[Deep Breath] Okay. Time to kick things off in down town Montreal. [Second Deep Breath] Here we go:
Then came a sudden screeching of tires and gunshots in the air, as a disordered convoy of pickup trucks and cars roared onto the streets. Men, mostly, waving rifles and shotguns. In what seemed only a moment, other groups of vehicles appeared across the inner city.
I may have mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating here. This is 0715 hrs in downtown Montreal. Morning rush hour. For the non-Canadians reading this, Montreal is famous for some of the most…shall we say…exciting traffic scenes in Canada. Out of all the major cities in Canada, Toronto has gridlock, Montreal has gridlock, aggressive driving, and a really counter-intuitive street layouts.
In simple terms, keeping a convoy together on the streets of Montreal, and arriving at a designated location on time is not happening. In a matter of a few blocks they would find themselves split up as they got caught at lights or cut off by aggressive drivers. And that’s assuming that all the driver know where they’re going. Even with GPS I’ve had my share of surprises with streets that turned out to be “One Way” or turns that just didn’t exist. Maybe it’s my Ottawa driving speaking, but Montreal is something else.
Going fast enough to cause tires to screech is just begging for an accident.
Everywhere, piles of tires thrown from the trucks soon barricaded Peel at Sherbrooke over to St-Denis, south to Rene-Levesque, and for several blocks in other directions. Cars and small trucks parked nearby were commandeered, pushed across into the traffic, and overturned, adding to the barricades.
So here’s the intersections we’re talking about:
This is a major chunk of the downtown core, meaning that there will be thousands of people trying to get in at 0715 hrs in the morning. Hell, one of the campuses for McGill University makes up their north-west perimeter, so that’s thousands of young people right there. We already talked about the huge challenge that seizing a chunk of a major city would present here, so I’m not going to re-hash it now. But this is going to take a lot of manpower to hold even temporarily.
And I’m not even talking about sealing off this piece of Montreal and holding it against the police, which is what Alex Gabriel is planning for Winnipeg. I mean just blocking these four intersections and maintaining an all around defence. You’re going to need 20+ people per barricade to provide a basic all-around defence. Factor in some kind of command element and echelon, you’re looking at over a hundred people.
On top of that, these are physically big intersections. Even if you’re just trying to block the roads themselves, that’s going to take some time and effort. And they will have to block the sidewalks as well. Don’t tell me a Montreal commuter would balk at jumping the curb because a bunch of natives had blocked the street.
This means a couple of things. One is that it’s going to take time (this will be especially important shortly). Just off-loading a bunch of tires is going to be a huge pain in the ass and probably involve some arguing and shouting. Car-jacking a bunch of vehicles and repositioning them to form parts of your barricades is also going to time, and add to the confusion when other vehicles try to escape. Either commuters will hit the gas and try to drive through before they can be stopped, or they will try to turn around (regardless of how much space is available) and go the other way. Meanwhile, more cars, unaware of the danger, would be arriving. There’s a good chance you would start getting all sorts of fender-benders and maybe even some serious accidents in front of those growing barricades.
The second big question is where did these Warriors come from? If it was from outside the city, there’s no way they could have reached their targets in a timely manner. A more likely possibility is that the Warriors infiltrated the city during the overnight, and concealed themselves in staging areas until dawn. That would still be a high risk plan, given that downtown Montreal doesn’t really sleep and a hundred plus armed people with vehicles takes up a lot of space. Even after the businesses are closed there’s going to be police and private security guards all over the place. Especially in times like these.
But let’s allow that they found a perfect staging area, where the Warriors could wait close to their targets. Let’s allow that at the crack of dawn they were able to roll out, travel just a few blocks, then deploy. Even then, they are going to stick out like sore thumbs. Pickup trucks full of gun toting weirdos are going to quickly be spotted, even at night when traffic is at its lightest. First thing in the morning? It’s going to blow the lid off the city. People are going to start calling 911, and while a few might babble incoherently there’s going to be enough who will keep their head enough to give a good description of what they’re seeing. (This will also be important in a moment.)
