Case Study: Police Brutality in LA vs Montreal. Perri McSpadden SOCG371 Section 2

Perri McSpadden

Reaction Paper 3

Section 02, SOCG 371

Police Brutality Protests: Montreal vs Los Angeles

For 20 years, The Collective Opposed to Police Brutality has held a march against police brutality in Montreal, Canada. In 2014 and 2015, these protests were shut down by police in the very early stages. The recent triggering events of police brutality include one civilian shooting in February of 2014 and a few other seemingly lesser (or at least less violent) offenses. The nature of the brutality in Montreal differs significantly from that of the US. The police preparation and response to protests is also much greater and more effective.

In March of 2014, the annual march against police brutality was begun by civilians in the streets of Montreal. According to CBC, the main triggering event for this protest despite its annual occurrence was an incident in which, “a police officer was captured on video in early January threatening to tie a homeless man to a pole… the officer was disciplined after the incident.” (2014.) Minutes after it began, Montreal police declared the protest to be illegal due to the organizers failure to provide an itinerary to the city for approval and asked all participants to vacate the area. This order was enforced by police officers on horseback and in riot gear, prepared for participants to disobey.

In VICE’s video account of the day, police herded protesters into a “police kettle” in which they were surrounded and corralled for hours in cold weather without adequate provisions. Police then carried out mass arrests, totaling almost 300. In the video’s discussion of police brutality, clips are shown of police officers engaging in physical violence (punching a protester,) and most notably, spraying down groups of people with what I assume to be pepper spray. There is no mention of unlawful shootings or other violence of that nature. No guns are visible at all, in civilian or police hands. The only mention of a police shooting that I came across is in CBC’s account of the 2015 protests, “Magloire was shot and killed by police on Feb. 3, 2014 outside the bus terminal on Berri and Ontario streets when he refused to drop the hammer he was wielding.” (2015.) Magloire’s death was also followed by the government releasing a strategy to prevent homelessness and increase homeless people’s access to healthcare.

The following year in 2015, the scheduled march was treated very similarly to the previous year. Police again used the argument that protesters failed to present an itinerary to declare the protest illegal and shut it down before it gained any steam on the streets. Protestors ignored the police order and tried to carry out the march anyway, but were quickly stopped by police. About 100 tickets were issued and 1 arrest was made. When all was said and done, a few police cars were vandalized but there was no other interpersonal violence or property damage.

These anti police brutality demonstrations in Montreal differ significantly from those across the United States in the nature of the police brutality being protested, police preparation and response, and the use of firearms. The nature of police brutality in Montreal seems less explosive than that in the US. Images of pepper spraying and some physical violence are shown in tandem with the Montreal protests as well as a description of police abuse of a homeless man is followed up by the fact that the officer was reprimanded. There is only one account of police shooting a civilian, Magloire, who was described as armed and aggressive. In recent US riots like those in Baltimore and Ferguson, there may be a history of police brutality, but the triggering events are the police shootings of unarmed young black men.

To contrast the Montreal protests with those in South Central Los Angeles in 1992, I look to chapter 7 of Race, Space, and Riots by Janet Abu-Lughod. The triggering events of the 1992 riots were the violent beating of a black man named Rodney King by four police officers and the subsequent acquittal of the involved and witnessing officers by a biased jury (page 229.) At the announcement of the verdict, riots broke out across Los Angeles, but focused in the South Central area (page 234.)

The Los Angeles Police Department was extremely underprepared for the response to the verdict. No real riot preparation was carried out and very few officers were on duty at the time. When violence broke out shortly after the verdict was announced, police were dispatched but then left without orders, forcing them to retreat. The police chief, Chief Gates, left the area altogether and gave all responsibility to his deputy. The police headquarters were the small number of on duty officers were gathered was attacked by rioters and officers were unable to venture out into the most violent and thus the areas in the most need of their services during the first night of the riots. California National Guard troops did not hit the streets for days after violence first broke out (pages 230-232.)

