The Battle for Calixa-Lavallée high school
The diary of a street gang member who wants to get out of the game: This is the story of Général, a Blood (Rouge) who changed his life. Reflet de Société recounts what life is like in a gang through the story of Général.
Général and his little Rouge friends had left elementary school and enrolled in Calixa-Lavallée high school, which straddled the neighborhoods of Montréal North and Pie IX. The school was mixed in terms of gangs: there were Crips (Bleus) and Rouges (Bloods). It was an explosive mixture that would soon catch fire. Québec was about to wake up to find street gangs in their midst.
At school, no pretext was too petty to provoke a confrontation. In the cafeteria, each gang had its own section. Just one member in the wrong section was enough to set off a general melee.
“We could be in class when we heard that there was a fight in the locker room,” recalls Général. “We’d run out of class to help our brother.” He explains that he often fought in front of teachers and other students during class time.
“It didn’t take much,” he says. “I’d tell myself: that’s a Bleu, my cousin’s enemy, my brothers’ enemies, I felt personally targeted. My friends and I wanted to avenge the older members. The Bleus thought like us.”
After class, the fights went on one after another. “There were fights every day. Always the same guys. There were one or two dead. People got stabbed. Sure I was stressed. But at the time I wasn’t afraid of anything. My heart was filled with hate.”
The Général’s gang and their adversaries would show up to school armed. There were guns, knives and even hatchets. “It was easy to find them. One of our group’s older brothers had weapons in industrial quantities. We’d borrow them, and he’d never even notice.”
War against the Bleus became a way of life. “It was my everyday existence. Every morning, I’d put on my red bandana and put my knife between my belt and my hip, then I’d go to school.”
The Law of the Jungle
At age 13, Général wasn’t play-acting street gangs anymore. His older brother’s war had become his. He toughened up. He was ready to fight every day. And the battlefield was Calixa-Lavallée. The only law he respected was that the strongest survive.
He and his friends brought it. So did his adversaries. The other students had to keep their heads down. The gang members were an object of fear for the rest of the student body.
One of the teachers actually asked Général to enforce discipline in the classroom. He was asked to keep the class quiet so that the lessons could be taught. “He knew that the other students listened to me,” Général says with a childlike smile. Who’s going to disobey a fighter who spends all his time fighting, who’s afraid of no one, and who can count on the support of 30 colossuses like himself?
Even the teachers had to watch out for these young delinquents. Rouges or Bleus, they respected no one’s authority. A teacher who tried to tell off one of the younger students would learn the hard way. A member of the same gang as Général decided one day to solve a problem once and for all.
“The teacher was putting this young kid down often,” Général recalls. “His brother flipped his lid. He was a member of our family, so we followed him.” The gang waited for the teacher at the end of the school day. With their bandanas over their faces so they wouldn’t be recognized, they beat the teacher up.
New High School, Same War
After a year at Calixa-Lavallée, Général was expelled.
At first he was suspended for a week when the school security guard found a knife on him. Then he had a loud argument with one of his teachers. “He said he didn’t want to have me as a student. The school administration reviewed my file and I was gone.”
He went to continue his studies at Henri-Bourassa high school, a Rouge fiefdom. “It was no better there,” he recalls. “It was concentrated. There were only Bloods.” Général felt even stronger. He got deeper into violence.
At Henri-Bourassa, Général was surrounded by youths who detested the Bleus. Together they’d launch raids on enemy territory, including punitive operations. He was no longer on the front lines, but on friendly ground: “I always hated the kids at Calixa. Often to have fun, after class we’d go help our brothers. We’d beat up the Bleus at Calixa-Lavallée, or we’d go to Louis-Joseph Papineau high school, which was a Crips bastion. We’d go in there with 50 guys. And our enemies did the same thing.”
This merciless war waged by teenaged Crips and Bloods ended up harming innocent victims. Each and every student was associated with a school and a territory even if they weren’t participants in the conflict. They were prisoners of living in their neighborhood.
“I had a cousin who was straight,” recalls Général. “He thought I was stupid to be a gang member. He didn’t want to know anything about the Bloods. He was stabbed because his older brother was a Blood. He has a wicked scar on his neck. He had to take part.”
He adds: “A lot of others ended up becoming members like that. A few of them went to a party outside of Montréal North. They were associated with us because they went to Henri-Bourassa high. They got badly beaten up. After that they wanted to represent. I used to go after people because they were friends with a Bleu. I’d get my message through by using them. Or I’d see someone with a blue bandana, and I’d tell him to take it off. If he refused, I’d beat him up. That’s how the neighborhood worked. It’s really stupid,” he now recognizes.
Hate, vengeance and fear caused the ranks of the two rival gangs to swell. Teenagers who didn’t want this life became feared recruits. The war spread to other areas of Montréal. And, as always, it would be the innocent who paid the steepest price.