URP leaderboard June 2024

My trip to jail for reading 1984 on the metro (First-Hand Account)

Social Movements

Last Sunday, June 10, 2012, I attempted to take part in a protest-action: over the course of a few hours, I would take the metro back and forth from Berri to Jean-Drapeau station to peacefully protest my disagreement with the Formula 1 Grand Prix, which in my opinion promotes sexism.

Dressed in a flowered dress and with a bag full of dangerous objects such as an apple, a bottle of water and three books, I wanted to draw attention to the heightened police presence and the actions of the SPVM [Montreal police] who have themselves been like terrorists from the start of this conflict. I would read George Orwell’s 1984, a novel describing a society overtaken by a police state.

After having my bag searched upon my arrival at Berri-UQAM metro station, I took a seat in a subway car headed to Jean-Drapeau station, my book in hand. On my way back, I read facing a police officer and a woman was reading with me, over my shoulder. We had our picture taken and the police officer, seeing that we were two dangerous people, called for backup to meet us properly at Berri. With the other passengers in the car, we were placed against the wall and were subsequently taken outside, by the emergency exits, where we were told not to come back or we would be arrested. The police gave no answer when I asked what was wrong with reading in the metro.

I commited 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.

Police state? I’m ashamed of my Quebec.

  • Marilyne Veilleix, graduate student of Information Science at the University of Montréal

  • Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.


Unifor Leaderboard

Browse the Archive