Protesters in Montreal topple John A. Macdonald statue, demand police defunding


John A. Macdonald statue

MONTREAL — Protesters in Montreal toppled and defaced a statue of John A. Macdonald on Saturday at the end of a peaceful raly  in which  about 200 people marched to call for police defunding.

A spokesman for the Montreal police confirmed the statue of Canada’s first prime minister was unbolted, pulled down and sprayed with graffiti at around 2:45 p.m. The statue’s head disconnected from its body during the incident.

Jean-Pierre Brabant said police were on hand but did not intervene other than to ask the crowd to disperse on a loudspeaker.

He said no arrests were made.

Images from the event show a crowd of protesters marching in the rain under umbrellas and carrying signs bearing slogans such as “We demand change.”

The protest organizers, who call themselves the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation, are asking cities to reduce their police budgets by 50 per cent.

They said the diverted funds could be used to invest in alternatives to policing such as better mental health treatment, civilian conflict resolution services, and trauma-based emergency services.

But Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the vandalism of the statue of Macdonald, which she said could be neither tolerated nor accepted.

“I understand and share the motivation of citizens who want to live in a more just and inclusive society,” she said in a statement. “But the discussion and the acts to be taken must be done in a peaceful manner, without ever resorting to vandalism.”

She said the city’s public art office would secure the site and coordinate the statue’s preservation.

Calls to withdraw funding from police forces have multiplied in both Canada and the United States in the months after George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, was killed when a police officer pressed a knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes.

This set of protests follow a week that has seen major-league athletes strike over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back seven times by a police officer. Blake ,29,  was left paralyzed.

The John A. Macdonald statue, which sits in Montreal’s Place du Canada, has been repeatedly targeted by vandals who see it as a symbol of racism and colonialism.

The statue has regularly been doused in paint by critics who cite Macdonald’s role at the head of a government that created the Indian Act and established the residential school system, as well as his racist comments about Indigenous Peoples as reasons to target the monument.

Macdonald statues in other Canadian cities have been vandalized in a similar fashion.