indigenous people in Canada also must not be ignored.

Melissa Calixte of the local community group Hoodstock pointed to the death of 58-year-old Pierre Coriolan in June 2017. Police were responding to calls about a man in distress and entered Coriolan's apartment in Montreal's Gay Village in an intervention that ended in a fatal shooting.

"I can't help but wonder how the outcome would have been different had it been a mental health professional or social worker who answered that day," Calixte said.

The coalition wants 50 per cent of police budgets to be spent on social services, such as health care and education.

With files from Sarah Leavitt


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