LA’s police response shows a complete lack of planning and leadership despite the obviously shocking and emotional verdict that was reached. Protests could be easily predicted but police leaders did nothing to mediate the anticipated backlash from citizens. This is very different from the extensive preparation of Montreal officers, who had riot gear and horses before the march even started, much less any possible violence. Montreal officers also had local government on their side and were able to declare the protests illegal on administrative terms which legitimated their presence and response. This contrast in police preparation might point to a differential in citizen control and effectiveness in crisis times between the two cities at those specific points in time. The underlying issues and triggers vary in strength as well; LA has a long history of police brutality and minority harassment. The sensational Rodney King verdict ignited deep and long-held frustration within the South Central community.

An important aspect to understanding the violence that ignites as well as the response to protests and riots in Canada and the US is firearm control. Rioting citizens in South Central were armed not only with bottles and bricks, but automatic handguns (LA Times, 1992.) Such firearms are prohibited in the nation of Canada. The guidelines on the website for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police describe prohibited firearms as any weapon that can discharge a 25 or 32 caliber cartridge or any automatic firearm of any kind. The 1992 riots resulted in at least 52 deaths and 2,383 injuries (Abu-Lughod, page 237) where as both the 2014 and 2015 Montreal protests resulted in zero deaths or injuries. It is hard to imagine that differential gun usage does not account for at least part of this difference. It may also account for the lack of the Montreal protests evolving into riots—if participants possessed firearms, they would have had the power to fight back against detaining police officers and incite great fear and violence among their fellow protestors as well as police.

The 1992 riots are painted by Abu-Lughod as a failure of police control in the face of massive public anger. The situation is much different in recent Montreal history; protests that were considered to have the possibility of violence and rioting were controlled before they could gain any traction. I will not argue that either situation was “the right thing do;” in hindsight, LA police could have done more to control the riots and help those that needed it had leadership allowed them, and Montreal’s police action may have fed into the very issue protesters were upset about. It is not a comparison of who did better, but who did what and why.


Works Cited

Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

CBC News. “March against Police Brutality Declared Illegal, Broken up.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 16 Mar. 2014. Web.

CBC News. “Montreal March against Police Brutality Ends with 1 Arrest, 94 Tickets.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 16 Mar. 2015. Web.

Kelly, Amanda. “Why Should We Care about Alain Magloire?” Global News. Shaw Media, 12 Jan. 2015. Web.

“1 Arrest, 94 Tickets at Montreal March against Perceived Police Brutality.” CTV News. Canadian Press, 15 Mar. 2015. Web.

“Prohibited Firearms.” Royal Canadian Mounted Police. N.p., 4 Sept. 2015. Web.

“Protesting Police Brutality in Montreal.” VICE. VICE Media LLC, 2014. Web.

Soble, Ron. “Going Great Guns : Security: The L.A. Riots Trigger a Firearms-buying Spree in the County. First-time Owners Drive the Boom in Sales.” Los Angeles Times. N.p., 17 Aug. 1992. Web.

Perri McSpadden SOCG 371 Section 2 Reaction Paper 2: Consolidated Plan for Richmond, VA 2011-2012

The City of Richmond, VA released a Consolidated Action Annual Plan for the fiscal year of 2011-2012. The writing of the Plan is attributed to the Department of Economic and Community Development as well as the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization. The plan discusses many aspects of community development and revitalization however the focus of this paper will be on citizen participation, the role of non-profits, and public housing.

The entire plan lays out the housing, economic, and community initiatives that the city plans to undertake or continue during the year. The Executive Summary states that, “As in previous planning years, the City continues to embark on its community development efforts in partnership with our departmental agencies, local non-profits and local and state quasi-governmental organizations.” (Plan pg. 1.) The city lists over a dozen non-profits and around 5 governmental/city agencies that they intend to work with to carry out the Consolidated Plan. Richmond entered into public-private partnerships prior to the publishing of this plan and intends to continue to use those partnerships to bridge the gap between citizens’ needs for assistance and the city’s budget.

