More than 200 arrests in Montreal riot 0
The city's police chief says cops have to toe the line between protecting freedom of assembly while keeping the public order in cases like Thursday's protest that turned violent.
The anti-police brutality protest has been held in the city every year since 1997 and has degenerated into violence for several years in a row, including Thursday when hooligans attacked police officers and ordinary citizens while ransacking downtown stores.
"Damned if you do, damned if you don't," Montreal Police Chief Marc Parent told a news conference on Friday.
"We have to find the right time to intervene. All messages in our democracy have the right to be heard. There are always people who will take advantage of these situations to break, pillage, damage private property and also to damage police equipment."
Riot police were deployed around downtown prior to the start of a late-afternoon march that included masked members of the anarchist Black Bloc, a group that routinely provokes police in the city and elsewhere.
The crowd swelled to 1,000 people and the rally was declared illegal around 6:30 p.m.
Police arrested 226 people after a half dozen police officers were injured in confrontations with assailants, many of whom were wearing masks. One of the suspects had firecrackers, police said.
The riot squad used pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse rioters who had smashed windows and vandalized police cruisers, citizens' cars and an ambulance.
At least two civilians were also injured when they tried to stop the vandalism.
Montreal's police chief thanked citizens on Friday for sending in photos and videos that helped police to identify suspects. He also expressed concern about the tender age of some of the rioters.
"I have an appeal to parents," Parent said. "I think it's important to explain to our young people that if you do this sort of thing, I don't think your message will be heard. There are others ways to do it."
Parent said his officers were prepared for the violence and that some preventative arrests were made.
The Black Bloc has caused trouble at several protests in Montreal and Quebec City. The group also rioted in Toronto, where in the summer of 2010 members vandalized shops, banks and vehicles during the G20 Summit.
Cracking down on the anarchists has proven difficult, however.
The City of Montreal considered a ban on wearing masks in public, measures that are already in place in New York and Paris.
The initiative was dropped in 2010 following an outcry by civil liberties groups.