Statue of John A. Macdonald toppled during defund the police protest
MONTREAL -- Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the destruction of a statue of Canada's first prime minister during a defund the police rally on Saturday.
Just before 3 p.m. in Montreal, the often-vandalized statue of John A. Macdonald at Place du Canada in the heart of Montreal was toppled by protesters.
The protest was scheduled to demand a reduction in police funding.
Montreal police (SPVM) spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant confirmed that at around 2:45 p.m. the statue was toppled by protesters though police do not have any suspects at the moment.
SPVM officers asked protesters to leave the area over a loudspeaker once the statue was in pieces on the ground.
"People understood and they left," said Brabant.
In a statement, Plante said she strongly condemns "the acts of vandalism that took place this afternoon in downtown Montreal... Such gestures cannot be accepted or tolerated."
"We know that certain historical monuments, here and elsewhere, are at the heart of emotional debate. I reiterate that I prefer to put them in context rather than simply removing them. I am also in favour of adding monuments that will be more representative of the society to which we all aspire."
After the crowd dispersed, a perimetre was erected around the park.
No one was injured, and there were no other incidents during the protest, according to Brabant.
"The protest in general went really well," he said. "It's just the mischief at place du Canada that was a bit negative."
The statue has been the target of spray paint and vanalism many times over the past couple of years, as attention has been drawn to Canada's first Prime Minister's treatment of Indigenous and other marginalized peoples.
City of Montreal director of communications Youssef Amane said the Bureau d'art publique is taking custody of the statue.
"It's been badly damaged yesterday, (and) we still need to figure that out," he said. "With all the vandalism that has occured, just removing the paint has made the statue more fragile."
Newly elected Conservative leader Erin O'Toole criticized the actions of the protesters on Twitter.
The protesters in Montreal joined others across Canadian to demand a reduction in police funding.
The Coalition for BIPOC Liberation is calling for a 50 per cent reduction in the budget reserved for the police to invest instead "in black and Indigenous communities."
The group is also calling for the demilitarization of the police and "alternate community regulation to handle non-violent calls."
According to the group of activists, protests will also take place in Toronto, London, Montreal, Fredericton, Moncton and Halifax.
Calls to withdraw funding from police forces have multiplied in the United States, but also in Canadian cities since the death of George Floyd in the United States last May.
In a news release presented to the City of Montreal last week as part of a pre-budget consultation, the Fraternite des policemen et policieres de Montréal, which represents the 4,500 police officers of the SPVM, strongly opposed the defunding, saying that reducing the police budget will compromise public safety.
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2020.