Arrêtez-moi quelqu'un! Vowing to violate Quebec's anti-protest law


Arrêtez-moi quelqu'un! ("Someone stop me!") is a site where Quebeckers and their supporters around the world can post photos of themselves holding signs in which they state their intention to violate Special Law 78, which suspends the right to freedom of assembly in Quebec: "Nous nous engageons à continuer à lutter; à rester mobilisé·e·s, en vertu des libertés fondamentales. Si cela nous vaut des poursuites pénales en vertu de la loi 78, nous nous engageons à y faire face."

Arrêtez-moi quelqu’un! (Thanks, PaulR!)

Globe and Mail turns celebrity photos slideshow into commentary on Quebec protests

The caption writer on the Globe and Mail's "Celebrity Photos of the Week" department has some trenchant political fun with the feature. Opening with a picture of the mass demonstrations still rocking Quebec, the writer notes "Thousands of Quebec students march through Montreal to protest university tuition fee hikes. Oh wait. Sorry about that, English Canada. You didn't come here to look at a bunch of self-centred, entitled people who don't know the value of a dollar and obviously crave attention. I don't know what I was thinking. You have no time for those kind of people."

Of course, the rest of the slideshow is of celebs holding fancy handbags flashing prosthetic dentistry attending red carpet events ("Cannes jury member Diane Kruger hits the Cannes red carpet last week in a dress that hardly resembles at all something Marie Antoinette would have worn") interspersed with protesters getting forcibly taken down and arrested in Montreal, creating an imaginary dialog with the celebs ("Zac, this is a bad person with misguided values. According to some, this Quebecker is no better than a Greek person who lost his job and isn't gracious enough to be pleased that his unemployment is helping Wall Street recover from the 2008 recession").

The Globe's celebrity photo caption-writer does this sort of thing regularly, but this is the best to date.

Celebrity Photos of the Week (Thanks, Emily!)

Canadian border guards demand inbound journalist's mobile phone contacts, prohibit writing while in-country

Henry sez, "Jacobin editor and In These Times correspondent Bhaskar Sunkara got a going over from Canadian border cops who accused him of being 'political' for knowing about health insurance, and of being a 'bigtime journalist embedded in the student movement,' then demanded his phone and details of his contacts."

The other agent, now done examining my roll of dental floss, flipped through the copy of In These Times, and saw my name on the masthead. So you’re a big time journalist? You must be embedded in the student movement, right?

This was the surprise and, to be honest, it was kind of refreshing. For the first few years of my adult life, I’ve dealt with extra screenings at airports and crossings, mostly outside the United States, particularly in the European countries I’ve visited. It was due to my race. My first hour in Canada was like that. Now I was being harassed because I was a leftist going to possibly talk to people in a country terrified of a militant left-wing movement. And I was a “known journalist.” I couldn’t wait to brag to my friends.

They asked me if I had two identities. No, of course not. How come you have all these medical cards that say “Swamy Sunkara” on them? I tried to explain the United States’ employer-based health care system and how young people under a certain age were under their parent’s coverage. You know a lot about this, are you political?

The irony was striking. The system I was explaining was a stark reminder of America’s weak social safety net. It was foreign to the Canadian border officials, who were admittedly not too bright, but it was one of the reasons why so many were marching in the streets of Montreal – to halt the neoliberal offensive. The border officials didn’t want me to join the protesters, but they also didn’t want my health care.

Reading Lolita in Montreal: Canada Doesn’t Want More Journalists (Thanks, Henry!)

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)

What the hell is going on in Quebec?


(Photo by Philip Miresco)

Quebec is in the throes of mass protests. A prolonged student strike over tuition hikes triggered a law placing broad restrictions on the freedom to protest, and giving the police the power to arbitrarily declare even "approved" protests to be illegal. Over 500 were arrested in a single Montreal protest, after a prolonged and totally unjustifiable kettling incident. Kate McDonnell of the Montreal City Weblog was on that march, and she's graciously written us a piece on the experience:

Downtown Montreal midday Tuesday, thousands upon thousands of people poured into Place des Festivals and the surrounding areas to begin a march. Montrealers march more readily than most Canadians, but this was a special day – the 100th day of the student strike against the tuition increase ordained by the Quebec government under Jean Charest.

Charest has been premier of Quebec since 2003. A Conservative at the federal level, he jumped for the chance when the Quebec Liberal Party needed a new leader. He has nudged the party steadily rightward ever since. In recent years his government has been rocked by multiple charges of corruption and collusion, but it was the party's planned increase in university tuition fees that sparked the real furor in Quebec.

Early 2011, Charest announced his intention to end a tuition freeze with an increase of $325 per year until a university year (two terms) ends up costing $3,793 in 2017. Sporadic protests were held, but the demo of February 17, 2012 was the beginning of daily protests, mostly in the evenings, most peaceful but with occasional outbreaks by "casseurs" breaking windows, throwing rocks and bottles at police, painting things red.

Concerns about access to education were foremost: yes, Quebec still has some of the lowest tuition fees around, but Quebec taxes are very high, a fact that's tolerated because Quebecers have nearly European expectations for collective health care, education and other services. Statistics show that fewer Quebecers progress to higher education than other Canadians, probably the legacy of a time when the Catholic Church dominated the culture (a hegemony that only ended with the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s). Pundits are in disagreement whether rising tuition rates will lower university attendance.

The most recent ratcheting of tension was last week's passage of a new law, Bill 78, the loi spéciale which limits freedom of assembly, protest, or picketing on or near university grounds, or anywhere in Quebec without prior police approval. A more vaguely worded part of the bill would criminalize the act of encouraging people to demonstrate.

Read the rest

Quebec cops kettle and mass-arrest demonstrators


In the Globe and Mail a Canadian Press report by Nelson Wyatt on the mass-kettling and arrest of protesters in Montreal last night. A long-running and hard-fought student strike over tuition hikes led to the passage of a shameful law that limits the rights of protesters. Quebeckers are out in force to protest this law, and often in sympathy with the students' demands. The police have responded with "kettling," the tactic of cordoning off a large area and declaring the resulting space to be a civil-rights-free zone, such that anyone caught inside is arbitrarily detained without access to shelter, food, health services, or toilets. (Above, a photo of Montreal police pepper-spraying demonstrators at a march last week).

Riot officers stood impassively around the corralled demonstrators, feet planted and batons clutched in gloved hands. On a nearby street, a Quebec provincial police officer was seen snapping a rod topped with the flag of the hardcore anti-capitalist Black Bloc and tossing it between two parked cars.

Police on horseback also provided reinforcement as officers sorted out the crowd.

Emmanuel Hessler, an independent filmmaker who had been following the march for a few blocks, said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press from inside the police encirclement that he was surprised by the action, saying, “Suddenly, there were police all around us.”

While the crowd waited to be led away one by one to be handcuffed and sent for processing at a police operational centre – a procedure expected to take several hours – a man started reading poetry and the crowd hushed to listen. Someone else sang a folk song. At one point a woman called out the phone number of a lawyer which the mob took up as a chant.

Mr. Hessler, 30, was able to tweet to friends, “We are about to get cuffed and off in a bus. Don’t know what happens after. Wish me luck.”

Some demonstrators who had escaped the police cordon continued to march elsewhere while others milled about beyond the police lines and cheered as buses took the detainees away.

400 arrested as Montreal police kettle demonstrators (Thanks, Mom!)

(Image: IMG_6450, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 79393030@N04's photostream)