Underwhelmed and Overheating

Provincewide Day of Action Sees Relatively Low Turnout

As the numbers grow in front of the National Assembly, some protesters keep cool in a fountain before the march. Photo Alexandru Petrosan
Protesters take a short break at Jeanne-Mance Park while they wait for the rest to catch-up. At its peak, the protest gathered around 10,000 people. Photo Riley Sparks

On June 22, another Day of Action saw an estimated 20,000 people across the province demonstrate in what has become a monthly tradition of massive demonstrations against rising tuition fees and the controversial new laws imposed by the Jean Charest and the Liberal government.

In Quebec City, a crowd continued to gather in front of the National Assembly on the sweltering Friday afternoon, with the sound of clanging casseroles, drums and a New Orleans-style jam keeping everyone’s spirits high.

Quebecers young and old bathed in the park’s fountain, keeping cool before the march began.

Thousands began the protest just after 3:00 p.m., marching down the Grande Allée after an uplifting sendoff by Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. Cheers erupted and fists occupied the space between the blowing flags with his words, “We have bad news for the Liberals: we’re still here!”

Filling the road across a stretch of many blocks, the protest made its way through central Quebec City with over 10,000 participants chanting and singing.

Flags for provincial party Option Nationale flew alongside the numerous Fleur-de-Lys flags, in anticipation for St. Jean Baptiste Day festivities later in the weekend. One anti-Nazi flag joined the others for the beginning of the march, but after some discussion, it was taken down.

The demonstration remained peaceful even with many encouraging the group to deviate from the given protest route.

At its height, the Quebec City Day of Action was over 10,000 strong. Photo Alexandru Petrosan

After nearly two hours of marching, about half the protesters continued moving straight ahead despite instructions from police to turn right. They continued for about 20 minutes without trouble, until a group of about 15 riot police began following them.

Despite taunts from protesters, the situation never escalated to violence, but protesters reconvened on St. Jean St. with the others for a quick “sit-in and die-in” before finally dispersing.

One man was taken away in an ambulance after collapsing in the heat.

The afternoon demonstration ended with speeches by members of provincial parties Option Nationale and Quebec Solidaire back at the park in front of the National Assembly building.

About 250 kilometers away, a very similar scene was also unfolding.

Thousands gathered around 2:00 p.m. at Place du Canada in downtown Montreal. The end of June means a mass student exodus from the city, so for once the average age seemed well above 20.

They battled the stifling heat but not much else, as the peaceful protest wound its way through Montreal.

In a city embattled and polarized by some of the most emphatic demonstrations and unprecedented attendance records over the past five months, the wrangling of 10 to 20 thousand for what was meant to be a heavy-hitting day of action seemed a bit underwhelming.

After a few hours of marching through the heat, the group made its move up Parc Ave., east on Mont-Royal Ave., and all the way down Papineau Ave. to Sherbrooke St. before slowly dispersing at St. Louis Square near Sherbrooke Metro.

All told, there were no reported arrests. Another nightly demonstration was set to take place at Place Émilie-Gamelin in Montreal, and another in Quebec City, where a recent bylaw, in tune with the controversial Bill 78, will see a curfew intended to stop protests from happening after 11:00 p.m.