Quebeckers take to the streets with pots and pans: a charivari

Here are Montrealers engaged in charivari, a form of protest involving beating pots and pans in the streets. They're out protesting the new law 78, which prohibits public gatherings without police approval, and gives the police the power to arbitrarily declare approved protests to be illegal ones midstream. The law was passed amid a long, bitter student strike over tuition hikes, but it hasn't damped down the protest -- rather, it has so outraged many Quebeckers, who have joined in the nightly casserole protests. This form of protest was widely used in Chile after Pinochet banned public protest. The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt writes from Montreal:

"I'm very surprised at what's happened," said Kevin Audet-Vallee, a 24-year-old history student who had attended tuition fees protests before bill 78 was introduced.

"Now that the ordinary citizens are in the streets I think the government is really in trouble, because the middle class is in the streets. At first [critics of student protesters] were saying we were radicals. These are not radicals."

Indeed, at the pot banging near the Jarry subway on Friday night the age range of the crowd was strikingly diverse. Sensibly dressed fortysomethings wearing hiking boots and kagools intermingled with long-haired students wearing only shorts. Men and women pushing young children in prams were flanked by hipsters on fixed-gear bikes.

The range of protesters was matched by the diversity of utensils they chose to create noise. Some had reached past the saucepan and wooden spoon, with the Guardian spying such unlikely pairings as a colander and a drumstick, a pan lid and a pair of chopsticks, and a barbecue lid and a pair of tongs all being put to alternative use.

As the protesters marched for more than four hours through various Montreal neighbourhoods, many people had taken to their balconies in support, bringing their own kitchenware and adding to the din.

Montreal's 'casseroles' cook up a storm over Quebec's anti-protest law (via Making Light)


  1. Er, over here in Bavaria, a Charivari is mainly a little chain for men, more here:

    It is also a french potato salad, and a radio station in Munich.
    But you’re right, it’s also known as “Katzenmusik” (“cat music”), which means any kind of noisemaking. I didn’t know that one.

    1.  The English-language wiki entry shows it as having different implications and levels in different places–it’s covered the extremes between sustained harassment of someone that’s accused of violating community customs to simple pranks on newlyweds.

  2. Sounds like it is time to bring down the Quebec Government, I mean really thet can just declare the protest illegal in the middle of the demonstration, what a load of bull.

  3. “This form of protest was widely used in Chile after Pinochet banned public protest”. That’s right. We called this “caceroleo” or “cacerolazo” [from cacerola = casserole :-) ]
    Last year we had quite a few against the repression of the student’s movement, and against Sebastian Piñera’s government.

    1. Actually we may have Chilean student striker to thank for this idea as some of their representatives were in Montreal a couple of weeks ago. I guess that the idea was seeded back then.

      I have to say, this has completely changed the dynamics of the protests…and for the better.

      1. This is where it all starts…..  This is where social polarization ends….  It’s noise, designed to crowd out the noise, it’s unstop-able  by decree and gives no quarter to authority….   An refined and effective form of collective civil disobedience that is not open to debate…..  It speaks louder than reason…..

  4. My 72 year old mother in law would beg to differ as to the righteousness of this form of protesting.  From what I understand, many of her friends and neighbors would rather the kids either drop of school and pursue something else or just suck it up and get back to their studies.

    1. It is perfectly valid to say that the students should suck it up.  I don’t know enough about the disagreement to have an opinion on their complaints one way or the other.  It doesn’t matter.  It isn’t valid in a free society to ban protesting.  You can think the students are twats for protesting whatever they are protesting and still join them because the government just declared protesting illegal.

      As the old saying goes “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

      Fuck the students.  People in Quebec should be pissed that their government has approved a law generally associated with dictators, tyrants, and autocratic regimes.

    2. Would the 72 years old be happy if the government decided not to raise tuition and get that money from cuts to old people’s pensions? I’d think the students’ protests would stop immediately.

    1. Purely circumstantial. There is a strong black (mainly Haitian) community in Montreal, many of which take part in the peaceful protests.

