Anti-capitalist demonstration ends in 107 arrests

Record-turnout for annual May Day action

Updated May 2. 

In honour of International Workers’ Day, around 3,500 demonstrators participated in the fifth annual May Day Anti-Capitalist demonstration yesterday afternoon.

The demonstration began at 4:30 p.m. near Champ-de-Mars metro before proceeding to march throughout the downtown area, and concluded in Square Émile-Gamelin around 8 p.m. – which is when the eighth night protest began.

When he spoke to The Daily at 10:30 p.m., Montreal police sergeant Laurent Gingras confirmed 107 arrests and reports of 2 injuries throughout the course of the demonstration.

The demonstration was organized by the Convergences des luttes anticapitaliste-Montréal (CLAC). In the organization’s press release posted later Tuesday, CLAC denounced the arrests and noted a record-turnout for the demonstration. Various contingents participated in the demonstration including a group of clowns, the Comité commémoratif des prisonniers politiques iraniens des années 80 and Comité montréalais de soutien au mouvement du 20 février.

The demonstration also included a Baby Bloc, a group of demonstrators with children. According to Myriam Tamèr, a UQAM masters student who brought her 18 month old baby to the demonstration, this is the second year a Baby Bloc took part in the demonstration.

“The main way to stay safe is to stay in a group together and to be visually present in the demonstration – that’s why we have the yellow balloons, to clearly identify us,” she said.

Tamèr said two groups organized the Baby Bloc this year : Parents contre la hausse and a mobilization committee of student parents from UQAM.

In the statement, CLAC spokesperson Mathieu Francoeur described the demonstration as a “chance to celebrate a legacy of confrontational, revolutionary, and explicitly anti-capitalist working-class culture.”

“This May Day, the CLAC wishes to reaffirm its solidarity with all the movements of resistance struggling against austerity measures here and across the world, and particularly with the extraordinary struggle of the Quebec student movement, which has been showing the world what a strong, united mass social movement looks like,” states the press release.

From Champ-de-Mars, demonstrators marched west on rue Notre-Dame, turning north onto St-Laurent and then west on René-Lévesque. A group of 40 riot police officers walked alongside the demonstration. The demonstration was declared illegal just after 6 p.m.

According to the SPVM, after the announcement was given for demonstrators to disperse, criminal acts continued to be committed. Demonstrators initially launched fireworks and flares, then paint bombs, and smoking or alight projectiles. Between 5:30 and 6 p.m., a citizen was injured after a paint bullet hit them in the head.

At the intersection of University and rue Ste-Catherine, police and demonstrators clashed. The Bank of Montreal’s windows were smashed, at least two demonstrators were arrested – one of whom was dragged for about 20 metres – and projectiles such as rocks and sticks were thrown at police.

Montreal resident John Ranger spoke to what he witnessed: “At that moment all hell broke loose.”

“The people who were friends of [those] who got dragged away, they were picking up rocks, bottles, anything they could, because what are you going to do? These people [the police] turn on innocent people for no reason – we are only walking,” he said.

Though Gingras said he was unable to confirm individual reasons behind the 32 arrests for criminal infractions that occurred, he confirmed that officers used plastic bullets, rubber ball grenades and 40mm bullets “to mark” demonstrators in order to “control those who violently attack police and attack citizens.”

One officer was injured due to “contamination by chemical irritants,” according to Gingras. “I don’t know if it was ours or something that was brought by demonstrators,” he added.

After riot police intervened, stating that unless demonstrators were on sidewalks they would be arrested with criminal charges. Demonstrators marched along sidewalks in nearby streets as police followed. On rue Jeanne-Mance, a car window was smashed and its rear door was dented.

The dispersion of the initial demonstration resulted in splintered groups forming. The demonstration set to reconvene en masse in Square Émile-Gamelin. The largest splinter group contained about 200 people.

Three McGill students marching in this group, spoke to the use of ‘concussion grenades.’

“They [the SPVM] threw them directly into the crowd, and one of them exploded about a foot from my own feet, and we could feel heat that wasn’t just the tear gas in them, but heat from the actual explosion from the bomb on our faces,” said one student, who wished to remain anonymous.

Around 7 p.m., 75 demonstrators were arrested under municipal regulations at rue Berri and Ontario. Gingras said that police gave demonstrators “time to disperse” after declaring the demonstration illegal, but “unfortunately, those people refused to do it [disperse], and that’s why they were encircled along Berri and Sherbrooke.”

Twenty minutes later, about 500 people gathered in the square, blocking Ste-Catherine just south of the square.

30 riot police previously gathered in the square walked among demonstrators before turning to charge diagonally through the crowd of demonstrators creating confusion and panic among demonstrators. The tactic ended in the arrest of one male demonstrator.

Other demonstrators pursued police north towards Maisonneuve, throwing projectiles. 100 officers established a line around the northeastern corner of the square blocking further advances.

The demonstration ended with about 300 demonstrators blocking rue Berri while police tried twice to clear the street. Half an hour later, after telling demonstrators they would spend the night in jail if they did not clear the street, a line of about 35 bike police stood along the western edge of the sidewalk with another 40 officers stood across Berri.

Police arrested three demonstrators who were part of the line of demonstrators facing officers with bikes. Two of the three demonstrators had been prominent in leading demonstrators back into the street the first and second time demonstrators re-occupied the street. Gingras said he did not have information on the context of the three arrests.

In a previous version of this article CLAC was misidentified as a coalition. The Daily regrets the error.