Calls for public inquiry on violence in Victoriaville
Published Wednesday, May 9, 2012 8:54PM EDT
Community groups and opposition party members are calling for a public inquiry into the way Surete du Quebec officers behaved in Victoriaville during a violent clash with student demonstrators this weekend.
Three students suffered serious head injuries after demonstrating outside the Liberal convention.
By many accounts, the Victoriaville protest was among the most violent demonstrations in Quebec in recent years.
"Everything was completely a mess," said Marie Blais of the Quebec Federation of Teachers. "We were just protesting very quietly. The people were just there doing nothing and then came the rubber bullets."
Concordia University TV journalist William Ray recorded an incident that ended in a young man suffering a serious head injury, but he couldn't confirm if the victim was shot with a plastic bullet by police.
"I saw him as he started to fall," said Ray. "No, I did not see the projectile hit him."
Police were quick to use tear gas, said some protesters, and as a result, hundreds of people were overcome. Critics also said police blocked protesters in, making it difficult for ambulances to get through the melee.
"The people couldn't even get away from the convention centre and they were vomiting," said Johanne Nasstrom of the Coalition Opposing Privatization of Public Services. "They were sick and some people were disoriented."
Police, however, paint a much different picture of the scene.
"Even as police were setting up, some protesters fired billiard balls, steel ball bearings and rocks," said Surete du Quebec spokesperson Michel Brunet, confirming that police responded by firing plastic bullets.
"They were never fired at head or near any vital organs," he said. "The goal is to do what's necessary to make them withdraw."
Police maintain they had no choice but to use riot tactics because the situation was extremely dangerous and police were being injured.
"They threw thousands of projectiles at us. We only fired about 30 plastic bullets," said Brunet.
Quebec Solidaire blames the Charest government for not limiting the use of plastic bullets, and is now calling for an independent public inquiry into the events that transpired in Victoriaville
"In any circumstance, there might be a small group making trouble. The role of the police is to control and make sure everyone is secure," said Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir.
Public Security Minister Robert Dutil said the SQ is reviewing videos of the violence, and
police will provide more answers when they hold a news conference Thursday.
Riot police stand in a cloud of teargas, protecting a perimeter from riioters as the Quebec Liberal Party is meeting Friday, May 4, 2012 Victoriaville, Quebec. A violent standoff erupted on the streets of a small city where Quebec's governing party was holding its weekend convention, as protesters and provincial police rained physical abuse on each other Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
More students had amassed Saturday afternoon at the Liberal convention in Victoriaville. They are seen here chanting just prior to the announcement of a tentative deal struck with the government.