30th April, 2012 (Montreal) Seeing as I was the one who shot the first video of the man who got run over by a cab on Saturday night, I want to send my wishes of compassion to everybody involved.
First off, of all the media interviews I've done, only the Radio outlets and French TVA ran everything I had to say. A lot of context has been missed, and much more is still to develop.
So here is my account (I have not edited it as more information on the incident is gathered. I have left comments on the letters section regarding any further developments.)
It began with the slamming of a door, and ended with somebody fighting for his life. The video has over 230,000 hits at time of writing, proving it has compelling power over the viewer.
This was one of the most odd sights I've ever recorded as a journalist, activist and football fan. I've seen riots, frays and all sorts of mob situations and this one had an air about it that seemed all too familiar.
The incident hits home to me for special reasons. First off, the man who got ran down is my neighbour. Secondly, I saw the event from the beginning, where each party was still innocent of so much, still not aware of how much violence they were about to incite.
My first empathy went to the cab driver. The front seat passenger got out, and slammed the door so hard I thought a car had crashed behind me. I had been on my way home from painting a mural with THE STADIUM ART MOVEMENT [see here] and was about to enter my apartment building when the cab driver jumped out of the cab with a furious look on his face. Certainly the door had been slammed extraordinarily hard, and certainly the driver had a right to be upset about this.
The passenger, my neighbour (although I was not aware of it at the time) was possibly at the end of a long night of partying and in what I would describe as a belligerent mood and was in no way intimidated by the cab driver who had now ramped up his consternation into a flat-out yelling match. The passengers friends remained in the back of the car so it would not appear the argument was over payment of fare, just an immediate reaction to how hard the door was slammed.
Perhaps they were being kicked out of the car? But I've since learned the victim is a local in the neighbourhood so my guess is this is where they had intended to get out. Who knows what the atmosphere had been like inside the cab until the door got slammed, perhaps they had said things that the driver had taken offense to? Perhaps they were being utterly innocuous. Only the driver and passengers can say.
There were plenty of people on the street at this time, a popular corner for people coming back from bars and clubs and most of them would have certainly remarked on the increasingly vehement shouting match that was underway, but like me, they would have assumed it was just another late night yell-off that would play itself out. Looking at the passenger and his carefree attitude (he was certainly not going to sit down and negotiate a peace treaty with the cabbie) and looking at the fury on the face of the cabbie, I saw a stalemate, felt a bit guilty for gawking, and went inside my apartment building.
It was 3:48 when I got in. I remember the time, thinking it was much later than I had realized. I puttered around and readied for bed and did enough (maybe even checked a few emails and texts, turns out my girlfriend doesn't miss me that much) to take at least 8 minutes of time.
|The mural at Montréalité [see here] eighteen minutes before the incident|
Then I heard noises of crowd consternation and hoopla from outside. I opened the window and could see the intersection of St-Laurent and Rachel filled with several people chasing the cab. Some of whom were obviously his earlier passengers. My memory is blurry at this point except to say it was obvious that the argument had now escalated so far that a crucial eight minutes of my story is totally missing: the passengers were now being chased by the cab in the wrong direction down St Laurent. Among them were innocent passers-by. The driver gunned the gas south and crashed into the lamppost.
By now the crowd was inflamed and I turned on my camera. Making no moral judgement, it just seemed very likely something even stranger was about to happen. At the very least I felt for the cabbie's safety because at this point the pedestrians were all on the defense and ready to attack. Even random passersby below me who hadn't seen anything yet were assuming the worst in the cab driver, one yelling at me to 'put it on youtube.'
Once the cab driver had crashed his cab into the lamppost my assumption was that was going to be the end of the story--enormous damage had been done so far and whatever grief he'd had with his car door was surely eclipsed by the state of his car now.
Who knows what actions from his former passengers drove him to this state. There was an eight minute gap between my initial witnessing of the door slam and the driver hitting the pole.
Just know that my video represents only 20% of the entire fracas and if you were to simply stumble upon it without context, then it is reasonable to assume it is a group of enraged hooligans trying to catch a maniacal driver. A toxic combination you don't want to have at your wedding.
