Michael Wojewoda: Reflections On What To Do When Men With Guns Order You To Obey

Montréal, 5pm yesterday, walking back to my hotel.

Rather innocuously a policeman rounded the corner of a parked police SUV. At 10 metres away I barely heard his voice. For me the first awareness was visual. He already had drawn his service revolver and with both hands was pointing this loaded weapon at my head. Once I made eye contact I could discern his voice from the background traffic noise. In english I heard him shout, "put your hands in the air!" The transition from carefree day dreaming to acknowledging he was in fact speaking to me happened: in my mind; slowly. I didn't feel frightened, only confused. Then clearly he said it a third time.

   I slowed to a stop lifted my palms upward. "Hands on the vehicle!" he continued. I walked slowly over to the SUV and did what he asked. It was then I noticed more police cars making U-turns and essentially blocking two lanes of Sherbrooke Avenue. Immediately two more officers huddle behind me.

   My left hand was lifted off the vehicle and guided to my back in a submission hold. Then I was scolded with questions about my possession of weapons or drugs while they ran their hands up and down my body. I'm not sure if my experiences being questioned by military or police at different points on my South American motorcycle trip has conditioned me to staying calm with weapons around but I experienced no adrenaline: only a clear calm voice telling them I was from out of town, here to see a concert and staying at the very hotel we were standing in front of.

   Lifting my right hand off the vehicle to instinctively feel for my phone when asked, if not weapons, what else am I carrying; brought more shouting and tightening of the submission hold. Then, a voice behind me saying, "I am sorry sir but you match a description."

    With that all three officers let go at once and before I could turn around to at least have seen their faces they stepped back onto the street to their cruisers.            

   Another voice said,"thank you for your cooperation": which struck me as funny, nerves finally sinking in, I thought to myself, "well, you did point a loaded gun at my head." What I did end up saying out loud was,... "What a bizarre experience." It was over in 90 seconds.

   As I write this down the next day I can't decide if it was a big deal or just life in the big city. Certainly my middle aged white male status kept it the bare minimum of abusive. I can more deeply appreciate how unnerving this can be for minorities and immigrants.

   Well, that is now officially the third time a gun has been pointed at me. Buy me a drink sometime and I'll tell you about the other two times.

-- Canadian musician (drummer in Rheostatics) and record producer (Buffy Sainte-Marie's Polaris-winning Power in the BloodMichael Philip Wojewoda on Facebook this past weekend.



Leave a comment