In Chapter 3 of Arena’s Driven from New Orleans, Arena points to the non-profits who acted as guides to the St. Thomas development as to blame its eventual fall. His argument is that non-profits took away the residents’ main power of political mobilization and agitation by advising them to work with developers. The non-profits viewed privatization as inevitable, so they encouraged residents to get on board and work with the developers with the hope that they might get some of their needs met by being cooperative. The process of privatization of public services also lets the government off the hook for services that it is responsible for providing. This makes the privatization of public services via the public-private partnerships discussed by the Consolidated Plan for Richmond, VA a major weakness of the plan.

The citizen participation section indicates the following responsibilities of the city regarding citizen participation: “1. Provide a summary of the citizen participation process. 2. Provide a summary of citizen comments or views on the plan. 3. Provide a summary of efforts made to broaden public participation in the development of the consolidated plan, including outreach to minorities and non-English speaking persons, as well as persons with disabilities. 4. Provide a written explanation of comments not accepted and the reasons why these comments were not accepted.” (Plan pg. 12-13.) One of the themes in Driven from New Orleans is the importance of citizen participation, if not control, of community development. The residents of St. Thomas and the surrounding area developed STICC (Arena pg. 60-64) in order to oversee the social services being offered to them. STICC represents a form of citizen participation by citizens that the local government has excluded from the processes of development. The specific outreach to minorities is a positive in these responsibilities however there are not many opportunities for any citizens to be involved in the drafting of the Plan. Only two public hearings were held for citizens to share their opinions (Plan pg. 13) and there is no evidence that citizens had any opportunity for formal participation or leadership within the Department of Economic and Community development—another weakness of the Plan in terms of inclusion of citizens in the planning process.

In the housing section of the plan, it is stated that the city will redevelop two public housing projects and that, “The Department of Social Services will continue to be a resource as residents work to increase economic self-sufficiency.” (Plan pg. 19.) The commitment to redevelop public housing projects instead of removing them shows a significant ideological difference between Richmond and New Orleans. This commitment to improving public housing is a strength of the plan however the added focus on self-sufficiency is an issue.

Arena describes the late 1960’s and 1970’s shift in New Orleans towards the idea of self-help, or greater control by residents of public housing projects (Arena pg. 57.) This seems like a positive plan that would increase citizen participation and power, however the intention to “wean them off government dependence” (Arena pg. 57) is harmful. As discussed in class, “weaning” is a term used exclusively about babies. Treating independent adults like babies that need to be weaned is demeaning. Despite this, St. Thomas residents fully supported the self-help efforts that were encouraged by the government and their non-profit leaders. The focus on self-sufficiency in the Consolidated Plan has the potential to be a weakness of the Plan due to the connotations of weaning, however it can also be a strength by providing more power to residents of public housing over their developments. Execution is everything in self-help efforts and the Richmond Plan does not lay out how their self-sufficiency plans will be carried out.

The housing and citizen participation sections of the Consolidated Plan have both positive and negative aspects in terms of Arena’s argument in Driven from New Orleans. However, the public-private partnerships are a major weakness that Arena would reject because of his thesis that non-profits’ support and encouragement of privatization was the cause of public housing’s removal from New Orleans. As of 2015, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s website claimed that  “RRHA, through its Property Management and Assisted Housing rental housing program, serves nearly 10,000 residents in approximately 4,100 public housing units and through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Section 8) provides housing assistance to nearly 3,000 families.” The continued support of public housing developments is a fundamental difference between Richmond and New Orleans; it doesn’t look like Richmond’s projects are under any (immediate) threat of removal.


Works Cited

Arena, John. Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2012. Print.

Department of Economic and Community Development, and Division of Neighborhood Revitalization. “Consolidated Action Annual Plan For Fiscal Year 2011-2012.” The City of Richmond. 2011. Web. <>.

“RRHA Departments.” RRHA. Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, n.d. Web. <>.

Perri McSpadden, SOCG 371, Section 2: Discrimination and Power: College Communities.

