Sunday, October 7, 2012

Montreal Student Protests

Back during Victoria day weekend Aaron and I made a trip out to Montreal for a friend's bachelor party. After a few days of drinking and staring at titties it was almost time do go home. On the last night, the bachelor, Chris realized that he hadn't gotten his fiancee anything and decided to make a last minute effort to get her a decent bottle of wine.

Deciding for a change of scenery (The rented apartment was getting a little stale for me), I decided to go with Chris and a friend of his named Jamie walked up through the streets of Montreal and see what we could get. Personally, I thought Chris was worried about nothing. If she's going to get upset over you not bringing home a memento from your bachelor party, a time where all your friends are paying for your lap dances and a chance to see the lesbian show...then she's not really worth it.

How many of you guys are thinking about wine for your girlfriend right now?

Anyway, the liquor store was closed so I told Chris, "You bought her a bottle of wine, but you just forgot it back in Montreal."
Realizing that this fib was believable enough to be true (I'm a fucking genius) Chris began to feel better and we made our way back to the apartment. As we made our way down the streets, we began to hear police sirens close by.
"Oh, sweet, it's the protesters again," I cheered and dashed off towards the noise.
Sure enough there were hundreds of people walking through the streets. 

When our taxi took us to the most overrated nightclub in Montreal the previous night, at a red light a police van stopped beside us and emptied several cops all decked out in riot gear. It got so bad that at one point Aaron's taxi was blocked and he and a few others had to walk to the bullshit-iest night club I've ever been in. Note to any future nightclub owners: Smoke machines do NOT bring in customers. 

What a great investment

So I took off leaving Chris and Jamie shouting after me. Was it stupid to be running towards a potentially dangerous situation? Probably. But I saw that stupid and decided to raise it a potential damage to valuable property by running back to the apartment to grab my video camera and regular camera. When I found Chris and Jamie I told them I planned to go out and get some pictures.

"Are you crazy?" Chris asked. "You're gonna get mugged."
"You think someone's going to try and steal this with all these cops around?" I asked as a police helicopter flew overhead. 
"Good point."
I've never really been scared about getting into situations like that. I've had douchebag pussy union thugs threaten to smash my camera and follow me around like they wanted to reach out and grab my ass, I've been with arms length of scream fanatical Nazis. So running towards a bunch of students who were upset about their tuition going up wasn't really scaring me. 

I began to follow a battalion of officers as they marched up one neighbourhood and filmed them from the rear. Despite going to school for journalism, my filming abilities during this encounter were up to the standard of The Blair Witch Project. In fact when I showed the footage later someone asked, "Schweitzer, what's up with this Blair Witch shit?"
"There are so many French people around...I'm so scared!"

As I kept filming I noticed that a few cops kept looking my way and before I even knew what was happening, one of the officers broke out of his line and began walking towards me. I shut off the video camera and held out my hands to show that I had it off and the officer went back into formation.

I'm sure a lot of you are asking: "Schweitzer-Man, why didn't you just stand your ground? There's nothing illegal about filming police."
Indeed there isn't. However, I'm going to guess that this cop spoke primarily French and wasn't going to accept my argument of "freedom of the press". If anything, he probably thought I was a college student, trying to get a good look at the faces of some cops for some sort of retaliatory action against "the man".

"Non, vous ne pouvez pas me prendre en photo!"

As soon as the officer was done trying to intimidate me (I turned the camera back on as soon as he turned his back), his battalion began running and chanting "move". Well...that or "moo". Personally I don't know why they had to shout it. If a bunch of riot cops are running towards you like Stormtroopers, the smart thing to do is to run out of the way. 

So I kept tailing, my camera eventually shutting itself down because I was running so much. I was keeping my distance. Eventually the battalion just stood around on the street and I pretended to be some local Quebecois and hopefully not draw attention while I took some bad pictures. 
If this doesn't get me a Pulitzer, nothing will. 

Eventually I finally got to the main protest scene, a strange place to be. A lot of chanting from the protesters, most of it in French, someone kept beating on a drum, and police sirens were illuminating the area making it look like something out of a sci-fi movie. I started taking much better pictures at this point mainly because I wasn't worried about my targets moving away from me and also the protesters didn't care about having their pictures taken. Hell, I think most of them were there for that reason alone.

"Ne craignez rien, mes amis, car je vais tenir la ligne contre la police."

This diamond in the sky isn't a star. It's the light from a police helicopter that hovered over us for a while. I felt like Henry Hill near the end of Goodfellas.

"Un fourgon de police semble être l'endroit parfait pour se reposer mon cul. Psst, je suis un dur à cuire."

The police out of nowhere just started marching towards us, clearing everyone off the sidewalks and streets. 
"Allez, move back," someone near me shouted and I decided to follow despite being probably just ten meters away from the approaching authorities.
"Never a dull moment," I mused to another photographer beside me. Meanwhile the protesters began chanting, "Pas justice, pas paix! Fuck le police!"

After probably fifty meters of retreating, I heard what sounded like a broom handle drop on the ground a few feet away from me. As I turned my head and my camera, I saw a cop grab some chubby girl by the back of the neck while she screamed in French. Another cop ran over and began striking her on the arm with his club as they dragged her away from the viewing public and dragged her to the ground while witnesses shouted "Ridicule!"
I was a bit stunned as I watched it happened and wanted to move closer but the remaining cops were going to do the same and probably wouldn't give a shit about me wanting to see what was happening. I have no idea who the woman was or what she did.

"Attention, elle n'est pas armé!"

All while this was going on I would occasionally text Aaron and let him know what was going on just so he wasn't worried about me possibly being trampled in the protests. Also because I wanted to know when they were going to the strip club right across the street from where we were staying. 

Eventually we got to the end of the block and the protesters began to hold their ground as the police slowed their advance. There was a group of guys all dressed in white who got down on the ground on their knees and put their hands behind their heads. To be honest, they probably could have passed for KKK had there not been a black guy in their ranks.

I honestly have no idea what this was all about

Eventually everything relaxed and I began walking with some of the protesters with a few police tailing us when all of a sudden there was a pop! pop! pop! in the air and they sounded like gunshots. We all took off running and to this day I have no idea what it was that went off or why. It may have been a firecracker. 

The battery on my camera was dying and I decided to head back to the apartment. It was getting really hot and now I realized I had a new problem: I was lost. After navigating the streets and avoiding anyone who might want to rob my unsuspecting ass. I made it back to the apartment, showed my video (particularly the part where the girl got clubbed) and afterwards we went to one of the worst strip clubs I've ever been to. I've never seen so many naked women walk around and do nothing to make a guy want a lap dance. 

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