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Taking the Law to the Streets: Legal and Spatial Tactics Deployed in Public Spaces to Control Protesters and the Homeless in Montreal


Homeless people and protesters in Montreal have at least one thing in common: both groups (and they are by no means mutually exclusive) are routinely controlled for their occupation of public spaces through tickets issued by the municipal police for alleged violations of municipal by-laws (such as loitering, drinking alcohol in public, or unlawful assembly).

My doctoral research project brings a municipal and ethnographic dimension to the analysis of local governance of public spaces in Montreal. I argue that two specific groups of marginalized people –namely homeless people and protesters– are disproportionately ticketed by the municipal police because they are seen as disorderly people making atypical uses of public spaces. The ticketing practices, anchored in broken windows theory and order maintenance policing, serve to remove homeless people and protesters from public spaces. Under the appearance of inoffensive space management, serious exclusion occurs and multiple rights are violated. In the end, I show that banal and seemingly unthreatening legal processes, such as those involved in the issuing of tickets in Montreal, can have a profound impact on people’s lives but also on the way we construct public space and experience life in the city.

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