          1. I should have phrased this better. 

            How do you define white or Caucasian? All I’m saying is that Montreal is a very cosmopolitan city with hundreds of ethnic groups. Most of them happen to fall into the Caucasian branch, (Lebanese, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Moroccan, ect)By saying “Caucasian” you’re implying that it’s a town full of “pure laine” Quebeckers. French Canadians are in the minority on the island.Yes, there is a lot of white people in these clips, and they have many different origins.

    2. Montreal has a significant black community. Some may hesitate to take part in political/protest activities as they are often unfairly targeted by authorities. 

    3. What do you mean? That blacks are prohibited from participating because they have to harvest the cotton fields? That they are OK with Bill 78, so they do not protest? 

      This comment makes no sense.

      1. Really?  It makes perfect sense to me.  If you have been unfairly targeted by police over time you may be hesitant to engage in confrontations with police, whereas people of privilege may feel less threatened and more willing to risk protest.  I (a white middle aged Minnesotan) feel very comfortable confronting police when necessary, but then again I have friends on the force and my dad is a lawyer.  I feel an obligation to protest and speak out as a result, because otherwise who will speak?

        1. It may be so in Minnesota, but that’s not what I see in Montreal. The city is cosmopolitan and have people from all over the world. Montrealers are proud of being egalitarians in many ways, so I don’t see why a black person would feel hesitant about doing anything.

  5. I’m in Montreal (close to the Jarry station mentioned in the article, actually) and no one calls this a charivari here. They call it “le tintamarre” or “mouvement des casseroles”.  

    And WTF at the “no black face” commentary? There’s a TON of blacks living right in my neighborhood. Several little Caribbean/Haitian shops right on Jarry St. So they didn’t participate that particular day,  what’s your point?

    1. They were probably afraid of the consequences. Group actions of a certain shade have a nasty habit of getting described as “riots”

    2. Came here to say this! 

      Since 1955, the 200th anniversary of the ‘Grand Dérangement’, on every 15th of August Acadians have revived the French Medieval tradition and hold a tintamarre in the streets to remind the world that they survived and that they’re still vital.
      See here:

      Also (and it’s so much of this is ripe for puns):  why not call a it  ‘classeroles’?

  6. The atmosphere at these demos is tremendous. You get the impression of taking part in a zombie uprising taking the streets, but at the same time getting the feeling you are the living walking among a dead society.

  7. That’s just Montreal and that was 4 nights ago. Now it’s gotten much bigger. Much MUCH bigger. Thousands now gather in their neighborhoods and march out in the streets, blocking traffic. Also, cities around Montreal and across Quebec are starting a pots an’ pans uprising, every night at eight o’clock. There’s a revolution simmering here in Quebec and we hope it brings this corrupt mafia infested government down. Police brutality abounds every night due to Bill 78. More to come.

      1. The English-language news channels don’t seem very interested in covering the story. I just flipped through the ones I have available and the only channel that was talking about the protests was Sun “News”. And that was Charles Adler whining about entitled left-wing students and how the protests are being funded by unions.

        CTV News was talking about the CP Rail strike and a forest fire near Timmins and CBC News had some interview program about the first couple to get married in Berlin after WW2 ended. Maybe they’ll cover it when The National comes on.

    1. The “police brutality” you’re talking about is actually decreasing as the days go by. There was one arrest in Montreal yesterday, (May 26).  All pots and pans protests are considered illegal due to the law, yet the SPVM is tolerating them. The law is useless.

      1.  Hi Alex,
        Police brutality doesn’t need to be in quotes. It  still is a strong reality. They’ve simmered down due to all the bad press they’re getting. Many students are posting videos on YT  to protect the protesters. The police are now hiding (taping over) their ID number and some (all?) refuse to identify themselves. Yet, the one who’s to blame is Jean Charest who decided that letting this situation go out of hand and then using violence to control the students and then downplay their image as spoiled brats who deserve to be hit, arrested and fined. In 100+ days of protest, the one”s most guilty of violent acts remain the police and our PM.

