Hundreds gathered at the intersection of Ste. Catherine and Atwater Friday to protest the Group of 20 (G20) meetings taking place this week in Seoul, South Korea. Brandishing signs in French declaring “NO to the G20” and “the real terrorism is capitalism,” protesters marched east through downtown to denounce the summit of finance ministers and heads of government.
The protest was organized by Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC, its French acronym), a coalition of self-declared anti-capitalist and anarchist organizations in Montreal. CLAC has operated continuously since 2000, when it was formed to mobilize protesters for the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Its member groups include the Indigenous Solidarity Committee, the Regroupment Anti-G20 Étudiant (RAGE), No One is Illegal, and the Communist Libertarian Union.
Sarita Ahooja, spokesperson for CLAC and a member of No One Is Illegal, spoke to the crowd before the march describing the event as one of hundreds of “protests around the world to denounce capitalism, misery, and poverty,” as well as “the imposition of measures that contribute to impoverishment [and] only serve to fuel generalized social discontent.”
Others at the march echoed her sentiments. Aaron, a local protester, voiced concern over recent “austerity measures which have real and terrible consequences in people’s lives,” and that he was happy with what he described as “a loud display of resistance [to such measures] here in Montreal.”
Aaron explained why he thought G20 members – including the governments of France, Germany, and Britain – were implementing austerity measures, saying, “Because [the G20] represents the interests of wealth. We live in a neoliberal age where there’s a huge transfer of wealth from public coffers into private hands, even in Quebec.”
Jean, another protestor, put it more bluntly: “It’s all about the money.”
The summit this year focused on the looming specter of a currency war between the largest economies in the world. Relations between the U.S. and China have been especially tense during the lead-up, in particular on the eve of a $600-billion injection into the U.S. economy by the Federal Reserve, which other nations have criticized due to the possibility of stimulating high inflation in the future by keeping the U.S. dollar artificially low.
According to its website, the G20 nations account for ninety per cent of global gross national product, eighty per cent of international trade, and two thirds of the world’s population.
The G20, and its predecessor the G8, have long drawn controversy due to the high-level security measures imposed on host cities. “This demonstration categorically denounces the repression experienced last June in Toronto,” said Ahooja in reference to the over one thousand arrests made during protests at this summer’s G20 summit in that city.
In a phone interview after the event, she added that at least two attendees were arrested over the course of the evening’s protest. “They are bent on criminalizing people who are there to contest the order of things,” she said.
Ahooja concluded with a major theme of the protest: “We think society should be organized in a horizontal way, so that people can have a decent living, with dignity, so that there’s justice for everyone, and not just for the few.”