Montrealers walked the city’s streets to fight racism.
More than two thousand people walked in the streets of Montreal to protest against racism, on Sunday afternoon. The demonstration was focused on François Legault’s new government.
Thirty minutes before the demonstration, Émilie-Gamelin Square was already full. La Riposte socialiste, one of the demonstration’s coordinators, was among the organizations who already installed their stands. “We are a socialist group, based in Montreal founded ten years ago, that sells a socialist magazine. Today, we are here to defend our values and fight against the Coalition Avenir Quebec [CAQ] and its racist measures,” said one of the group’s leaders. “We are standing up to show we are united and not divided,” he added.
Toutes Unies, a feminist association, was also present. “It’s necessary to build a mass movement,” said one of its members.
Many people, both men and women, came to the march with their children. Some of them prepared banners, posters and, once finished, the kids marched at the front of the crowd.
Before making their way through the city, some representatives of the 60 associations in attendance spoke. “We are still struggling to end systemic racism,” said Marlihan Lopez, vice-president and spokesperson of the Fédération des femmes du Québec.
“We are fighting against immigration politics. Last year, we were here to resist Law 62. Today, we are here to resist the secular law. It’s unacceptable to use the struggle of women for racists’ purposes,” said Lopez.
Alongside Lopez was Safa Chebbi, co-founder and secretary of the Table de concertation contre le racisme systémique (TCRS). Chebbi spoke about her worries concerning the new government’s announcements, only a week after the elections. “Legault wants to reduce immigration, to deport people who fail French tests, and even dismiss government institutions’ employees who show any kind of religious symbol. The government is playing with our identity in order to oppress us,” said Chebbi.
For demonstrators Laëtitia and Léa, who walked amongst the crowd, Legault is not their Québec Premier. “It’s unfair. I will be 18 years old in a few days. I could not vote and I ended up under this government without my consent,” said Léa.
“We are here because we think seeing racist people nowadays is just unbelievable. We don’t have to face this problem, but a lot of our friends have to face it,” said Léa. “We think it’s important to keep talking about it, for them, at least. We have to teach, to educate and to denounce.”
“More united, not divided,” was one of the phrases chanted at the top of the crowd’s lungs.
The crowd also chanted the slogans “François, François, my veil is my choice,” and “François, François, I will not leave my job.”
Although the demonstration was planned before Oct. 1, the election results put CAQ’s incoming legislations at the forefront of the march. However, the core focus of the demonstration remained against racism, with chants such as “Everybody hates racists,” “Quebec, the racism is not correct,” or “United people will never be defeated.”
Among the protestors were Marlène and her 13-year-old daughter Yasmine, holding a banner that said “Yes to secularism. No to the exclusion laws.” “We are here to stand up against the bill, because racism touches and damages our religion,” said Marlène. “Even before the elections, we were planning on coming today. To be honest, it was my daughter’s idea,” she added.
“I experience racism daily,” continued Yasmine. “For example, at school, we are learning ethics and religion, and Islam is denigrated. For me, it’s easy. The only reason to separate colours is when you want to wash your clothes!”
Thousands of people walked and chanted throughout Montreal well into the evening, before stopping at St. Laurent Blvd. The demonstration ended with half an hour of speeches from the organizations present.
Photos by Elise Martin.