Last week, Montréal saw one of its largest demonstrations in years. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Victoria Square to protest Liber Premiere, Philippe Couillard’s, austerity budget. Nearly every public sector that works toward the smooth operation of the city has been affected by this new budget-from labour unions to health care workers, from educational staff to students to the elderly or the disabled, everyone is pissed.
The aim of the march was to express discontent and demand that Couillard reverse these cuts to public spending. The student organized demonstration drew approximately 75, 000 people, the largest mass protest Montréal has seen in years. Citizens moved through the streets and blocked traffic chanting anti-austerity slogans and demanding that the government find other sources of revenue to for social benefits.
For hours, the protest went smoothly, with police standing watch without intervention or violence. This changed quickly as the protest headed east across Maisonneuve Boulevard, a one-way westbound street. Although the demonstrators remained peaceful, marching against traffic set the demonstration into a downward spiral. Soon enough, the crowd was met by riot police wielding shields and batons, and consequently, the most hard-core of protestors began to sit down, dance, and shout. The confrontation eventually turned violent as the police reacted by launching tear gas into the crowd. The crowds dispersed, and by mid-evening, the demonstration wrapped up with only 2 arrests.
Although the protest turned into chaos, the message was delivered that massive cuts to public spending will not be tolerated. I can imagine this will not be the last protest we see if the Couillard does not reverse his budget in favour of the people.
Glenn Pritchard, Staff Photographer and Writer for Power and Politics