Police Use Shock Tactics To Squash Anti-Austerity Demo

100 Anti-Austerity Protesters Take Over Downtown Montreal

Montreal police used tear gas and shock tactics to repel demonstrators marching downtown in protest of the government’s austerity measures Saturday evening.

Walking against traffic, about 100 protesters marched peacefully westbound on Ste. Catherine St. screaming “Fuck la bourgeoisie.”

Banging batons and shields, riot police intercepted the demonstrators before they reached City Councillors St.

The protest—dubbed “Grosse Manif de Soir” on Facebook—started at 7:30 p.m. at Place Émilie Gamelin: a familiar rallying point for demonstrations. The night assembly was composed of young people and union delegates from the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN).

At first, the police were nowhere in sight. The group took Ste. Catherine St. unimpeded. Protest drums drowned out the issuing warnings coming from inside an all-white police van. Drivers stalled, letting protesters through as they sang their customary, “À qui la rue? À nous la rue!”

The crowd marched south on Jeanne Mance St., but doubled back continuing west on Ste. Catherine St. when a line of police cruisers were seen parked on the corner of René-Lévesque Blvd. The demonstration made it all the way to St. Alexandre St. before the police squashed it.

Riot police restrained McGill Daily photojournalist Shane Murphy at the night demo Saturday, May 23, 2015. He was handed a ticket for disrespecting a police order. Photo Evgenia Choros

The officers ran down Ste. Catherine St. as protesters fled. They fired tear gas pellets at stragglers walking behind them.

On the corner of Bleury and Ste Catherine Streets, riot police roughed up a photojournalist from the McGill Daily named Shane Murphy.

“Guy fucking put his arm against my neck,” said Murphy of the police officer who restrained him.

“It appears to me that it is a crude form of cleansing that is typical of the mayor.”

He spent some time in a kettle with one other person. Murphy was soon released with a fine for disrespecting a police order.

The fine police handed photojournalist Shane Murphy at the night demo Saturday, May 23, 2015. Photo courtesy of Shane Murphy

By the end of the night, the SPVM had handed 44 tickets. Forty-two individuals were fined for blocking traffic and two for wearing masks at a demonstration. Three were arrested for obstructing police work.

After being repelled on Ste. Catherine St., a small group of protesters sat in Phillips Square near the monument. A dozen police officers wielding shields and batons dispersed them. All the while, an onlooker, Richard Beaulieu, clamored against the officers’ actions.

“There is nothing in the P-3 bylaw that bans people from assembling like this in the park,” Beaulieu said. “It appears to me that it is a crude form of cleansing that is typical of the mayor.”

P-3 is a Ville-Marie borough bylaw concerning parks.

Reviving the movement

100 people protested downtown on Ste. Catherine St., Saturday, May 23, 2015. Photo Evgenia Choros

Though there weren’t many protesters compared to previous anti-austerity demonstrations, the movement may still be growing.

Charles Ste-Marie, a member of the Syndicat des Employés(e)s du Centre Hospitalier de L’Université de Montréal (SECHUM), marched with the protesters. SECHUM is affiliated with the CSN.

“We invite all unionized members of the CSN to take part in the night protests,” he said. “We are one of the last structured organizations that can help these demos. We hope one day the CSN officially joins the movement.”

Last week, amidst stalling negotiations between the union and management, the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS) voted in favor of a social strike. They intend to voice their grievances with the CSN.

“It’s time for the CSN and other social movements to launch a real political and social struggle,” Ste-Marie said. “We risk our future. We risk the dismantling of health and welfare services. It’s time we fight for real.”

Tune in to Matt D’Amours’ live stream:

First video by Shaun Michaud

*** Correction: The Link formerly stipulated that 42 people were fined for both blocking traffic and wearing masks.