Thousands gather in Montreal for first nighttime spring 2015 protest
The night turned to violence on two separate occasions as several thousand protesters gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin near Berri-UQAM metro on March 24 to protest austerity measures.
The march, not immediately declared illegal, headed on Ste-Catherine Street before turning south towards René-Lévesque Boul. on Saint-Christophe Street. On the corners of Saint-Laurent and René-Lévesque, protestors started causing damage to three to six SPVM patrol vehicles, resulting in broken glass.
At that point, the SPVM engaged in dispersing the protesters and started using teargas and pepper spray. According to Twitter’s #ManifEnCours, the march was split into three, and only the major group kept walking past police and into the Montreal streets.
Throughout the night, chants varied. Anything went, from “On n’a rien volé, nous!” (the motto of the public service union protest against the imposed pension plan settlment, which translates to “we haven’t stolen anything) to yelling “one, two, three, four. This is fucking class war,” a chant heard in the 2012 Maple Springs.
Some protesters shot fireworks and firecrackers into the sky throughout the march. Overhead, a police helicopter surveyed the scene. After a long walk, protesters ended up on Sherbrooke, going up Union, and taking the police for a walk around the block. Protesters marched all the way to McGill College, before heading down Ste-Catherine St. towards Place-des-Arts. Here, they headed back north up Jeanne-Mance all the way to Sherbooke St. again, where they marched down to Drummond.
Two hours after the protest had begun, it was declared illegal, and protesters were asked to disperse, according to the SPVM’s Twitter feed. At this point, the protest was right by Concordia University’s downtown campus.
According to La Presse, officers tried to use pepper spray on a small group of protesters, which caused a larger group to come confront the police by throwing various projectiles at them. This led to a standoff between students and police on Drummond St. and De Maisonneuve St.
After protesters refused to stand down, the SPVM engaged with more tear gas, batons and even firing plastic bullets at the crowd. According to the Montreal Gazette, the riot squad had charged the group at least once. Fellow photographer of the McGill Daily, Shane Murphy, said that he was also hit in the head by a rogue piece of ice during the scuffle. The protests ended when the police kettled the protesters in and some were let go. At the end of the night, four arrests were made, two for assault and two for armed attacks.