Riot Cops Cut Off Grande Masquerade
ASSE-Led Anti-Austerity March Get Pushed to the Sidewalk
— Video by Matt D’Amours
There was a tense standoff between Montreal police and about 50 protesters on Wednesday, as officers in full riot gear attempted to block the group’s route on a Ste. Catherine St. sidewalk.
The protesters were members and supporters of l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSE), who had gathered at Square Phillips at approximately 1 p.m. to march in opposition to the Quebec Liberal government’s austerity agenda.
ASSE is an organization that represents 80,000 university and college students in Quebec.
Just minutes after the march began, however, the group was cut off on a sidewalk by roughly three dozen riot police officers. Many of the visibly frustrated protesters called this police tactic “absurd,” and demanded they be allowed to march westward on Ste. Catherine St.
“I just [told the officers] ‘you’re making it seem like it’s a favour to let people march on the sidewalk’ … when we always have that right,” said activist Jaggi Singh after confronting the line of police. “They deployed maybe about a hundred police today, so they have to use them even though it’s just your regular, relatively modest demonstration.”
After the 10 minute standoff, protesters were allowed to proceed past the police line. Several of them wore ornate masks in defiance of Montreal’s P-6 bylaw, but justified their attire by labelling the demonstration a “grande masquerade.”
ASSE spokesperson Hind Fazazi pointed out that the masks also served to underscore her group’s message.
“The objective was to invite people to come in masks … in order to unmask Liberal pillaging,” Fazazi said. “We will always be there to remind the population that we are with them, and that we are against the Liberal government’s austerity measures.”
The protesters marched peacefully for approximately 30 minutes with riot police in tow, before stopping and dispersing on McGill College Ave.