The eight minutes that happened contain the most potent version of events.
I'm interested to know what the friends of the original passenger did once they exited the cab.
I'm interested to know what the cab driver was requesting from the passenger.
After all, non-violent communication has as one of it's tenets: a request.
There is no use yelling at somebody for doing something wrong. If somebody does something that upsets you, it must end with a request, like "Will you please compensate me for the damage" or "Please, for the sake of my other friends who drive cabs, don't slam the door like that."
In this case, the cabbie felt there was going to be some resolution possible by confronting the door-slammer.
I am no expert in human relations, and I try not to sum up somebody's character by judging them by the way they look, however, looking at these guys, none of them appeared as if they were ready for a friendly lesson on how to be nice to people.
And that's another thing when it comes to confrontation: teaching somebody a lesson. Nobody wants to be taught a lesson. People want to hear requests. And this is why I posted the video and why it hits home to me. I hate being taught a lesson. I would much rather you ask me to do something specific, like stop behaving in the way that I do because when you see it happens certain feelings stir in your humanity, and as a compassionate fellow human, can I please possibly empathize and relate to this feeling and there for change my behaviour? I don't want to find a booby-trap and hear the claim "Gotcha!"
That'll teach you, yeah?
So back to Saturday: when I saw the fury in the eyes of the cabbie, and the response of the pedestrians after being hit, I felt compassion for each side, based on my knowledge of them in more innocent times, just babes in the woods, only eight minutes away from changing their lives forever.
Again, I re-iterate my prayers and thoughts for both the driver and the victim. I wish each side had known when to blow it off and release the catch.
Why is this posted on Got Gingham?
Well, I am an artist and a story teller, and this did happen. At first I was reluctant to run the footage, thinking it might be exploitative, or slant the story, and certainly by many of the comments many people have been jumping to ridiculous conclusions worthy of the toilet wall.
That's not for me to stop. As a former journalist, I believe in the law of the commons and the love of humanity.
Only a few hours prior to this incident, 15,000 student protesters marched across the same intersection. I watched the hundreds of policemen and riot cops, feeling their tension, ever-alert, waiting for something to kick off. All about us was one giant form of social control, twitching and ready for a flare-up (all the recent student protests gripping Montreal right now have been calm).
Then not four hours later, here at the corner of St-Laurent and Rachel, left unsupervised, our citizens are totally free to act as they choose with total credit for the consequence of their actions. This is our freedom we have in not living in a police state. Yes, we can police ourselves, and in this case, many of the witnesses did act as bona fide Justices of the Peace. And once the victim was hit all hearts and minds went to thoughts of his safety and preserving his life.
What's more, we might complain about the cops and the State and talk about repression, along with the brutality, violence and division in modern "civil" society. But when we mess around by ourselves and break things, we still have to call Nanny to fix it. We certainly weren't going to call a bunch of hippies like me. The citizen response was immediate.
I don't judge anybody here.
I wish the judge would see that the cabbie was panicking and reacting to something that happened in that 'crucial eight mintues' between door-slam and lamppost smash.
Certainly he didn't drop off a bunch of cub-scouts, and certainly the passengers and others who joined in ganging up on the cabbie were acting violent and out-of-touch with civilized behaviour, but in this case, because I saw them before it all happened, I just wish they could turn it back to the point where they just let it go.
The cabbie could have held his tongue when the door got slammed, then shouted "Glass Bowl" at them as he drove off, while the passengers might have given them the jolly middle finger and yelled something abusive back... and that would have been it. The passengers would have got to their next meet thinking what a great night it's been so far, and the driver would have got home to his wife later, and asked how his night had been and would have said something along the lines of "Oh, you know, ma petite cherie... un samedi soir comme d'habitude."
I stick up for the cabbie, and I stick up for the passengers. I picked up the camera AFTER many people had been seen and heard calling 9-11.
What we are really needing here is a change of consciousness.
of Got Gingham and the Stadium Art Movement.
CTV [see here]
G & M [see here]
Gazette [see here]
La Presse [see here]
Huffington Post (CP) [see here]
GlobalTV [see here] and [here]
Further commentary by Nathalie Collard (La Presse) [see here]