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Supriya Dwivedi

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Heil Hyperbole! Montreal Protesters Are Fighting the Gestapo!

Posted: 06/13/2012 7:51 am

The protests in Montreal started off as something tangible, concrete: outrage over an increase in tuition. Of course, as we all know, the tone of the protests soon shifted, and before we could all say "neo-liberal policies," the protests morphed into what the protesters themselves described as an entire society waking up.

SLIDESHOW: POTS AND PANTS

This is good. Having a politically active population is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the cornerstone of a democracy, whereby the people are free to express themselves and cast their ballot for their leaders. The Charest government has had multiple allegations of corruption and collusion brought forth against them, and the people of Quebec have every right to question the policies of their democratically elected government.

The operative term of that last sentence being "democratically elected," as Quebeckers are living in a democracy. This seems to be lost on the protesters, however, as the students hold up signs stating that this is their "Printemps Érable" (Maple Spring), and clang their pots and pans in the streets as homage to the people of Chile, who protested in order to combat the Pinochet dictatorship. Clearly this is neither Syria nor Chile. Charest has yet to order the mass murder of his political dissidents, and Quebec is sure to have an election within the next 18 months. The people that are unsatisfied with Charest and the Liberals will have their voices heard at the ballot box.

2012-06-13-sQUEBECSTUDENTPROTESTNAZISALUTElarge.jpg
The student protest movement has been rife with hyperbole and misconstrued comparisons since its inception. Thus, it should in fact come as no surprise that the protesters have now taken to making links between the Montreal police and the Nazi Regime. In a picture that went viral, students are shown to be giving the Nazi salute. After much criticism of the photo being taken out of context, it was found that the salute was intended for the Montreal police.

This comes following Grand Prix weekend, after there were a series of allegations of political profiling by Montreal police. There were 34 preventative arrests, and some accused the police of simply arresting or searching the bags of people who were merely wearing red squares. Sounds awful.

In reality, however, it is commonplace for police to turn away people from a high-security event for not having a ticket. Moreover, considering the open threats to the Grand Prix, its attendees, and the Montreal Metro system, one can hardly scoff at the police's response. Nevertheless, even in its most excessive form, it is not the equivalent of the systematic slaughtering of six million people.

The bleak realism is that having one hyperbolic comparison could easily be attributed to an unfortunate isolated incident, yet having these constant cultural gaffes is an exemplification of the environment fostered by the protest, and the so-called distinct society mentality running through them. Nothing seems to matter other than their cause, and the perceived cruelty of having to pay increased tuition is equated to actual atrocities committed elsewhere in the world.

In the early days of the protest, protesters and supporters alike were often quick to rightly point out that much of the violence and vandalism caused was not perpetrated by the students. Rather, political opportunists (other than the PQ's Pauline Marois), and rabble rousers such as the Black Bloc and anti-capitalists were to blame. The students were both smart and right to distance themselves from such people, as being associated with potential rioters did little to win public sympathy.

Similarly, it is tactically astute that both CLASSE and FEUQ were quick to denounce the Nazi gestures at the protests. I suppose now it will be interesting to see what authority these leaders actually exert over the protesters, as the protest is so far removed from the original tuition issue. One can only hope that this is a signal to the strikers and their supporters to put the kibosh on the comparisons to genocidal governments.

For the time being, however, the protesters like to think of Charest as Hitler and the Montreal police as the Gestapo. I suppose the real irony here is that after weeks of the punditry slamming the students for being predominantly from arts majors such as sociology, anthropology and history, the students have successfully proven they know very little regarding all three.


POTS AND PANTS


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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)

MASS ARRESTS, KETTLING


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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

 

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