On Sunday November 12, thousands of people gathered in solidarity to protest racism and hatred. The demonstration was organized by several groups who published an online call to action, denouncing Islamophobia, colonialism, sexism and transphobia. This call was subsequently signed by over 168 students, community members, and activist organizations.
The McGill contingent convened at the Roddick gates and walked down Avenue McGill College to Rue Sainte Catherine where they joined the Concordia contingent. The two groups then marched east on Sainte Catherine, about fifty individuals taking up the street and chanting phrases such as “A qui la rue? A nous la rue!” and “Refugees in, racists out!”
The Daily talked with an anonymous demonstrator from McGill BDS who spoke about how important demonstrating solidarity is for groups that advocate for marginalized peoples everyday.
“I think it’s really good that everyone can unite in one time and place and see that solidarity because it’s what keeps us going at the end of the day,” they continued. “It’s also [important] to remind people that Palestine is an ongoing issue and that we can’t forget [about] it in our struggles.
“Right now, the global political climate more than ever needs us to stand against all kinds of fascisms and racisms” they said. “We see or we think of Canada as this liberal paradise and that’s kind of it’s issue. In its liberalism it’s racist, it’s sexist, it funds war regimes […] so more than ever we need to not fall for that.”
“We see or we think of Canada as this liberal paradise and that’s kind of it’s issue. In its liberalism it’s racist, it’s sexist, it funds war regimes.”
Most of the bystanders were supportive of the protest, with some people honking their horns in solidarity. However, on Sainte Catherine and rue Aylmer, a disgruntled driver had an aggressive exchange with a protester and drove into the back of their bike, nearly hitting the individual.
“She sped up to try and pass them but really misjudged how much space there was and hit his bike” said SSMU VP External Connor Spencer. “Then [she] got out of her car and yelled at him for not taking up just one part of the street, which is not a thing.”
Protesters and bystanders gathered around the car and confronted the woman for the dangerous situation she had created, some people threatening her with calling the police. No one was harmed.
On Jeanne Mance the group met up with the Milton Parc community contingent. Sascha Astles, a representative from the community, spoke to the Daily about why she was out marching. “My family has been victimized […] I’m in an interracial relationship, I have five kids, they’ve all felt and been targeted at certain times and just bullied, really nonsensical stuff that saddens me more than angers me because I would hope at this point in our evolution that we would be beyond that.”
These contingents joined with the larger demonstration at Place Émilie Gamelin at 2 PM, where thousands of individuals had already gathered and were preparing to begin the march. There were many different factions, all joining together to protest racism and hatred. For a Montreal protest there was a relatively low police presence, and little to no violence over the course of the three hour long demonstration.
In an interview with the Daily, Mariana Sosa, a social work student at McGill, talked about her reasons for protesting, and the issue of complacency.
“Honestly, if not me then who? It’s my job as a future social worker and a human being on this planet to go out and make noise for the people [who] can’t be here for any reason” she said. “I think this is the perfect place to make as much noise as possible for an intersection of problems that are happening in the world and in this city particularly.”
“There’s a lot of people out here, more than I was expecting, to be honest, because I feel like, when it comes to protests, a lot of people are complacent and they let other people take the brunt of it, but I’m really happy to see such an amazing turnout.”
One of the organizations that signed onto the broad call of action for the march was the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ). There were a number of representatives from the Association marching, and the Daily spoke with one individual who wished to remain anonymous.
“The association […] strongly condemns racism, Islamophobia, and any forms of oppression towards visible minorities, whether it is due to their race, ethnicity, their sexual orientation. We strongly stand against it and we believe that through the grassroots we are able to [make] changes in our community and our society. So we’re here, we mobilized, we’re here to show support with marginalized people, with all these groups that have endorsed this march, and to just stand against oppression, stand against racism, stand against hatred.”
They went on to discuss the issue of oppression and marginalization in Palestine, clarifying that these were his personal views and that AVEQ has no formal stance.
“I’m a Palestinian, and I identify a lot with the cause of Palestinian people. […] I believe that what’s going on in Palestine is one of the greatest tragedies. We’re looking at oppression at different […] levels whether it is [of] the Palestinians living in 1948 Palestine […] or whether it is in the West Bank and Gaza, […] whether it is that universities are underfunded, or whether it is racist policies when it comes to what some people would call, groups such as Amnesty call, the ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem. […] We’re looking also at the disproportionate use of force in Gaza which is based out of racism and out of supremacy.
“We believe there’s a global structure of racism built out of white supremacy, built out of dominance of a certain class over another, […] whether it is oppression of Palestinians, or whether it is here in Canada where discriminated groups are oppressed by the privileged class, by privileged people.”
“We believe there’s a global structure of racism built out of white supremacy, built out of dominance of a certain class over another.”
The march continued north on Berri, then turned west on Cherrier, then south on Saint Denis. The protestors marched west again on Sherbrooke. They continued west past McGill University, where some protesters shouted chants addressing the university’s administration.
The march continued south on Peel and ended just before 5 PM at Dorchester Square.