agents provocateurs – Updated below …

The Youtube video posted recently of a protest rally in Montebello, Que raises some pretty big questions about the role of SQ and/or RCMP officers in violent protest. Coming late onto this story, my first exposure to it is through the Youtube video (well, in truth, I found the Youtube link 3 lines into a news story on the event, but I watched the raw video before finishing the article, so as to know what ACTUALLY happened first), and it certainly raises some interesting questions.

First of all, the most obvious comment I have is that the only people who seem interested in violence are the three people who are forced towards police by the crowd. Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, protest organizer and the guy who is mainly confronting them, is clearly not interested in any violence occurring in his little corner of the protest, and seems to me to act as a calm head throughout most of the incident. While you can argue that trying to remove the bandannas of the three “protesters” (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now, for reasons I’ll outline below) is something of a provocative act, there are valid questions of why their identity needs to be hidden if they are nothing but actual protesters. Regardless, attempting to physically unmask them is an assault on their person, and shouldn’t be condoned IMO.

Beyond that, Cole and the rest of the protesters seemed the height of calm. Clearly they weren’t happy about 3 people with violent intent in their midst, and they dealt with that, but they did so in a pretty civilized way, all things considered. While there was some pushing and shoving, the only real violent action came when the police took the 3 guys down after they “broke through” the police line. The reason I’m happy to extend the benefit of the doubt, for now, about their identities is mainly it doesn’t matter who they were in the grand scheme of things … regardless of whether they were true protesters with violent intent, or police infiltrators, the reaction of Coles and the rest of the crowd shows that the main bulk of protesters were not interested in the violence the three were planning, or at least imitating. Thats the key point here IMO … whatever those three men were up to, the crowd was having none of it.

Now, I have to add, its HIGHLY incredible (in the literal sense of non-credible, ofc) to continue to suggest at this point the 3 men were simply part of the protest. Even beyond the circumstantial evidence of shoes, until police can explain the lack of arrest records for these 3 men, men who CLEARLY had violent intent, carrying the weapon of choice for violent protest, and who forced their way physically through a crowd of officers … if NOTHING else, there should be a record of the attempted assault of trying to physically force your way past a police officer … its incredible to suggest the men weren’t infiltrators.

As much as protest organizers might disagree with me, it probably makes sense for police to have plain-clothes agents in the crowd of protesters watching the action and keeping an eye on potentially dangerous situations. There is legitimate police need to have different views of what is going on, and possible advance warning of things going really badly south, and simple plain-clothes officers in the crowd for such a purpose makes sense to me. What makes no sense to me is why those agents would be fitted out ready for the same violence they are trying to avoid. While it makes sense to look like the more dangerous elements of the crowd, police still have a responsibility to act within the law, and to not cause the events they are employed to protect us against. For these three guys to actually have rocks (well, we know at least one was carrying one, in the “ready to throw” position) indicates more than simple observation … it indicates an attempt to provoke, which goes well beyond the necessary function of undercover operatives in such a situation.

At least as far back as the pepper-spraying incident from APEC in 1997, there have been questions about how Canadian police deal with protesters … the actions in Montebello raise serious questions about the origins of violence in previous protests as well. It seems clear that the three men shown on the Youtube video are there to prompt the crowd into violence … there seems no other way to explain their actions. It seems equally clear, in the absence of arrest records for the three, that they were agents of the SQ or RCMP, or some of other police/security force, though I have to admit that isn’t “proven” yet. What is so far unclear is how long the policy of putting agents who not only goad people towards violence, but actually carry the necessary tools at the ready as well, has been going on for, and if other violent protests have actually been initiated by agents such as these. Until the SQ and RCMP are more forthcoming about this incident, the Canadian people have serious, legitimate questions about our ability to protest peacefully and without sanction, and the role of our police forces in suppressing that ability.

Update:
SQ officially admitted  on Thursday that the three men in the video were undercover officers. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/08/23/police-montebello.html

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2 Responses

  1. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

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