Police kettling lawsuit gets go-ahead from Quebec judge

A Quebec judge has approved eight class-action lawsuits against the City of Montreal connected with kettling practices during protests.

1.600 protesters expected to join class-action suits, claiming more than $21-million in damages

Some 1,600 protesters are expected to join eight class-action lawsuits alleging mistreatment during police kettling between 2012 and 2014. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

A Quebec judge has approved eight class-action lawsuits against the City of Montreal connected with police kettling practices.

The lawsuits allege protesters were mistreated and that their rights were violated during eight separate incidents of police kettling.

The incidents identified in the lawsuit happened at six protests between 2012 and 2014.

Kettling is a practice used by police officers to surround groups of demonstrators.

Julien Villeneuve has lived through the experience of kettling more than a few times.

Villeneuve is the Maisonneuve College philosophy professor known as Anarchopanda — the unofficial, panda-headed mascot of the student protests. 

He recalled how police surrounded demonstrators during a May Day protest last year. 

"We were all squeezed in against each other. Some people were hit inside the kettle and afterwards we were tie-wrapped," Villeneuve said. 

After waiting for several hours, Villeneuve said he was ticketed.

Sibel Atagul, the lawyer handling the class action lawsuit on behalf of the protesters, said many people were issued tickets similar to traffic tickets in kettling incidents. She said protesters believe police actions were heavy-handed.

"In some cases, they allege they were held for hours, and they were not allowed to go to the bathroom, and they were filmed and held, so it's a very particular situation," said Atagul.

She said proving the allegations will be a lengthy and uphill battle.

The City of Montreal objected to the class-action lawsuits, arguing the allegations were not serious enough to warrant legal action but, in the end, a Superior Court judge gave the green light for the suit to go ahead. 

Some 1,600 protesters are expected to join the class-action suits, claiming damages totalling more than $21 million.