Quebec activists say they were targeted at G20 protests
MONTREAL - A group of Quebec protesters say people from their province were targeted at last weekend's G20 summit and arrested simply for speaking French or having fleur-de-lys license plates.
So says the CLAC, Montreal's Anti-Capitalist Convergence group, which said Monday that only 125 of its 450 members who had taken buses to Toronto had returned.
Many of its members were detained over the weekend and remained unaccounted for.
The anti-capitalist, anti-state, anti-authority group describes the controversial Black Bloc tactics, blamed for many of the incidents in Toronto, as a legitimate form of protest.
"When we arrived by bus the police were waiting for us. They took our flags, our (signs)," said Danie Royer, a spokeswoman for the group.
"During the weekend the tension was going higher and higher. On Sunday, it was impossible to walk in the streets.
"Everyone that walked on the street that talked French or people who were driving with Quebec plates were arrested without justification."
The CLAC describes itself as an umbrella group involved in a number of different issues -- including rights for immigrants and women, in addition to its anti-capitalist agenda.
It has no problem with the so-called Black Bloc protest tactics, calling it a legitimate form of protest, which it says mainly targets "multi-national" companies and "symbols of capitalism."
The protest tactic sees people using black clothing to blend into larger crowds and, in many cases, taking advantage of that anonymity to escape arrest for vandalism.
"We respect a diversity of tactics. People are angry, particularly in the context of an event like that," said Mathieu Francoeur, another CLAC member.
"For us it's vandalism against certain institutions . . . it's symbolic and doesn't compare with violence in general in society."
But organizers for the Quebec-based group said they were surprised by the targeting of French-speaking protesters.
One member who was detained on Sunday said she and two other Quebecers driving along College Street were stopped only because they had a Quebec licence plate.
Camille, a slight redhead who refused to give her last name, said police then rifled through her possessions and found some black clothing.
She also had a lawyer's telephone number scrawled on her arm and an anarchist book in the car.
She said she was held for nearly 10 hours without being allowed to make a phone call, and was crammed into a cell with other women almost entirely from Quebec.
"They showed us a report by accident that said they arrested us because we had Quebec licence plates and a black T-shirt," said the university student.
She drove overnight to get out of Toronto after spending Sunday in detention.
"We just wanted to get the hell out of there," she said.
Toronto police declined to address the allegations. Integrated Security Unit spokeswoman Nathalie Deschenes said the force had no comment.
Quebec has a comparatively deep history of events like those that occurred over the weekend in Toronto.
The 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City was marked by the appearance of the now-infamous Black Block protesters, who smashed windows and hurled projectiles at police.
That 2001 summit ended with 463 arrests, more than $2.5 million in damage, and equally widespread complaints about police manhandling peaceful protesters.
A five-member panel appointed by then-Quebec public security minister Serge Menard concluded officers used abusive amounts of tear gas and were wrong to shoot rowdy protesters with rubber and plastic bullets.
Much like Toronto, the 2001 summit was held within a fenced-in part of the city.
The CLAC organizers deflected allegations that people affiliated with their group were in large part responsible for the damage.
The CLAC says about 1,000 members went in Toronto, but were immediately targeted as soon as their buses pulled into the city on Friday.
"Anyone who had the protester look," Francoeur said.
"There was institutionalized profiling, and we figured it might happen, but we never thought politicians would also give police carte blanche to do as they pleased."
The CLAC had spent months organizing trips to Toronto to protest the G20.
But the spokespeople said they did not produce a video that appeared on their website entitled "Mon voyage a Toronto" (My trip to Toronto); the video shows off different points of interest using skulls as landmarks.
The Montreal protest group is planning to hold a demonstration on Thursday to denounce police handling of the G20 protests.