"Don't go!" "I won't bail you out cousin" "Your gear's gonna get smashed" "Wear a helmet" "Hope you have 700 bucks" "Be Careful" "Put PRESS on your shirt and have your Media Pass visible" "Here's a number to an English speaking lawyer"
These were the words of advice given to me by my peers when I decided to go to the Anti-Police Brutality March 2014 out in Montreal. To be honest a lot of what they said was true. The beatings, smashed gear, massive arrests, kettling, fines, etc.. But I myself managed to escape unscathed. I drew a rough timeline in order to help write an article on the protest.
3:00 - I get off the STM orange line at the Jean-Talon stop. I see a line of riot police when I reach the top of the escalator waiting to block off the exit.
3:02-:05- I get out the doors and was automatically bombarded by a sea of demonstrators & Signs. The streets was packed with a few hundred people. I see a line of riot police on Jean-Talon st keeping the protestors surrounded against the exit of Jean-Talon station. Checking out the scene I begin shooting right away.
3:05- Police on a mega-phone announce to the demonstrators that this is an illegal Protest and they must disperse immediately as a helicopter flies overhead. A bunch of "Fuck you's" ensued and the march began. The Metro Train doesn't stop at Jean Talon station anymore.
3:06- March continues...Crack down begins. I hear a clacking of shields rushing towards me, I turn to see a wave of riot police charging. I begin to run and then try to get on a side of a building in an attempt to squeeze out. A young protester & and older lady try to escape this way as well but were smashed against a wall. I was nearly cracked on, but managed to jump out. I ran on the other side of police so their face shields were facing away from me, not towards me. I switched to a long lens and kept shooting. The police then began to push the protestors down Jean-Talon and into Châteaubriand Avenue.
3:15- The riot police push about 150 demonstrators down Châteaubriand Avenue towards buses that were parked in the middle of the Avenue. I stick to them as close as I can without getting arrested, but then the riot police formed a line about 100 meters from the buses and prevented myself and other journalists to getting access. So I ran up a set of stairs in order to get up higher, but it was tough grabbing shots. To many trees in the way and buses blocking the view.
3:20-3:40- Myself and other journalists continues to try to geting closer access to the kettle but fail. So I found an alley to run down alongside Châteaubriand Avenue to get onto Belanger street, thinking maybe there would be a better view on that end. I was greeted by a swarm of riot police and a small crowd of protestors outside of the main kettle. Media was on this end as well trying to get there shots, I managed to see a little bit of the mass arrests but not enough to get a good shot. Then I hear "Hey theres more protestors causing a scene back on Jean-Talon" So once again I bolt down Saint Vallier Street with other journalists to cover that end. Sure enough a group of demonstrators outside of the metro station.
3:40-4:05- I begin shooting the new set of unkettled demonstrators on Jean Talon st. But then realize the riot police blocked off the metro, the street I ran down, any stores to hide in, and I see that the end of Jean Talon St is blocked. I figured fuck it keep shooting, What else was I gonna do? Soon a group of demonstrators moved and sat in the middle of the pre-kettle. I got close and focused on them. But then the clacking of the shields sounds began. slowly...then to a hard pace as the police charged at us, I grabbed a few frames and ran from the police while Hail marying (Hold your camera high and hit the high shutter). I saw an alleyway and ran down there with some other demonstrators, but we saw some riot police at the end so we then began hopping fences. Hop-duck-check hop-duck-check. Get safely around the cops and run down Saint Vallier.
4:15ish- I begin to walk down Jean Talon after the kettled protesters were arrested and brought to Châteaubriand Avenue to be processed. I see on Châteaubriand Avenue busses are still there and the cops still have a line blocking media access.
So I get off Jean Talon st and bomb down Saint-Hubert st. See another freelance photographer and we both start sharing how we escaped the kettle, Laughing about it.
4:17- A group of riot police come out of no where sweeping Saint-Hubert for people who were participating in the protest. They pulled me aside and began interrogating me. I managed to get out of it with my media pass and talking out of it. But my peer swore at the police saying something along the lines of "you have no right to do this", and "resisted"(moved his hand away from the cop attempting to grab him). The cops then slammed him against a tree, frisked him and cuffed him. Looked like his camera disappeared (presumably smashed) I'm sure they dragged him to get processed with the other protestors.
Basically after that was rounding up of people who participated in the march, it was done by 5 P.M. Processing was still going on at 7 P.M. Over 288 people were fined and 5 charged.
Click on Photo Below to View Gallery:
So my experience with this is if you want to see if you can shoot fast news...Go to stuff like this. "Protests in Montreal are a playground compared to Europe" was the description of protests in North America by my Italian peer. So it's not that bad. It's a chance to get on those stepping stones to one day shoot hard stuff like the revolution in the Ukraine.
Great experience and I'm definitely hungry to shoot more stuff like this.
By Jeremy Mckay