“Warriors,” some in native costume or long braids, nearly all wearing kerchiefs over their faces as masks, mounted the barricades and fired a few brief, deliberately harmless shots over the crowd.
The once merely curious commuters froze, incredulous. The warriors, too, stood still, seemingly unsure what to do next. Then the crowd stampeded. In a moment, chaos filled the downtown streets of Montreal. Paper coffee cups, newspapers, bags and cases hit the pavement as the curious scattered outwards from the bomb site. Then, by some primordial signal, they became a crowd, a mob, surging this way and that in a pack. A few more bullets buzzed overhead, and people began to duck near cars or dash into shops and office buildings, breaking windows and doors in their panic, some accidentally slashing themselves on broken glass, spreading blood and mayhem. Others froze in the middle of streets, crouching hiding their heads beneath coast and sweaters. A whining noise, faint at first, then growing intense, filled the air.
In case you’re wondering, that whining noise is the incoming police cars, even though the way the sentence ends the paragraph implies that the sound is coming from the people freezing up in the middle of the streets and then just wailing mindlessly.
For fuck’s sake.
For starters, I just want to show this picture from the London Subway bombings. Although he didn’t do anything especially dramatic, his dude is my hero:
Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty good example of “panic” in a real life attack. The man pictured here was likely carrying the newspaper with him when the bomb went off. And he held onto it as he fled to safety, as he was being treated at the casualty collection point, and as he was photographed waiting around to be evacuated. I would be willing to bet that if asked, he would turn out to be one of those people who was very conscientious about throwing out his garbage rather than littering. In a moment of stress this instinct came through.
I normally hate motivational slogans that boil complex aspects of human nature down into annoyingly trite little catch-phrases, but there’s one that I whole-heartedley agree with: “You don’t rise to the level of your expectations, you sink to the level of your training.” This guy carried a newspaper every working day of his life. He didn’t litter. When a bomb went off his instincts kicked in, and one of those instincts was to not drop his newspaper on the ground like a douche.
This is why things like fire drills are so very important, and why even basic first aid training can make a huge difference in a crisis. In an emergency, we will go with whatever instincts have been drilled into us. Even really simple things like ‘move to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion‘ can save lives.
Here, though, it’s not a case of sudden shots getting fired from nowhere. These Warriors have been in plain sight, carrying their weapons openly for several minutes at least. By now there should be dozens of people on the phone to 911, the operators of which would have instructed the callers (if they haven’t done so already) to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. By the time the barricades were up there would already be a wave of movement as shocked and frightened commuters hurried away.
The first police car, lights flashing, siren wailing, slid into the intersection at Peel north of Sherbrooke, and warriors, standing carelessly along sidewalks or in pickup truck beds, riddled its bumper and front tires with bullets. The police officers threw themselves out of the car and scrambled for scant shelter behind the vehicle, radioing frantically for backup as they did so.
I don’t want to get too far off topic (especially since the latter case is still ongoing), but there have been a couple of really infamous recent events in Canada regarding police response to a mass shooting. In the city of Moncton in 2014 and in rural Nova Scotia in 2020, there were dangerous breakdowns in police communications with police failing to communicate with each other and the general public. In both cases a lack of communication led to an uncoordinated RCMP responses, resulting in several constables (and in the Nova Scotia shooting, a number of civilians) getting killed.
So (for the sake of being completely fair) it’s not implausible for a vital link in the police chain of communication to fail, resulting in a disastrous first response. However, given that there are likely dozens of 911 callers, and that this is happening as a culmination of months of First Nations-centred violence and a week of bombings and riots, I would call it improbable. They may not be expecting this, but they should be expecting something. So should the commuters for that matter.
Within seconds, various first-responders – fire-fighters, paramedics, other police officers – alerted by a babel of 911 calls from dozens of terrified pedestrians, rolled into the area only to be caught in the ambush. A few were wounded immediately. Most escaped their vehicles and ran for cover. Eventually, as the police force grew, cops regrouped in the shelter of various buildings and organized themselves to return fire on the barricades, but they were massively out-gunned by the warriors. The centre of Montreal became Bagdad for a day.
