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Mim meets Montreal: parades and protests

by Mim Kempson March 24, 2015
Mim meets Montreal: parades and protests

Episode 16: In which Mim gets swept up in a crowd

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about Montrealers, it’s that they love not only a party, but a protest, too. On Sunday it was the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was also the anti-police brutality protest. They rained on the parade.

My friends and I arrived on the scene outside of Guy-Concordia metro. In the distance we saw an endless crowd dotted with green: hats, flags, costumes, balloons. From tourists to locals, children to the elderly, everyone braved the painstaking cold, which was relieved by the warmth derived from all the cheering and clapping. But this wasn’t the scene that we started the day with. No, we had walked into the middle of a different crowd: one in which the colour wasn’t on their clothes, but in their language. They booed and yelled and handed out pamphlets on what to do if you were arrested mid-protest—a protest which, as it turns out, got stopped before anything more than chanting happened, but that’s another story.

Mim and her friend Casandra De Masi get festive for the St Patrick’s Day parade. Photo by Gregory Todaro.

We quickly escaped the raucous group and skipped towards the parade. Sadly, I’d missed the SPCA, who’d marched down the street with puppies and kittens dressed in little green outfits that were stamped with, “adopt me, I’m Irish.” Fortunately, however, I did get to see the electric-powered bathtubs on wheels. That was a laugh, and one efficient way to grab new customers’ attention for a bathroom supply store. There was also a marching band ensemble, a cheerleading squad, a float with a rock band and police on horseback.

When the parade ended we had intended to visit a warm pub for an Irish coffee, but every single Irish pub downtown was full, with queues streaming out the doors.

All the festiveness made me wonder why, in Australia, we don’t celebrate anything quite as largely, at least not St. Patrick’s Day. In Melbourne we hold a festival in one of the main parks, but there are certainly no major streets shut down for the occasion.

As for the protests, I witness one almost every week here in Montreal. In Australia, protests are not nearly as frequent nor extravagant. The only protest that I’ve partaken in was one about something to do with helping the environment, though I can’t remember it well because I was roughly five years old (and dressed in fairy wings whilst sitting upon my dad’s shoulders). So, in comparison, Australia’s protests are pretty sedate. Despite the often riotous nature of their protests, I admire the fact that Montrealers are so willing to speak their mind.

Whether in celebration or in demonstration, Montreal sure knows how to rally a crowd.

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