Mayhem is no protest

Le G&M est plus nuancé

The rioters who set fire to cars, attacked the firefighters sent to quell the fires and looted small businesses in the densely populated suburb of Montreal North on the weekend do not seem to have been interested primarily in sending a message to police about racial profiling or other injustices. They hijacked a peaceful protest against a fatal police shooting of a teenager for their own ends. There is little evidence, so far, that those ends were any more socially redeeming than the ends of those who indulged in similar antics downtown after the Montreal Canadiens won their opening-round playoff series this spring. Mayhem in the streets after a police shooting is almost guaranteed to bring hand-wringing and ex post facto justifications. But sometimes mayhem is just mayhem.
Whether there are legitimate grievances with the Montreal police is a separate issue. The circumstances around the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old, Fredy Villanueva, apparently with a clean record, remain murky. Clearly, though, the police have to do a better job building trust with the local community; when reporters talked to Montreal North residents of varying ethnicities and races - francophones, immigrant Arabs and blacks - the only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that they couldn't stand the police. (Few seemed to think much of anyone in the other groups, either.)
After the shooting, roughly 100 people carrying signs began to protest peacefully. At some point, the protest turned ugly; some, perhaps many, of the protesters went home. A mob of 500 people formed. Firebombs were thrown, guns were brandished. Denis Coderre, a Montreal MP, said he thinks most of that mob were from outside the neighbourhood. But even if he is wrong about that, there is little reason at the moment to dignify the stealing of meat from small butcher shops or the burning of cars as an expression of oppressed youth.
That is what some community leaders are trying to do. "What we are seeing are youngsters, a community that is in revolt because they don't like the way they are being treated," said Pierreson Vaval, a youth-group leader in the neighbourhood. "They don't like how authorities interact with them." As the rioters seized on a peaceful protest for their own satisfaction (an elderly lady was seen walking along with a slab of looted meat), so do those with a cause leap on the backs of the rioters to make their case. Community leaders should distance themselves from the criminality that tarnishes their cause.

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