Register Thursday | May 19 | 2022

The Sound of the Police in Montreal North

Last night’s Hoodstock in Montreal North was hardly “the entertainment equivalent of a time bomb”—more like a family affair with fuck-the-police sentiment. Kids played in the grass while their parents danced or stared grimly at the performers, some of whom scarcely seemed past puberty themselves. My friend Danielle, a volunteer, was too busy doling out pop and hot dogs to chat. A teen made a swirl of cotton candy in one of those big spinning vats.

Fredy Villanueva was an unarmed 18-year-old from Montreal North whom police killed under extremely suspicious circumstances, one year ago this weekend. In addition to yesterday’s workshops and concerts, a commemorative march will move tonight to the parking lot where Villanueva was shot. Whether you believe that Villanueva’s killer reacted in self-defense to a perceived threat, or that last year’s events were merely the latest in this city’s long history of police impunity, the unfairness of the subsequent inquiry has done nothing to help the police’s case. The government cowed to pressure and announced that, whatever the inquiry determines, no criminal charges will be laid against the officers. The scope of the inquiry itself is extremely narrow, and the poverty, crime and tensions with police that mar Montreal North aren’t going away.

Last night, performers regularly made a “V” sign with their fingers; poignantly, it’s both “V” for Villanueva and a peace sign. The crowd made the sign back. Earlier reports implied the concert was swarming with officers, but the cops stayed to the edges, and the only time I felt unsafe was when I passed by one of their tight little cliques. "Who is going to accuse the police?” Villanueva’s father asks the Montreal Gazette. “They make the evidence, they destroy the evidence. They investigate themselves.” I am sure last night was not easy for the police. I am also sure that the anger of the Villanueva family, of the performers and crowd, is well placed.

The concert was held at Parc Aimé-Léonard on Montreal’s north shore, and the bicycle path along the island’s edge is truly beautiful at night. It includes one gut-wrenching stretch of total darkness, which, despite my fear of a head-on collision, I tore through. I mention the path not only because it afforded me a view of the Rivière des Prairies and the nearly-full moon; I also noted a clutch of empty police paddywagons a block or so from the concert, out of pedestrian sight in a dead end.