Ten years after his death, Montreal teen's supporters deplore lack of recognition
Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 10, 2018 8:01AM EDT
MONTREAL -- Supporters of a Montreal teen who was killed by a city police officer in 2008 are lamenting the lack of any kind of lasting memorial in his honour as they prepare to mark the 10-year anniversary.
An evening rally, speeches and music will be part of next week's planned activities to remember Fredy Villanueva, who was unarmed when he was struck by police bullets in a park on Aug. 9, 2008.
But his supporters deplore the fact a space being created nearby will not bear his name and that the city recently dismissed the idea of a mural they have long championed.
Villanueva, 18, was killed after an altercation with police officers that left two other people injured when authorities tried to break up an illegal dice game in the north-end park and arrest Villanueva's brother, Dany.
The next night, a march in the same area turned violent, with rioters setting fire to vehicles, and looters vandalizing businesses while creating headlines around the world.
Christine Black, mayor of the Montreal North borough, defended the decision again Wednesday to not use Villanueva's name or erect a mural, saying some people didn't feel it was appropriate.
As for a specific mention of the young man, Black explained the issue was "very polarizing" and the borough could not afford to go in that direction.
Instead, Place de l'Espoir (Square of Hope), which is to be built within the park, will include a time capsule with written words, images and testimonials. It is to be opened in 47 years in 2065 -- the 150th anniversary of the borough.
"In another lifetime," denounced activist Nargess Mustapha, co-founder of the Montreal-North Republik community group.
The lack of recognition for Villanueva is "a slap in the face," said Will Prosper, a documentary filmmaker and civil rights activist.
Prosper, the other co-founder of Montreal-North Republik, said Villanueva reflected many of the issues that are central to the neighbourhood: racial profiling, poverty and diversity.
Beyond that, a lasting memorial was about rehabilitating Villanueva's name and reputation because, according to Prosper, his memory was tarnished by the media, politicians and police.
Born in Honduras, the Villanueva brothers arrived in Quebec with their three sisters in December 1998, joining their parents who had been granted refugee status.
Prosper said Villanueva was a part of the community, attended a local school and frequented the library not far from where he was killed.
"The image that we have about Fredy Villanueva is not the reality about who Fredy Villanueva was," he said. "He did not deserve to die."