Thousands of people showed up to the second day of the Salon du Plan Nord at the Palais de congrès while about 300 demonstrators gathered outside.
A mass arrest of between 50 and 75 demonstrators occurred at noon with demonstrators being kettled by police at the top of a stairway in an alley off of Saint-Antoine. The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) later confirmed that 90 protesters were arrests – 89 for illegal assembly and one for obstruction of justice.
The demonstration started around the Palais de congrès along de Bleury and Saint-Antoine at 10 a.m. Riot police began pushing demonstrators off the sidewalks alongside the building at 11 a.m., confining the demonstration to Place Jean Paul Riopelle.
According to SPVM media relations agent Daniel Lacoursière, one 24 year-old male was arrested during the intervention at 11:15 a.m.
The 300 person demonstration splintered around 11:30 a.m. with 200 beginning to march through streets while 100 demonstrators remained in Place Jean Paul Riopelle. As the 200-strong march approached Square Victoria along Saint-Jacques, the police declared the demonstration illegal.
A short time later, riot police lined up at the north end of the Square Victoria on Avenue Viger and charged demonstrators. Demonstrators turned right onto Saint-Antoine and faced another line of riot police blocking the road in front of Place Jean Paul Riopelle.
A group of the demonstrators ran up a staircase leading into the Centre CDP Capital, which was closed for the day. Police followed and blocked access to the stairway.
One demonstrator was escorted out of the kettle visibly upset about 5 minutes later. Three demonstrators from a surrounding alleyway were arrested by police and escorted up the stairway 10 minutes afterwards.
An hour later three STM buses arrived on the scene to transport the arrested demonstrators. A crowd of about 60 formed on Saint-Antoine in solidarity with those arrested, chanting “Libérez nos camarades.”
The Plan Nord, the provincial government’s 25-year redevelopment plan for Quebec’s north, aims to stimulate investment in the region’s forestry, mining, hydroelectricity, tourism, and bio-food sectors, and is expected to create, on average, 20,000 jobs a year and bring in $80 billion in investments.
The Salon was a two-day recruitment fair for those interested in working on Plan Nord projects. The Plan has been criticized over fears the redevelopment will cause widespread environmental degradation in Quebec’s north.
Throughout the demonstration, a large group gathered in Place Jean Paul Riopelle to express their objection to Plan Nord, arguing the projects would destroy the region’s environment and displace indigenous communities.
The demonstration was organized by the Réseau de Résistance du Québécois, a resistance organization which, according to its website, considers Quebec independence necessary for the survival and development of the Québécois nation.
According to an RRQ member on the scene, RRQ president Patrick Bourgeois and national director Carlo Mosti were among those arrested. “They’re not people who would throw rocks. They’re not violent people,” he said in French, in reference to the RRQ members arrested.
Yesterday, the first day of the Salon, a demonstration also occurred initially both inside the Palais de congrès and outside. Projectiles were thrown by demonstrators and, as of Saturday morning, police state that 18 arrests were made, 2 citizens and 4 police officers were injured. Damage to media vehicles and surrounding buildings was reported.
When speaking to The Daily at 12:30 p.m. Lacoursière said that the Salon was no longer allowing people to enter due to the large turnout that morning. Around 1:30 p.m., the SPVM announced outside the Palais de congrès that the Salon had been cancelled for the day.
One man, who said he’d been waiting 45 minutes to get inside the Palais that afternoon, expressed his frustration at the disruption.
“I have a family to feed,” he said in French. “When there are opportunities like this in Quebec, I need to be able to take advantage of them.”
One woman spoke to the crowd of demonstrators, addressing the violence of the previous day. “We can see here the chaos when people do not have respect. And when we come here and we must show people how to carry ourselves with respect,” said the woman.
Jean-François Garneau, who attended the demonstration with his wife and son, said he wasn’t concerned about bringing his family to the protest after Friday’s events.
“[The violence] is a diversionary tactic from what’s caused this conflict,” said Garneau in French.
“We won’t achieve what we want by doing it the way we were doing,” he said. “You have the right to vote and the right to protest, so you just exercise it correctly.”
— with files from Henry Gass and Nicolas Quiazoa