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Pandemics, Protests, And Poached Guitars

BY: Nathaniel Saad

As one of Canada’s epicentres for Covid-19 and protests, Montreal has played a key role in recent weeks not only concerning the virus itself, but for the “Black Lives Matter” movement that is spreading like a wildfire across the globe. Thousands have united in the downtown area of the metropolis over the last two weekends to advocate against racism, systemic discrimination, and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. These demonstrations have had a paradoxical effect on most of North America, uniting millions in a common goal, yet driving a wedge between police forces, governments, and civilian populations. Nevertheless, they have for the most part encouraged victims of racism and various other injustices to speak out and fight for what they believe in. Unfortunately, there is a shadow of foul play looming over the already intense protests: looting and violence. During the first Montreal protest, people wove themselves among those advocating for the BLM movement and took advantage of the commotion and crowds to break the windows of buildings, tear down the entrances of shops, and steal from stores all along Ste Catherine St., including Steve’s Music Store. While the manager stated that the looting of his store was worth protesting against racism, other store owners were devastated. One man was even filmed in tears as his shop was ransacked and left completely empty and barren.

Regrettably, actions such as looting often result in a dilution of the message that protestors are trying to spread. While headlines the next day should have been about the BLM movement and the accompanying protests, media outlets and Montrealers alike fixated on things like the looting of Steve’s Music Store and the many guitars that were stolen in the night. It wasn’t long after this that Francois Legault, the leader of the CAQ and Premier of Quebec stated that there wasn’t systemic racism in Quebec.

In a recent interview with Greg Kelley, member of the National Assembly of Quebec and representative of the Montreal riding of Jacques Cartier, the topics of the Montreal protests were discussed. According to an independent study done in Montreal, black and indigenous people are 4 to 5 times more likely to be stopped and asked to identify themselves by police. This in and of itself demonstrates firsthand the systemic racism lingering in our communities, which the Liberal opposition countered in response to Legault’s comment. When asked how to change these types of issues, Greg Kelley turned primarily to schools: “There definitely needs to be a change in some of our education.” he said, referring to history classes and civic education in Quebec schools. While he also touched on data collection and the willingness of governments and police forces to listen as a way to effect long-term change, he described how friends and constituents had spoken to him about expanding how educational curriculums look at historical events such as the Holocaust, Black History, and numerous parts of Indigenous History, that have been overlooked.

As for the protests themselves, Greg had this to say: “The looting and the violence really help to play into Donald Trump’s hands for his law and order message… a lot of that violence that takes place (more to the case in the United States), it’s happening in their own communities… those are our neighbours and friends.” Amidst the double-pandemic of Covid-19 and racism, people tend to lash out before taking aim. Sadly, many of those who get hurt are on the same side as those doing the hurting. As for the people who purposefully joined the protests simply to wreak havoc and loot, it’s unacceptable. “You have a right to protest, but you don’t have a right to go out and destroy people’s property.” stated Greg. The issue of police violence is a serious one and threatens society as a whole. In addition to this, the scales have started off tipped against minorities. It’s not simply a matter of sentiment, the statistics show it. At the end of the interview, Greg recounted some of his experiences: “A thing that really struck me is that in Quebec city, the second largest police force in the province, there isn’t a single black police officer, and that’s just shocking because there is a black community in Quebec city…people who understand the communities that they’re serving, that is extremely important.”

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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