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Valérian Mazataud July 23, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/355164/pas-de-vacances-pour-les-carres-rouges
Thousands of demonstrators marched in opposition to neo-liberalism
PHOTO CAPTION: Participants were out in great numbers yesterday in Montreal on the occasion of the 160th day of social action and the fifth national demonstration on the 22nd of the month.
“Less strong, but broader.” In bringing together thousands of people into the centre of Montreal in the midst of the summer construction workers’ holiday, the Broader Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE) is hoping to plant the seed of durable dissent on (what is likely) the eve of the provincial elections.
For the 160th day of social protest, the marchers returned again yesterday in the early afternoon at Place Emilie –Gamelin. Though at the overnight protest of the previous evening there were barely more than 30 people, this fifth national demonstration on the 22nd of the month brought from 15,000 (according to AFP) to 80,000 (according to CLASSE) to the streets of Montreal. The student coalition had invited the participants to come out via a Facebook page with the stated aim of ousting the neo-liberals.
In the middle of the summer holidays, and on a nice summer day, the strong turn-out at yesterday’s demonstration surprised even the participants and organizers themselves.
For Gabriel Nadeau Dubois, co-spokesperson of CLASSE, this phenomenon is part of the same process that saw the publication of the coalition’s manifesto. “This is proof that our ideas aren’t marginal, but unifying. We shouldn’t imagine that because there are fewer people than in the spring, that it’s the end. What was a river is becoming a delta, less strong, but much larger.”
On their side, the representatives of the Federation of University Students of Quebec (FEUQ) and the Federation of College Students of Quebec (FECQ) wanted to concentrate on opposing the tuition hike and on bill 78, without contradicting the larger mandate of CLASSE. “The government is effectively putting in place a neoliberal agenda, of the user pay variety, and the tuition hike is just an example,” admitted Yanick Grégoire, vice President of FEUQ.
The demonstrators, on the other hand, seemed to identify with this larger vision of the student conflict. For Frédéric Dollard, doctoral student at UQAM, “the demonstrations have served the purpose of proving that we exist, but it’s time to transform the opposition into a dialogue and broaden the debate.” Pierre-Yves Girard, a demonstrator dragging an informative cart on the oil industry’s operations on Anticosti, thinks, for his part, that the debate on tuition fees was just the tip of the iceberg. “It’s like when you’re painting, the subject is merely a pretext, it’s really the whole process that’s important.” In a similar spirit, one biochemistry student had put together 94 signs for each infraction by the Liberal party denounced on the website: “liberaux.net” from the Plan Nord to the public investments and running through scandals and corruption.
Choosing first to climb in a northward direction, the marchers paraded under a group of mannequins hanging from the overpass on Sherbrook St. while a banner saying “Quebec suicidal,” was unfurled on the ground. The action was signed by the group “Hors D’Oeuvre,” which defines itself as a group of critical revolutionaries.
“The noose of electoralism is already at our throats… from “Stop the Hike” we went to “Neo-Liberals Get Out,” and no one worries anymore about the danger of hijacking … Everything is in place for a quiet exit from the electoral crisis,” could be read on flyers dropped from the top of the viaduct.
The biggest part of the march took place in the west end of the city, under a blazing sun. Because the route was not declared, the demonstration was deemed illegal before it even began. One man in his thirties, suspected of having thrown a projectile at the police, was arrested at the beginning of the afternoon, but no other incident took place through the rest of the day.
Marching through the centre of a group of Quebec Solidaire members, MPP Amir Khadir explained that he felt like he was on vacation and in an electoral campaign all at the same time. “My family vacation, planned for August, by contrast, has fallen off the radar,” he said. While declaring himself “open and attentive” to the proposals and decisions of the student groups, the member nevertheless reminded everyone that each of them had a distinct role to play. “We have no agreement with them, but the students know that the source of the fee hikes is the neoliberal agenda, and the only viable solution in order to oppose that over the long term, is Quebec Solidaire.”
None of the three student associations wished to endorse any political party. On the other hand, each saw themselves as having a role to play in terms of information for young people and were planning summer tours for this purpose. The FEUQ and FECQ had chosen ten ridings in which they could try to collect promises not to vote Liberal. “Our goals are to get the youth vote out, but also to get youth issues onto the electoral agenda, and finally, to have a government which represents Quebec youth” explained Eliane Laberge, the President of FECQ.
CLASSE, for its part has planned a tour of 20 cities throughout the province with the aim of defending its ideas about education, but also other issues such as feminism and ecology. “Our strike has as its objective, a retreat by the Liberals on the issue of tuition, but we’d also like to raise other issues and to take advantage of the climate of social and political upheaval to try to bring into question the direction that Quebec has taken,” explained Nadeau-Dubois.
While the marchers were making their way west along Sainte-Catherine street, many spectators had positioned themselves along the sidewalks with their lawn chairs to await the traditional twin parade as part of the “Just for Laughs” festival. “I came to see the twins but also to see the demonstrators,” admitted Carole Charon, a spectator who claims to not have seen any twins demonstrating.
A little after five o’clock, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois gave a speech, haranguing the crowd from the top of a giant red cube installed in front of McGill University. Fist raised he thanked the participants and invited them to return home “with their heads full of ideas and with their bellies full of anger for the Liberals.” At the end of the speech, a part of the crowd started back to the east along Rene-Levesque boulevard, before finishing up around 6 PM.
Other events throughout Quebec, notably in Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City, attracted several hundred people.
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 email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.