        1. And to that, I have no objections. I shouldn’t have limited my definition of police brutality to the number of arrests. Police brutality is still an issue, although I’d be willing to argue that the pots and pans phenomena has considerably decreased the tension between the SPVM and the citizens. 

  8. Shivaree  is an old Cajun term, isn’t there a Hank Williams song about a shivaree?

  9. i live on the other side of le pont Jacques-Cartier. And yes, the casserole protests have reach the suburbs. I  mean if the ‘burbs do it the govt is REALLY done…

    ….sadly,splitting the vote between “the left” (Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire) and the right (the Liberals and the CAQ) in four ways means the bad guys might get re-elected. This keeps me awake at night. The Parti Québécois leader is nnpopular. She was in previous govts and was Minister of Health and Social Services when she had a special law voted to end a nurses’ strike in 1999…

    i know there’s different shades of horror but we’re fucked here in Québec. And don’t start me with Harper!

    (Iceland needs  immigrants, right?)

    time to go out with my pots and pans (it’s at 8pm every night)

    1.  I’m very worried about this too, I’m also unsure what to do as an Anglo Montrealer. Both the PQ and Quebec Solidaire are separatist parties, and the liberals and CAQ are unfit to govern. I don’t think I could bring myself to vote for the separatists, but there’s no federalist, left wing option.

      1. The NDP last considered restoring their provincial Quebec party in 2006, but my, have not things changed since then? 

        Give them a call or an email, you can probably find an MP near you.

        Because you’re right, that is a hole needs pluggin. The more people demonstrate a need the more people will move to fill it.

    1. The core of the original protest is the idea that government is an integral part of society, and they have an obligation to provide for the populace. In exchange, the population is taxed HEAVILY. The students are right : the model for tuition in Quebec (like that of health care throughout Canada) is that all share the cost, since society benefits from healthy, educated people. Money for education comes primarily from general taxation, not individual payments.

      The USA has a very very long way to go before even a hint of these ideas are acceptable. Most liberals I know in the USA reject most of the premises of  the society that the students are part of. I happen to agree with the students, but I grew up in, and maintain close connections to Montréal. But this is not a brand.

      This is what the most radical parts of American society looked like before Reagan made all political discourse – left and right – in the US essentially libertarian.

  10. Seeing the general public get involved and defy this law makes me have hope for the future here in Canada.  I feel proud of what the students have started. I am not surprised that this kind of enlightened attitude is coming from Quebec, that is what comes from good affordable education.  I believe what they have is worth fighting for.  I hope it inspires students everywhere to ask for more.  If PM Harper can tuck away an extra 10 BILLION dollars more for military jets than he let on to the public, perhaps he can  find a little pocket change to help out with some education.  I know, I know, he doesn’t like smart people, just obedient ones.  Merci Montreal! Merci Quebec!

  11. When they outlaw saucepans and wooden spoons, only the outlaws will have saucepans and wooden spoons.

  12. I was wondering if such Tahrir Square protests that partially inspired me to write/compose “Unknowable : A Mini Comic For Your Intuitive-Self”  would arrive HERE in my birthplace of Montreal.
    TRUE, the impetus for both differ, however they share the same popular distaste for what said local governments are attempt-ing/-ed to do to the populace at large. My only hope is that all this doesn’t somehow PLAY INTO the hands of the elitists…. I guess time will only tell…

    @ morgane : We’re NOT fucked … yet

    @google-bf78d0f9316f3d910d05a11ccd5bbd1f:disqus  margaret : Well, from what I saw when my girlfriend and I joined the march the other night, it seems the folks in their homes/apartments were really supportive. In fact, it was one of these moments where I felt that sense of “camaraderie” with the other folks in my “cartier” (french for neighborhood) Even as we passed by a seniors residence, the residents themselves came out to bang pots/pans on their walkers (!) or with their canes…so… it would seem your Mother-In-LAw hasn’t felt the zeitgeist … yet

    all : In the meantime, stay sharp, and use your intuition.

