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Valérian Mazataud August 2, 2012
For the first time in five weeks, the streets of Montréal were filled with the sounds of casseroles and slogans, as the start of the election campaign coincided with the hundredth night-time march.
Marching orders were given many hours earlier on social networks. Keywords like #manifencours and #casserolesencours began trending on Twitter. For this hundredth march, and for the first day of the election campaign, people would be armed… with their trusty casseroles, ready to restart the high times of last spring’s protests.
From 7:00 PM on, the most die-hard of casserolers, accompanied by protesters, hit the pavement at the corner of St-Denis and Jarry. At 7:15, the group of a few dozen started to move, quickly joined by students pushing a huge red cube. A few minutes later, in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, a similar group started down Ontario street towards Place Emilie-Gamelin.
All along St-Denis, the group took on more people at each street corner. Sometimes it was a father and son, equipped with a pan and spatula. Sometimes it was a veritable contingent of a hundred people, like at the corner of rue Beaubien.
At métro Rosement, an even bigger group met up with the others. An arrest provoked a brief altercation between a few bunches of protesters and police officers who were clearly outnumbered. Then a protester was injured when he was hit by a car at the intersection of St-Denis and Laurier, according to various media sources. The driver of the car was not apprehended.
“I don’t think this is nostalgia for casseroling. On the contrary, it’s the start of something new,” says Catherine Elly, who lives in the neighbourhood of Petite-Patrie. ”It’s a turning point,” adds her neighbour Frédéric Thériault, whose splintered wooden spoon seems to have already lived through several battles.
Amir Khadir, the deputy of Québec Solitaire, joined the procession a few blocks down. It’s destiny that the hundredth night-time march landed on the same day the election was called — destiny for the MNA for Mercier as well as “destiny for Mr. Charest,” his says. ”Bring on the elections, given that the campaign has kicked off with such a festive attitude. […] Québec is ready for a metamorphosis, and that won’t come just from elections, but also from demonstrations.”
For others, it is important to re-centre the debate: “We’re not here to bring down Jean Charest, we’re here to work towards free tuition,” says Catherine Brown, happy to be back protesting after a long hiatus.
According to Jaggi Singh, a well-known community organizer and political activist, elections must not distract demonstrators from the real game, which is the tuition increase, and beyond it, the calling into question of the entire neo-liberal system. ”We mustn’t fall for the trickery of elections. The real movement is in the streets, in the community… not in the polling booths.”
At 9:00, a crowd of many thousands reached place Emilie-Gamelin under the dark night sky. Demonstrators decided to head south. The Montreal Police Service (SPVM) declared the march to be illegal, but said it would be tolerated if there were no illegal acts committed. That said, it stated on its Twitter feed, “Shooting water guns at police officers will not be tolerated and could bring about criminal charges.”
Tensions were high between demonstrators and police, who at times used chemical irritants as well as concussion grenades to try to contain the crowd. The police were sometimes discreet, but always numerous.
Around 10:30, police ordered the crowd to disperse, but demonstrators continued to move through the streets of downtown, almost all of them peaceful.
Police stepped in after demonstrators tried to build a barricade on Ste-Catherine street, where the 12th Fashion and Design Festival of Montréal was being held.
The size of the demonstration led the Montréal Transport Services to warn users that metro service must be disrupted.
Some people wore masks in defiance of Montréal’s anti-mask rule. One person was disguised as a rabbit. The best-known of all mascots, Anarchopanda for free schooling, was there too.
One person was injured who was not participating in the demonstration. The man was bleeding from the head after being hit by a projectile.
The SPVM broke up the crowd on Ste-Catherine East a little after midnight. Shortly after, the SPVM Twitter feed stated that the demonstration was over.
There were at least 15 arrests, for setting off fireworks, for mischief and for throwing projectiles at police, according to the SPVM.
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.