Location in Montréal-Nord where Freddy Villaneuva was killed in the summer of 2008
An anonymous group has been drawing attention to the conduct of the SPVM, the Montreal police force, by commemorating the places around the city where they alledge police actions have led to deaths of 43 individuals from 1987 to the present. While groups like the Collectif opposé à la brutalité policière (COBP) are a well-known presence, this group is unaffiliated and anonymous, leaving only a provocative message and a website address.
Location in Côte-des-Neiges where Mohammed Anis Bennis was killed in 2005
The message these individuals leave at each site follows the same pattern: the name of the deceased and their age spray-painted by hand, along with a stencil that reads “Tué par SPVM Killed by Montreal police” and includes their website, www.flics-assassins.net. On this website, they describe their cause in greater detail:
From the shooting death of Anthony Griffin, 19, outside a police station in NDG in 1987, to last year’s death of Fredy Villaneuva, 18, at Parc Henri-Bourassa in Montreal-Nord, 43 individuals have been killed by the Montreal police. Whether by bullets, pepper spray, electric shocks, beatings (or, in one case, running over a youth with a police car) the Service de la Police de Montréal (SPVM), have acted with impunity.
While many Montrealers may becoming weirdly accustomed to the death of a young men in altercations with police, having these tragic events reflected back in this location-specific manner is new. On the sides of innocuous buildings, we are reminded that real people were killed by the police – sometimes, it would appear, without due cause – in the spaces we inhabit in our day-to-day lives.
Will this new strategy reignite the outrage that followed many of these events and prompt the public to demand better scrutiny of our police force? And more importantly, will public outrage (hardly a precious commodity) be enough to address the root problems of these incidents, such as lack of access to jobs and higher education, high youth delinquency, and the systemic racism within the SPVM?