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In the early evening of September 4, a group of just over 100 people met at Metro Jarry in a “celebration” of the one-year anniversary of the election of the Parti québécois (PQ) government, led by Premier Pauline Marois.
Protesters waved communist flags, wore red squares, pushed their bikes, and held their children, but all were there for similar reasons.
“It’s a way to show the PQ that a year after the election, the people are not asleep,” explained Steve, a demonstrator, to The Daily in French.
Maxime, a Master’s student in political science at the Université du Quebec à Montreal (UQAM), told The Daily, “[I’m here] to prove that change of government really isn’t a change of anything actually. [I’m here] just to prove to the people around that it is not enough to make changes in society through a change of government.”
Following St. Denis, the diverse group made its way through residential neighbourhoods along the route, banging pots and pans in the casserole style of protest, with onlookers watching from their porches and balconies, many hitting their own pots and pans in support of the demonstrators.
Despite the fact that the protest was declared illegal almost immediately, it remained peaceful as the protesters wended through the streets of Montreal. As the demonstration moved down St. Denis from Metro Jarry, the police continued to remind the participants in French that the protest was illegal, though their announcements were scarcely heard over the noise of the casserole.
The protest was declared illegal under bylaw P-6, which allows police to deem marches unlawful if the organizers do not divulge their route beforehand. One demonstrator decried P-6 as “arbitrary,” and described protesting as democratic.
Protestors continued to march down to Emilie Gamelin Square, where several speeches were given, and the crowd swelled to around three hundred people. From there, the group headed east on St. Catherine, and finished for the evening at the occupation against gentrification at Ontario and Moreau.
Some in attendance believed that taking to the streets was only one step towards a larger change. “Protests are not enough,” said Maxim, a demonstrator, in French to The Daily. “Widespread social change does not happen through protests.”
Others, however, saw protesting as the best way ignite progress. Etienne, who was handing out flyers for future mobilization, told The Daily in French that he did not “believe in the electoral system for change.”
Bylaw P-6 also prohibits protesters from wearing masks, scarves, or hoods that obscure their face. To circumvent the law, protesters put cardboard masks of Pauline Marois’ face on their bikes, sticks, or the backs of their heads.
“She couldn’t be here tonight,” one of the protesters, Geneviève, said in French, pulling the mask over her face, “but she is… sort of.”
With files from William Mazurek.