Québec’s Student Strike Turning Into a Citizens’ Revolt
The province of Québec is no stranger to large and powerful social movements (the 1949Asbestos Strike comes to mind, as does the Summit of the Americas in Québec City, in 2001). However, the ongoing conflict between the provincial government and striking students and their supporters will go down in history as one of the province’s - indeed the country’s - biggest mass protests. On its 102nd day, the student movement is growing, as is the awareness of an ever more oppressive and corrupt government.
On May 22, nearly half a million people marched in the streets of Montreal in defiance of a recently adopted law denying protester’s civil liberties, namely the right to protest, freedom of association and of expression. A crowd made up of students, professors, children and citizens from every walk of life marched peacefully throughout the city, ignoring provisions prohibiting any deviation from the planned itinerary and disrupting the commercial and banking district. The crowd openly defied articles of Bill 78, which make any gathering of over 50 protesters illegal, and chanted for the resignation of Premier Jean Charest, who has systematically refused to meet with the students personally. Many consider that the government’s refusal to find a solution and, indeed, its increasingly repressive position have given the movement a second wind.
On Wednesday, May 23, more than 3,000 people assembled in Montreal, in Emilie-Gamelin Square for the 30th nightly protest, while throughout the city, citizens spontaneously took to the streets (in some neighborhoods, over 2,000 people) banging on pots and pans and blocking busy roads, in a situation reminiscent of the Argentinian protests of 2001. No longer just a student strike, the Maple Spring is fast becoming a widespread citizens’ revolt.