Earlier this evening, The Star reported on what might somehow rank as one of the strangest videos on YouTube. Recorded on Monday afternoon at the protests in Montebello, the video shows the tail end of a confrontation between Dave Coles (president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada) and three masked men who seem hell-bent on rilling up him, his fellow protestors (“old guys, grandmothers, grandfathers”), and the line of riot-ready police.
For a minute or so, it’s just Coles being a good samaritan, trying to stop a potentially violent confrontation and demanding that one of the men who picks up a rock put it down. It’s already extremely tense by the time that someone starts pointing at the masked protestors and chanting “policier!” Coles demands that the men take off their masks, and the majority of the crowd join him––some even reach for the bandannas themselves––and accuse the masked men of being cops, police provocateurs hired to start a riot. When Coles actually looks at one of the men dead-on and says, “you’re a police officer,” the masked men all freeze, seemingly dumb-struck. And then they kind of start being aggressive again, until a little over two minutes in, when there’s the weirdest police takedown you’ll probably ever see.
The video is a strange thing to watch: there’s absolutely nothing beyond circumstantial evidence and hearsay to suggest that the masked men are cops, but the whole thing just feels so off. Notably, this is not the first report of provocateurs from the protests: The Harper Index has several other equally strange stories, while The Star‘s article mentions (among other tidbits of accusatios) matching “yellow triangles” on several alleged provocateurs’ boots that match those on boots that police officers were wearing.
(Those triangles, by the way, almost certainly denote Canadian Standards Association–approved footwear for “light industrial work environments”––because, really, if you intend to fight cops in riot gear, you’re gonna want toe and puncture protection.) Some commenters have pointed out the the “yellow triangles” are not, in fact, CSA logos, but are really more like the octagon-shaped Vibram logo.
Hopefully the police learn their lesson from this and outsource all future actor/provocateur positions. There’s a good reason why there aren’t many famous cop-turned-actors out there, and God knows that ACTRA members could sure use some extra cash and a bit of nation-wide exposure.
UPDATE (August 23, 8:00 p.m.): The CBC is now reporting that Quebec police have admitted that “their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators,” but denied that “its undercover officers were there on Monday to provoke the crowd and instigate violence.” As one reader points out, however, in at least one instance the police’s (French) press release seems to contradict the video.
Thanks to reader Rebecca for tipping us off!