Anti-Fascists Clash With Far-Right at City Hall
Fights Break Out After Protesters Attempt to Shut Down La Meute
Several fights broke out at Montreal City Hall this afternoon after a protest was organized in the name of free speech.
On one side of Notre Dame St. was the far-right group La Meute. About 150 of its members gathered, each wearing all black. On the other side of the street were about 250 anti-racist protesters, including many angry students and members of the leftist group Action Antifasciste Montréal
Initially a protest was planned by a group calling itself the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens through an event page on Facebook. But by the time the protest started there was little evidence of that group’s presence. Instead all that could be seen were signs advertising La Meute’s presence.
La Meute is a far-right group from Quebec best known for its stances against multiculturalism and radical Islam. On Facebook, their group has a membership of approximately 43,000 people.
They came to protest against Motion 103, which is currently being tabled in Parliament. It aims to officially condemn Islamophobia and collect data on hate crimes against Muslims in the House of Commons.
“Is it still fair to call them a religion when they’re infiltrating politics, the judiciary and the economy?” said La Meute protest organizer Stéphane Roch.
They argue the motion infringes on their freedom of expression, and have fears it will open up the door for the introduction of Sharia law in Canada.
“It limits our freedom of expression” said another far-right protester, Jean Guyland. “There are already laws against racism, we don’t need to make a law specifically protecting one religion. We’re not racist.”
In reaction to this, the group Action Antifasciste Montréal organized a counter protest, with the aim to shut down La Meute. They have publicly called out La Meute as being racist and fascist.
Students at Concordia also organized a contingent, arguing the time to protest against Islamophobia is urgent given the recent events from Wednesday, when a bomb threat was made against the Muslim community at Concordia University.
“The continued growth and existence of the far-right is itself a threat to the wellbeing of the oppressed. It is a serious and a valid threat upon the lives of immigrants, refugees, people of colour, and Muslims. And it needs to be combatted,” said a participant in the Concordia contingent, Eamon Toohey.
After several fights broke out, SPVM officers created a police line between the two groups. When La Meute decided to leave city hall and walk east down Notre Dame St., leftist protesters grew agitated and advanced toward them.
In reaction to this, police began using pepper spray, leading to one journalist getting sprayed directly in the face.
From there La Meute continued along Notre Dame St., until the group turned north on Berri St.
During that time, leftist protesters ran to St. Antoine and then north up St. Denis in an attempt to catch up with them.
La Meute ended their protest at Parc Emilie Gamelin. For a short moment, at the corner of St. Denis St. and St. Catherine St., it looked like leftist protesters would catch up with La Meute, but police prevented this. Afterwards, leftist protesters continued north up St. Denis.
Leftist protesters stayed on downtown streets, until they got to parc Emilie Gamelin where they also closed their protest. They then burned the signs La Meute had left behind, along with a recycling bin.
Posts leaked from La Meute’s private Facebook page were posted to the event page Action Antifasciste Montréal made for their counter protest.
In those posts, a member from La Meute called Sylvaine Maikan instructs those planning to attend the protest to tone down their stance against Islam. Maikan advised La Meute members to instead put a focus on advocating for freedom of expression, so they can better earn “the sympathy of the public.”
The CBC previously reported that Maikan is La Meute’s media liaison.
Similar protests against Motion 103 were held all over the province—in Quebec City, Drummondville, St. Jerome, Gatineau and Chicoutimi.
There were also anti Motion 103 demonstrations in Toronto, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
Police said that no arrests have been made as a result of the protest.
With files from Jérémie Gauthier-Caron