Montreal May Day Protests Erupt In Violence, Arrests
Anti-Capitalist Demonstration Began Peacefully, Devolved After An Hour
Pepper spray, tear gas, sirens, a looming helicopter, and anti-capitalist cries filled the downtown air at this year’s May Day demonstrations Sunday afternoon.
Clashes erupted about an hour into the march when protesters began launching what appeared to be rocks, eggs, and fireworks towards police officers who were lined-up in front of Station 20 on Ste. Catherine St., shattering some of the building’s windows. Ten people were arrested and 2 received injuries throughout the event.
Police responded with tear gas, pepper spray, and alleged rubber-bullets to disperse the crowd.
Leading up to the initial clash, at least 500 demonstrators—some sporting anti-capitalist and communist banners and flags—marched through the downtown core. The group was surrounded on all sides by police on bikes, horses, cruisers, and on foot. Some officers wore riot gear and wielded tear gas launchers. A helicopter was looming overhead throughout.
Upon first spotting the riot police, chants of “fuck the police, no justice no peace” began from the crowd.
Two contingents converged at Sherbrooke St. and Union Ave., significantly increasing the number of people in the downtown group.
The march stopped briefly in front of the Sofitel hotel on Sherbrooke St., where protesters chanted anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois slogans at customers and hotel employees. Police lined up in front of the building’s glass doors, and the demonstrators moved on after a couple of minutes.
Following the initial clash in front of Station 20, protesters dispersed around the downtown area.
Police chased people on bikes while blowing whistles, and shot tear gas at smaller groups of protesters as a further means of dispersion.
Demonstrators attempted to regroup a few times, but were not able to reorganize to the same size preceding the dispersion. The Convergence des Luttes Anticapitalistes—the organization behind the demonstration—used Twitter to call new meeting points after the scattering. However, police arrived before demonstrators, preventing the re-unification of the protest.
At least two kettles were reported throughout the event.
May Day is officially known as International Workers’ Day, and occurs annually on May 1 around the globe. The date was chosen to commemorate the May 4 Haymarket Affair of Chicago in 1886, when four civilians and seven police officers were killed. The violence had erupted during a demonstration in support of striking workers who were calling for an eight-hour day—it was also a reaction to police killings. The event is sometimes referred to as the Haymarket Massacre.
This is the ninth annual anti-capitalist demonstration for May Day in Montreal organized by the CLAC.
“I’m here to protest capitalism, authoritarianism,” said Adam Evans, an 18-year-old protester. “I believe that workers are able to organize and unionize in a way which does not require the state, and does not require the authority of a boss.”
Evans attended the march to protest peacefully in favour of democratic worker-control of the economy; after an hour marching, he was tear gassed.
“I had one [tear gas canister] land like about four or five feet from me,” Evans said. “I already have hearing problems—like pretty bad tinnitus—so as soon as it exploded near me I just got an instant bad ringing, my eyes started burning, throat started burning.”
The group he was marching with began to shrink to about 15 to 20 people.
“We were running for a good ten minutes, and as we were running they were [still] shooting tear gas at us,” he said.