Jailed for Reading 1984

Grad Student Marilyne Veilleix shares a riveting encounter with Montreal law enforcement during her own personal protest of the F1 Grand Prix. Her plan was to ride the metro back and forth while reading George Orwell’s 1984, a novel describing life under a totalitarian regime known as Big Brother. Seems harmless enough, right?

Unfortunately the mere act of nonviolent civil disobedience is enough to get you incarcerated now that a police state has descended upon Montreal.

Riding the subway, reading her provocative book while sitting across from a police officer, someone took her photograph. This was enough to incense the cop, who promptly called for backup. The troops summoned, Marilyne and others were placed against the wall and then escorted out of the metro. They were told that if they returned they would be arrested with no explanation as to why they were kicked out in the first place.

Marilyne describes what happened next:

I committed a terrible act of civil disobedience by going back down into the station and returning to read in a subway car.  When the police officers saw me eating my apple, they shouted at me that they recognized my tattoos and came after me.  I asked them what I had done wrong, other than peacefully reading, and they said that I had disobeyed police orders.  I asked my question again, asking what was wrong with reading in the metro, and I got no answer.  I was put under arrest and the two police officers did a high five to congratulate themselves on their good work.

I was transported, as if I were a criminal, to the SPVM detention centre in downtown Montreal, where they took mug shots.  After confiscating my personal belongings, the officers took me took cell 52, where there were already three other women.  I spent the day behind bars, in a cell with a dirty toilet, sleeping on a bench, without knowing when I would be released.  All this for reading in a subway car, and then repeating this revolutionary act.  Around 3:30 PM, I was released with a citation telling me that all this circus was for a charge of refusing to circulate.

Now you just know some people, upon hearing this story, will feel like that damn hippie got what she deserved. Not only did she antagonize the officer initially with the book, she went on to clearly defied a police order. Lock that bitch up!

But, here in Canada where education ranks amongst the best in the world, you better believe that most of us see something terribly wrong with what happened to Marilyne. It has taken so little for freedom to evaporate and for society to decay into a police state. And look just how quickly law enforcement snatch up any opportunity to exercise authority over their fellow humans.

A few months ago, a college aged person reading a book on the subway would not provoke a response. But now that police have the pretense that there is a war of sorts going on, anyone who fits the bill as a potential threat is fair game. Young? Check. Engaged mindset? Check. Sporting a red square or maybe just some tattoos? Check. Okay, release the Kraken!

If there’s anything to be learned is just how important it is to keep police powers in check right now. Sure, during peace time when everything is relatively calm, law enforcement will keep a low profile. But given a green light, these same personnel can become a free society’s worst enemy, cracking down at the slightest sign of dissent.

This is why we need to speak out against the ham-handed use of police force in Montreal. Just like we need to follow through on punishing cops who overstepped during the G-20 summit. The more we hold power-tripping law enforcement accountable to the public, the less abuse will happen in the future, and the better protected will our freedoms be.

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