So paramedics have the expression: “Never run past the dead cop.” The logic being that wherever you’re coming from is likely safe, therefore whoever killed the cop is somewhere up ahead. The cop had a gun, and you don’t. Therefore you’re not likely to get much further than the cop did. So don’t try. This kind of grim humour reflects the fact that first responders regularly have to consider the risks of violence in their daily lives. Any call could potentially turn out to contain a risk of violence, so paramedics and firefighters are going to be vigilant as they approach.
The same scene was repeated in other parts of the city, at Highway 10 and University Avenue and Rue Guy, and on the major roads into the city. The Victoria and Jacques-Cartier bridges over the St. Lawrence were instantly closed down. Barricades appeared to drop from the heavens onto the roads. Heavily armed warriors took control of the city’s core.
The media soon picked up the theme – intifada had come to Quebec as the native storm swept over other cities and towns from Sherbrooke to Chicoutimi. The major border crossings into the United States were barricaded on the Canadian side from Akwesasne in the west through Fort Covington, Highway 15, and at Abercorn, Stanstead, south of Coaticook, and at Woburn and east to Highway 173. Scattered bombings, the most serious near the front gates of CFB Valcartier, took place in various regions. And in some areas, as the day wore on, spontaneous attacks on government offices and the SQ broke out.
It’s not clear if this is the car bomb that Molly’s been talking about for a couple of days now, nor if it was detonated in response by an attempt by the R22ièmeR to deploy into the cities (this would be a pretty respectable response time by the military if so). There’s no mention of casualties resulting from the bomb, but regardless it would be throwing down the gauntlet for the Van Doos (and all other Canadian soldiers) that this was life and death. With Afghanistan so recent in the institutional memory, the presence of any IEDs would immediately crank the aggression and paranoia levels up to eleven.
Molly Grace and her staff had anticipated a violent reaction from les Quebecois once trouble started, and as soon as it did, their agents contacted various native leaders, most of whom were as shocked and opposed tot he uprising as any other citizen, advising them to block access into their communities and organize armed forces to protect themselves from “retaliation by the French.” Such attacks were not long in coming. By late in the day, there were reports of violence, burnings, and sieges at dozens of native villages across the province.
I’m including the last paragraph of this section even though it’s going to require it’s own separate discussion. This is largely because it amounts to Bland hand-waving away what is probably one of the most crucial factors in any native rebellion in Canada: What happens when the ‘white’ population reacts? You can talk about ‘political correctness’ and ‘white guilt’ all you want, but at some point people are going to die. When that happens, other people will lash out and that’s going to instantly polarize everything.
This whole section in Montreal is barely a thousand words long. And as I wrap up this post, I’m realizing that I have to add another sub-section to discuss the last paragraph. Fuck.
***Today’s Featured Image is from the excellent South Korean zombie film ‘Train to Busan’ (2016, New Entertainment World). Unlike other inferior zombie movies from the time period, Train to Busan relied more on practical effects, making it the closest thing we’re likely to get to a realistic depiction of this scene in Uprising. (Screenshots taken from Shudder.com)***
 I’d also be willing to be that someone might even go so far as to run one of the Warriors over, but that’s getting into the hypothetical.
 By the late-2000s cell phones were pretty much ubiquitous in Canada. Smart phones weren’t quite at full saturation (the Blackberry with the physical keyboard was still king, but the iPhone was muscling its way in), but your basic flip phone was everywhere.
 And realistically, some of the Warriors should still be fighting their way through traffic, just to get to their objectives.
 We also know there’s a couple of Banks in the area. Most of these wouldn’t be open yet, but if their security staff noticed what was going on they would likely unlock their doors to let people take shelter inside, while in turn activating their own emergency protocols. The same would likely apply to transit officials in the subway system.
 Bland doesn’t deserve any credit, though, since both these events happened years after Uprising was published.