Has the Quebec protest had its kissing couple moment?

A striking photo of a young man sitting in the spray from an open fire hydrant in Montreal while riot police march by is taking off online.


The picture, taken by David Champagne, first appeared on the Montreal freelance photographer's blog.

It wasn't long before the picture began showing up on Reddit and Facebook.

Champagne said he took the photo on the night of May 20. Some protesters opened up a fire hydrant at the same spot a bonfire had been lit the evening before.

Four men began playing in the water, surrounded by onlookers with cameras. One of the men grabbed a chair and sat down in the spray.

That man was Cameron Collie, a 24-year-old engineering student from Brampton, Ont.

Collie told HuffPost Canada he was in Montreal to play a show with his punk band, The Stragglers, not to participate in the protests. Collie is the band's drummer.

He was on his way back to his lodgings after performing at the bar L'Absynthe when he got caught up in the night's protests. According to Collie, some police officers came up behind him on a motorcycle and hit him several times with batons.

"I guess I was the right age. It was crazy, they were just hitting everyone," Collie said.

Soon after, Collie and his three bandmates came upon the open fire hydrant and began to play in the water. Collie grabbed a chair from a pile of debris that had been used to build a barricade and sat down in the stream of water.

Champagne said that when police began arriving from two directions, most of the protesters and onlookers began to clear the scene. Collie, however, remained behind sitting calmly in the torrent of water.

"It was a surrealistic thing," Champagne said. "There are riot police and then the guy is very peaceful, very chill."

Collie said that when the police showed up he was motivated to stay put by their behaviour earlier in the evening. The student at Lakehead University said he decided, "I'm not going to let them stop me from having my fun."

Collie can also be seen sitting in the background of a photo used for the front page of the May 22 edition of Le Journal de Montréal. Video of the scene has been posted to YouTube.

Whether the dramatic photo will end up reaching the iconic status of the kissing couple from Vancouver's Stanley Cup riot remains to be seen, just like where the protests go from here.

For his part, Champagne said the nature of the protest is starting to change. "Now it's getting more popular, in every little neighbourhood families, people, children, grandma and grandpa, everybody is going on the street to play casseroles [pots and pans]. There are a lot of people and you can hear it everywhere. Now it's more than a student crisis, it's going bigger."

Collie agrees. "Everyone is getting in from every point of view, it's not even about tuition anymore ... I feel like it's getting to the point where people from other cities are going to start to join in."

In Collie's view, it's the passage of Bill 78, the controversial emergency measures law, that is triggering the growth of demonstrations. "That's when it became less of a protest and everyone against the cops," Collie said.

"As soon as you're told you can't protest, that's a pretty big thing."


quebec fire hydrant photo

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Related on HuffPost:

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  • The clanging pots of student unrest that have rattled Montreal and Quebec City for several nights are coming noisily to life in other parts of the province. (Text: CP)

  • People took up the percussive protest Thursday night in several towns and cities including Sorel, Longueuil, Chambly, Repentigny, Trois-Rivieres and even in Abitibi -- several hundred kilometres away from the hot spot of Montreal (Text: CP)

  • They were still loudest in Montreal, where a chorus of metallic clanks rang out in neighbourhoods around the city, spilling into the main demonstrations and sounding like aluminum symphonies. (Text: CP)

  • The pots-and-pans protest has its roots in Chile, where people have used it for years as an effective, peaceful tool to express civil disobedience. The noisy cacerolazo tradition actually predates the Pinochet regime in Chile, but has endured there and spread to other countries as a method of showing popular defiance. (Text: CP)

  • Thursday's protest in Montreal was immediately declared illegal by police, who said it violated a municipal bylaw because they hadn't been informed of the route. They allowed it to continue as long as it remained peaceful. (Text: CP)

  • Although there was a massive police presence throughout the evening with the roar of a provincial police helicopter competing with the banging of the pots, there was little if any tension reported between demonstrators and police. (Text: CP)

  • People tapped the pots as they walked, the sounds mingling with shouts and chants. Others leaned out of car windows to bang their pans and one protester smacked a pot right in front of one police officer who looked on indifferently. (Text: CP)

  • Usually the nightly street demonstrations, which have gone on for a month, have a couple of vigorous drummers to speed them along their route. At the very least, someone clangs a cow bell. (Text: CP)

  • But in the last few days, the pots and pans protest -- dubbed the casseroles by observers -- have acted like an alarm clock for the regular evening march, sounding at 8 p.m. on the nose in advance of the march's start. (Text: CP)

  • While thousands, including children, their parents, students and the elderly, packed the streets in support, the Twitterverse exploded with reactions and observations. (Text: CP)

  • "Spotted a man in an Armani suit banging a pot," tweeted Christina Stimpson on one of Thursday's participants. "Feel the love people." (Text: CP)

  • Another man rolled a small barbecue through the streets of Montreal, banging the lid. The joviality was a far cry from late Wednesday when police decided to shut down a largely peaceful evening march after they said projectiles were thrown and criminal acts were committed. (Text: CP)

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  • Police arrest protesters during a demonstration against tuition fee hikes in Montreal on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Police keep an eye on demonstrators as they march through the streets of Montreal in a protest against tuition fee hikes on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

  • Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press