Tear Gas Takes Over Downtown May Day Protests
International Annual Workers Day Protests in Montreal Heavily Dispersed
While protests in the U.S. were demanding racial justice, a Montreal May Day protest rallying for workers rights and anti-capitalism was dispersed by police multiple times Friday evening using tear gas and pepper spray, which affected children and other pedestrians.
— Recap of May Day protest by Matt D’Amours
Hundreds of police as well as provincial officers from Sûreté du Québec were present and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse crowds.
Some families attended the downtown May Day rally and were hit by gas along with other protesters and people passing by. A number of rallies took place all day across Montreal.
About 50 people were kettled on de Maisonneuve Blvd., a few others were also given fines. Two police officers were sent to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. There are reports that three others were treated for injuries.
The protests gathered at around 6 p.m. in Square Phillips, with a contingent at Norman Bethune Square of approximately 100 people, which circled the Concordia University area a few times before heading east.
Before the tear gas was first launched, some protesters did charge at a police line, and threw rocks and bottles at SQ officers. When the two groups nearly merged, around McGill College Avenue, tear gas was shot into both crowds; the Concordia contingent was chased up Mansfield St. from Montreal’s shopping district along Ste. Catherine.
Another group was still rallying around the Bell Centre at 9:30 p.m., where the Montreal Canadiens were playing against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL playoffs.
According to the SPVM media relations hotline, the windows of some businesses and cop cars were damaged. There were 17 arrests for assembling to riot and 10 others were arrested for assault, mischief and using a weapon.
May Day is regarded as International Workers’ Day, which has roots in the Haymarket riots following rallies calling for 8-hour workdays.
In Quebec, austerity has become the main point of contention for workers and students, with government reforms reducing funding to social services. Students, teachers and public sector workers held various pickets across the province.
At Norman Bethune Square, Concordia students and workers made up a large part of the crowd.
“Austerity measures are definitely going to impact international students,” said Mohammad Jawad Khan, who is an international student at Concordia and the VP External Affairs for the Graduate Student Association.
“Almost 30 to 40 percent of international students are settling in Quebec,” he said, many of which will live on low incomes.
A number of graduate and international students also work as Teaching Assistants. Concordia has had to deal with successive budget cuts for the past few years.
Teachers are faced with larger class sizes and fewer TA positions. Khan says TA’s are responsible for more students; meanwhile students are given fewer assignments to complete, which compromises the level of education they receive.
“We’re very much concerned what austerity does to us as a bargaining union,” said Erwin Regler, who is part of the Concordia Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA) and participated in the rally near Concordia against austerity.
Regler says cuts to TA positions affect both graduate students, who aren’t given the same experience as before, and undergraduate students, who are missing out on services.