What kind of effect does discrimination have on the average college student? Discrimination is a pervasive problem on college campuses that has been around for decades. It effects minority students more than non-minorities, however it casts a dark shadow over the entire campus. Discrimination also represents a power imbalance within a campus community between groups of students. One way to right that balance is for the oppressed students to engage in activism. Scholarly literature suggests that students who experience personal discrimination may then participate in activism as a response. Many use it as a coping mechanism to deal with the experience. A consequence of this discrimination -> activism relationship is the empowerment of the oppressed student group within the community. Discrimination and Power: College Communities

Perri McSpadden, SOCG 371 Section 2: Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis: Political Machines

Political machines and bosses ran rampant in the late 19th and into the 20th century, controlling the local governments of multiple major US cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Offenses like corruption, inefficiency, and minority abuses were par for the course, but political machines and bosses also provided some positives to their communities. They socialized and Americanized immigrants, provided welfare services in areas where the federal and state government lacked, and facilitated urban development. It looks like the scales were balanced between the positive and negative consequences of machine actions. Why then, do we remember them as the big bad wolf? Were machines as bad as history books remember them as, or do they deserve some praise as well?

Kweit and Kweit describe the four major characteristics of political machines as having a disciplined party hierarchy, control over nominations for office to control those in office, party leadership that usually does not hold office, and a support base that is maintained by a mixture of material and non-material rewards. A machine’s manifest function is to get candidates elected while its latent functions include the provision of welfare services and the socialization of immigrants. Kweit and Kweit argue that public displeasure with machines leads to urban reforms, and that this happened in the post-World War II era. Contributing factors to the decline of political machines, most specifically the Tammany Hall machine in New York City, included the expanded role of the government into welfare provision, the assimilation of immigrants, demographic changes, economic restructuring, demand for civil service employment, and reform movements in the social, electoral, and administrative sectors. (Kweit and Kweit, Political Machines.)

Steffens’ muckraking article centering on Philadelphia politics describes his feelings of disgust about the corrupt structure of machines in American cities. He titles Philadelphia, “the worst governed city in the country.” The mayor of the city, James McManes, is a major machine boss. “Bullitt Law” gives all power to the mayor and none to the people which allows the machine to exploit the city and everyone in it. The machine controls every aspect of the political process, down to the way citizens’ votes are cast, which lets the machine profit off of the entire system. (Steffens, Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented.)

While Steffens’ piece is much more passionate than Kweit and Kweit’s, both are against machines. Kweit and Kweit offer a more holistic look at the structure and functions of machines but through the lens of corruption and their inevitable demise. Steffens shows how an extremely corrupt (however extremely efficient) machine at its height goes through the processes that Kweit and Kweit define and also how detrimental the fallout can be for the citizens who get ignored or abused by it. Steffens shows that while machines might have some positive consequences (welfare, socialization, etc.), that’s not what they intended. The end goal is either the next election or material gain.

In Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, there is a different perspective to be considered in the machine debate. George Washington Plunkitt vehemently defends political machines, as he was a powerful and influential Tammany Hall machine leader for his entire life. Plunkitt starts off by explaining the difference between honest and dishonest graft, arguing that he has never earned a dishonest dollar in his life. He simply takes the opportunities that are offered to him, even if that involves taking advantage of someone else. He curses civil service reform and says it will never last, draws great distinctions between ethnicities, praises patronage, and discourages aspiring politicians from going to college. (Riordon, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall.)

Plunkitt’s piece echoes many machine boss stereotypes. It also shows that bosses and leaders were able to treat corruption and power abuse like simple everyday things with no consequences, which for machine bosses, there usually weren’t.  Plunkitt’s attitude is one of entitlement. He feels he’s earned his position through “honest graft” that doesn’t seem very honest to the people he took advantage of. He refers to groups of immigrants not as people, but as pawns for him to use at his leisure which shows that machines didn’t intend to help those in need but that it was a happy consequence.

Kweit and Kweit, Steffens, and Plunkitt describe the workings and consequences of machines in differing tones but the themes that emerge are the same: corruption, greed, and a lack of true compassion for minorities and the poor. The fact that the help that was given to new immigrants (welfare and socialization) is categorized as a “latent function” by Kweit and Kweit, which can be interpreted to mean an unintended consequence, is evidence enough that machines were out for only profit and power. It might be worth mentioning the positive consequences that came out of their actions, but their corruption and inefficiency should never be overshadowed by happy accidents.