Demonstrators once again took to the streets in Montreal and in Quebec City yesterday in what has become a monthly tradition since the unlimited general strike began almost four months ago in Quebec. Since March, a Day of Action has been held on the 22 of every month.
The marches drew students and their supporters to protest against the provincial government’s intended tuition hike and Bill 78 – an emergency legislation pushed through in May by the Charest government to clamp down on protests.
Demonstrators met at Place du Canada at 2 p.m., where CLASSE co-spokesperson Camille Robert addressed the crowd.
“For weeks, Jean Charest has tried to install a climate of fear in Quebec. It uses the same methods as Harper’s Conservatives: silencing protests by any means possible to push these privatization measures down the population’s throat,” said Robert.
This march comes days after the UN Human Rights Commissioner expressed concern over Bill 78 and its impact on protesters’ rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
Demonstrators started marching west but later turned east on Sherbrooke and finally north on Parc. The march stopped at Jeanne-Mance Park at around 4 p.m.
Shyam Patel, former SSMU VP Finance and Operations and McGill student, said he was at the march because he does not agree with the tuition hikes and was pleased with the presence of people other than students.
“I feel that it is important for not just students to be here but everyone because there is also a greater and broader cause for people to be here because of the special law. It’s not just about the tuition hike; it’s about our rights in general,” he told The Daily.
About half an hour later, a smaller group of protesters continued marching east on Mount Royal and then turned south on Papineau.
As the march approached Sherbrooke, the SPVM declared it illegal under bylaw P-6, citing the fact that the route had not been provided in advance to the police. According to the SPVM’s official twitter, only one arrest was reported.
The second march stopped at Louis Square at around 6 p.m.
Almost 15,000 people participated in the Montreal demonstration according to the police and AFP estimates, making it the smallest of the monthly Day of Actions held since March.
U3 Philosophy McGill student Danika Drury-Melyuk said that although the demonstration was smaller than previous demonstrations held on the 22, “it did not have a small turnout by any normal standard.”
“It’s summer so a lot of people are probably going home because some students come to Montreal for school…there is still a lot of people who care enough about the issue to come out. I’m sure that when August comes around people are going to be willing to come out, and they’re not going to back down,” said Drury-Melnyk.