    1.  “quartier” je pense. But “Cartier” – as in the name of the french/breton explorer of Québec is pretty good as a pun.

  13. Man, I really wish this would happen in Calgary. Sigh. The city is also known as ‘Big Sleep’. Interesting fact: Pixar filmed all of the star-liner ‘Axiom’ scenes – for the film WALL-E – in Calgary. True story! Also, the Buy ‘N’ Large (BnL) corporation is based on our Provinces’ Legislative Assembly.

  14. In some parts of rural Minnesota Shiveree is what you call the shenanigans on the wedding night such as stealing the bride, or banging pots under the window of the newly-weds so they can’t have a restful night.  

    1. That’s what I always thought a shiveree was.  When one of my grandfather’s brothers was married (in rural Pa.) he and his bride were treated to a shiveree.  Things got a little out of hand when someone got the bright idea to introduce a stick of dynamite into the proceedings (there was always dynamite around on the farm).  The stick rolled a little too far and ended up blowing off the porch of the newlyweds’ house.

  15. Now, let’s end this meeting on a high note!

    Seriously, though, who knew Canada could be this exciting?

    1. My first visit to Canada was punctuated by the Queen’s Park riot, with which I had not much sympathy for as it was announced in advance. I’m of the opinion that riots need spontaneity and flashpoint as when announced it is too simple a thing to mischaracterize the act or use it to distract from the issue at hand.

  16. Representative democracy is dependent on a rock-paper-scissors dynamic: citizens obey laws, laws are created by governments, and governments answer to citizens. Today, more and more governments seems interested in replacing this with a dynamic in which the government simply rules everyone else. Good on the Quebeckers for starting to remind their lot of their standing – that public servants serve the public.

  17. I sure hope Quebec doesn’t separate from Canada. We need more people willing to stand up to government oppression.

  18. Reading the bill that they’re protesting gave me another idea for any of the Quebecois who are here to consider.  The bill states that you have to get police permission for protests and gatherings of more than 50 people.  So, flood the police with reports of gatherings.  Every lecture class at every school.  Every church service.  Every club meeting, sporting event or any other situation where 50 people might meet together. See how good of an idea they think it is then.

    1. It’s already happening, police is asking citizens to stop contacting them about “silly” matters… Family reunion, neighbourhood parties, etc. I couldn’t find articles in English, but here it is: 

      And here is my favourite one, the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce (not exactly out left, uh…) sent a letter to the police department to let them know people would attend their monthly social meeting…

      “We anticipate that there will be about 200 people attending.  Please be kind enough to let us know the number of plainclothes officers who will infiltrate our event so that we may be able to order the appropriate catering and other orders.”
      Translation available here:

  19. Some bread and cheese and fine white wine
    Designer chic is a matter of time
    Could this be the real thing?
    Or is this just another fling?
    Seen by millions nationally
    L’oumo Vogue, Playgirl, G Quarterly
    Because he’s down on his etiquette
    Shari Vari is really it

    Shari Vari
    Shari Shari Vari

    Smoking on his cigarette
    Listening to his car cassette
    Cruising with his hot playmate
    In his Porsche Nine Two Eight
    Heading for the highest heights
    For the climax of the night
    The people there they just won’t quit
    Because the music’s really it

    < *chorus*
    Shari Vari
    Shari Shari Vari

    Shari Vari
    Shari Shari Vari

    Smoking on his cigarette
    Listening to his car cassette
    Cruising with his hot playmate
    In his Porsche Nine Two Eight
    Heading for the highest heights
    For the climax of the night
    The people there they just won't quit
    Because the music is really it

    Shari Vari
    Shari Shari Vari

  20. Am I correct in thinking that if a law like Law 78 were passed in one of the United States, most people would simply knuckle under to it? And would the Supreme Court declare police misconduct to be free speech?

  21. When there is a protest here in the USA, the public is treated with a cacophony of chaotic cookoos via the media. The French Canadians protest on the other hand, you get a black and white cinematic piece, along with a melodic soundtrack to inspire you to join their lovely little happy protests. 

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