For the second year in a row, the Demonstration Against Racism drew around 3,000 protestors on Oct. 7. The protest was co-organized by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC), Montreal Antifasciste (ANTIFA), Food Against Fascism, Solidarity Across Borders, and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Protesters moved into the streets around 3 p.m., gathering at the moving truck provided by ANTIFA, which was filled to the brim with speakers. It blasted out three main speeches, touching on the normalization of racism, colonialism, and disappointment in the recent Quebec elections.
Despite not being the official reason the march was called, the newly-elected CAQ was the main target of the protest. Shouts of ”Francois Legault has got to go” rose through the air as the masses of people snaked through downtown.
The CAQ has proposed several changes to Quebec’s immigration policies, including a ‘Quebec values test,’ which Legault has stated will test whether or not immigrants agree with Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and will guage their grasp of conversational French. It is still unclear what would happen to those who fail the tests, as the CAQ has stated that it is, ultimately, Ottawa’s responsibility to deal with unsuccessful attempts.
Bénédicte Santoire, a protester and Université de Montréal (UDeM) Master’s student, said that she had known about the protest before the election, but Legault’s victory spurred her to come out.
“I just don’t like their position on the [Quebec values test], on immigration,” Santoire said. “[The CAQ is] a right-wing party. I disagree with their core beliefs.”
The protest was an opportunity to raise awareness for many causes to be heard. Nicholas Gibbs was a black NDG resident shot on Aug. 21 in a police altercation. During the demonstration, his nephew called the Montreal Police (SVPM) the “biggest gang in the city,” stating that the police had unfairly profiled his uncle due to his previous convictions and that they were lying about his uncle being armed the night he was killed.
The protest followed ANTIFA’s truck down Boul. René Lévesque, mostly broadcasting chants like “so-so-so-solidarité” and “say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here” while intermittently relaying speeches from members of the community. In front of Complexe Des Jardins, a large banner read “JUSTICE POUR NICHOLAS GIBBS: another racist murder by SVPM.”
“When we separate, when we show hate, we hate on each other. They love that because we’re divided,” Gibbs’ nephew said. “They’re the biggest gang in the city, they’re the biggest gang and when we’re like this, when we’re together like this, I can guarantee you on my life, none of us will get profiled. We need more of this.”
The nephew claimed that the city’s police intend to divide residents, revealing the need to stand in solidarity. This speech was followed by chants such as “tout le mode déteste la police” (“everybody hates the police”) directed at the police officers blocking off the roads for the protest.
The demonstration ended with speeches from members of the community and leaders of the co-organizing groups sharing messages against racism, Islamophobia, capitalism, colonialism, and fascism. Graham Bélanger, a first year fashion design student at LaSalle College, captured the crowd’s mood.
“It’s really important [that] citizens engage,” Belanger said. “Democracy can be very corrupt sometimes, and this is our last chance as people to gather and push it in the right direction.”