Protesters take to the street. Photo: Justin Canning
Police try to figure out what to do. Photo: Justin Canning
Montreal - Thursday April 18th started out with rain in the morning but by late afternoon the sun started peeking through the clouds just as everyone was getting off work and heading home after a long day in the office. However something other than the usual springtime pothole was making traffic difficult in downtown Montreal.
At 5pm on Thursday, a small group of 20 protesters met up at Square phillips in the heart of downtown Montreal with the intention of making a statement against what they deemed was the highly repressive P-6 municipal bylaw that had cut short the last three of their protests.
The day’s event on Facebook announced that if Montreal police wanted them to stay in one place, they'd do just that.
One must recall that the previous protests
had each barely made it four blocks before being surrounded by riot police will the sum result being mass arrests and everyone getting a hard to swallow 637$ fine.
The last big one, on April 5th didn't even manage to leave the rally point. Among the 279 arrests that day were parents with strollers, journalists and a panda bear mascot, all rounded up with little regard for their liberty of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.
By 5:35pm, after no small amount of time convening and under the ever so watchful eye of the police, a group of six protestors committed to what they all knew would be assured arrest and undoubtedly a hefty fine.
Using PVC pipes to secure themselves to one another they formed a circle and proceeded to block traffic on one of Montreal busiest downtown thoroughfares: St-Catherine and Union.
This maneuver, known as the "Sleeping Dragon", is when protesters chain or handcuff themselves together through a PVC pipe making it impossible for the police to cut them loose using only bolt-cutters.
Though no handcuffs were used this time, the event did not lose it's shock value. Crowds of onlookers littered the four corners watching as the police moved in to disperse the roadblock.
It took police little more than five minutes to assess the situation and start dragging the circle of six towards the sidewalk, in the process separating one of the links. Once they had figured out that the protestors were only holding hands inside the pipe they started pulling and pushing the pipes, eventually separating one of the protestors completely.
Police then cordoned off the street corner, pushed onlookers further back and called in more specialized reinforcements to help deal the remaining five.
After a 40 minute standoff, the protesters decided to let go and get their tickets rather than be subjected to police pressure point tactics as a means to separate them.
The six protesters were each charged with article 500.1 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code: “No person may, during a concerted action intended to obstruct in any way vehicular traffic on a public highway, occupy the roadway, shoulder or any other part of the right of way of or approaches to the highway or place a vehicle or obstacle thereon so as to obstruct vehicular traffic on the highway or access to such a highway” each receiving a 501$ fine after being released at various Metro stations.
In Quebec, once again the freedom of automobiles apparently takes precedence over the freedom of assembly.