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Isabelle Porter June 20, 2012
Quebec City’s new regulation on protests caused quite a stir yesterday at City Hall and led to an arrest for assault yesterday afternoon.
“Charest! Labeaume! Same fight! ” shouted the protesters in the lobby of City Hall around 2pm yesterday. For a good half-hour, there were thirty or so people blocking the entrance of the building to protest against the new regulation restricting protests.
Shortly before, at the end of the vote, one of the protesters was arrested for assaulting a city councilor, Steve Verret.
In a video broadcasted by the network RDI, we see the mayor’s chief of staff, Louis Côté, pushing the protester to protect the mayor Régis Labeaume. Furious, the young man storms out, bumping into Councillor Verret on his way. The police handcuffed him right afterward.
Protesters responded to the call of the Confederation of Students from Laval University (CADEUL), which is concerned about the impact of the new law.
The law orders that a protest is illegal if the time of its occurrence and its course are not given to the police before the protest.
The law also bans “participating in or being present at a gathering on public property” between 11pm and 5am. It prohibits access to parks at night and prevents people from building shelters or lighting a fire “in the public domain.”
“This is serious attack on the right to protest, opening the door to arbitrary policing and the criminalization of political dissent,” argued some leftist groups like le Comité populaire Saint-Jean-Baptiste, le Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain, and le Regroupement des profs contre la hausse.
“Contrary to the provisions of Law 78, the new municipal regulations will be permanent,” they added. “It will have repercussions on all national events held in the capital.”
While elected officials voted on the regulation yesterday afternoon, we heard the casseroles resounding outside. One after another, counselors from Labeaume’s team spoke to say that citizens complained about the noise at night in the parks. One counselor even recounted finding syringes in the morning in a park.
A handful of protesters were able to ask questions of the elected officials about this subject, but only after the vote.
In response to their questions, the mayor argued that the police only needed to be alerted “two minutes before” a protest for it to be legal.
“Drop the Russia analogy; this is not coercion,” he said, exasperated by some comments. “Honestly, I do not think the UN will be concerned with the law that has just passed,” he said later.
Several questions also focused on the homeless and the risk of harassing certain groups in particular, like marginalized youth. “Our officers are capable of exercising very good judgment,” defended councilor Richard Cote. “I do not see why a policeman would attack a citizen or a tourist for fun.”
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.