Blows Exchanged Between Anti-Bill 59 and Anti-Fascist Demos
No Arrests Made Despite Physical Altercations
A battalion of bright, red Communist flags fluttered in the breeze just meters away from a second line of flags adorned with fleurs-de-lys and the Patriote flag. The only thing that separated the flag holders was a flank of police officers.
A demonstration dubbed the “Silent March” against Quebec’s proposed Bill 59—designed to prevent and combat hate speech and speech inciting violence—was met with a counter demonstration by an anti-fascist contingency, and a heavy police presence on Saturday at Place Émilie-Gamelin.
The anti-fascists decried that PEGIDA Quebec, a local branch of the anti-Islamic group originating from Germany, planned to make an appearance and infiltrate the march.
Ariane Cassandre Paradis, organizer of the Silent March acknowledged that members of PEGIDA Quebec were indeed in attendance. “Yes there are PEGIDA here but they have been asked to leave their views at home,” said Paradis. When asked how she felt about their presence, Paradis said that “everyone is welcome here.” She added that the two organizations are completely separate and that the event was strictly to protest the bill.
There were several scuffles in the lead up to the march as members of both groups slid past police lines to encounter one another. A man associated with the Silent March, identified only by his first name, Ghislain, attempted to pick a fight with some of the anti-fascists. After shoving one of them, he was quickly encircled, suffering blows from kicks and punches until police intervened. No arrests were made.
Jaggi Singh, who had helped shut down a PEGIDA Quebec rally earlier this year in March, believes there was reason to be sceptical of the event from the very beginning.
“There were well founded fears that the Silent March was going to be infiltrated by racists, xenophobes and Islamophobes, who were going to mask themselves behind the message of being opposed to the Bill 59, and it turned out to be true,” said Singh. “There were at least a dozen people with openly racist and xenophobic ideas at the March du Silence.”
Around 1 p.m., members of both groups congregated in the park. Police formed a protective ring around the members of the Silent March while simultaneously deploying riot police to keep members of the counter demonstration at bay.
“Hey police, turn around, the scum is behind you,” the anti-fascist crowd chanted in unison.
Over the next hour members of the anti-fascist contingency and the Silent March exchanged chants of “refugees are welcome here.”
At 2:15 p.m., the Silent March attempted to begin their procession down Berri St., but were quickly blocked by the anti-fascist contingency. The police were quick to mobilize, and used their batons against anyone who was in their way.
After a tense standoff, members of the Silent March decided to cancel and head for the Metro. One member loudly thanked the police “for a job well done.”
Two members of the Silent March were spotted entering the Amir restaurant across from Park Émilie-Gamelin following the rally. A few anti-fascist protesters mocked them yelling, “you don’t want Arabs to come to Quebec but you will go to their restaurants!” The Silent March protesters were escorted out of the restaurant by one of its workers.
A second event directly organized by PEGIDA Quebec was supposed to take place at 4 p.m. close to Champs de Mars. Only members of the anti-fascist contingency showed up. SPVM Constable Michael Arruda informed the counter-protesters that PEGIDA Quebec had cancelled the event.
Translation assistance by Marie Briere de la Hosseraye
Correction: In a previous iteration of this story, Jaggi Singh was misquoted as saying that 12 members of PEGIDA Quebec were present. The Link regrets the error