Quebec protests search for strategy

Montreal – With the collapse of negotiations between the Charest government and student leaders last week, and the persistence of the nightly pots and pans protest, the question is what next?

With a little borrowing from the Occupy movement, which itself borrowed from the Indignados in Spain and other places, an answer is emerging. Throughout Montreal’s northern and eastern districts, general assemblies are forming.

Neighbours, it seems, get to know each other rather well clanging cooking utensils, and now, from Mile End to Rosemont to Hochelaga, demonstrators are moving past a collective manifestation of discontent to put down local organizational roots.

Meetings were held last week in city parks, where hundreds of residents of all ages discussed everything from making their streets redder with the insignias of protest to hosting community picnics.

“Many people see the casseroles as he greatest thing happening now but are wondering what to do next,” says Blandine Jucas, an organizer in the north Montreal neighbourhood of Villeray. “What’s bringing people together is [the question of] how can we truly go from the student movement to something else,” she says.

University of Quebec at Montreal poli-sci professor Francis Dupuis-Déri sees these new structures as a local response to widespread alienation from a political elite increasingly seen as intransigent, corrupt and self-serving.

An enthralled analyst and participant, he says local assemblies are all about “having public discussion about issues and not thinking that much about official political representatives.

“There is one tendency within the student movement that believes beating the Liberals in an election is their only hope. And there is another tendency that doesn’t have goals that will be electorally solved,” says Dupuis-Déri.

Following the collapse of negotiations where reps from CLASSE, the largest federation of striking students, say the government walked away from the bargaining table when the group tried to talk about Bill 78, the tension has been rising.

Feelings about the civil-rights-averse legislation are very raw for its part, the government has been threatening that the protests will interfere with Quebec’s lucrative festival tourism.

The Grand Prix occurring this weekend is shaping up to be the occasion of a major mobilization. CLASSE rep Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois says his group does not intend to disrupt, but only to be a presence and try to educate with flyers. “We are on strike against the Liberals, not against people going to a show,” he says.

However, CLAC,, Montreal’s Anti-Capitalist Convergence, has called overtly for “a week of economic disruption.” Certainly, many believe Charest will use any economic interference as an electoral wedge to rally support behind a hardline law-and-order campaign.

What the weekend will bring is unclear, as the protracted tug-of-war between parliament and the street plays on. |

Stay In The Know with Now Toronto

Be the first to know about new and exclusive content