Conflicting politics at City Hall

Four protest groups clashed outside Montreal City Hall over a free speech demonstration

Four political groups clashed outside Montreal City Hall on Saturday over a free speech demonstration.

Dozens of members of the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCCC) mobilized to support free speech and condemn federal anti-Islamophobia Motion 103 at 11:30 a.m. on March 4. They were greeted soon after by the left-wing activist group Action Antifasciste Montréal (AAM), who chanted, threw smoke bombs and tore up the CCCC’s protest signs.

Several small scuffles broke out between the two opposing groups. As police intervened and separated them, the CCCC was joined by members of la Meute (the Wolf Pack), a Québécois anti-Islamist group. Members bore black flags emblazoned with wolf paws and howled in unison at the opposing demonstrators.

AAM, who opposes “austerity, inequality, racism, fascism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism and the State,” according to their Facebook page, were joined by a dozen other protesters organized by Solidarity Concordia, who marched from Concordia University to City Hall offer support.

Solidarity Concordia was formed in response to the Quebec government’s proposed austerity measures in 2015.

SPVM create barrier of officers between both parties. Photo by Nelly Serandour-Amar.

CCCC founder Georges Hallak said he planned a peaceful demonstration. “This is about peace, this is about communication, this is about free speech,” he said in a phone interview with The Concordian. He said the group, which he founded five weeks ago, was there only to say, “no to [Motion 103], no to Trudeau, and [yes to] free speech.”

“This Motion 103 is the beginning of Shariah Law in Canada,” he said. Hallak believes that, unless proper action is taken, all of Canada will be under Shariah law in 25 to 50 years. If passed by the House of Commons, M103 will compel the Canadian government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” among other things.

Many Conservative MPs have criticized the motion. In a Facebook post, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier criticized it for not properly defining Islamophobia, and giving Islam special treatment over other religions.

Demonstrator Marlo Turner Ritchie does not see M103 as a threat. “The real threat here, the real menace à la societé, is racism, intolerance and fear-mongering,” she said.

“I think people want to send the strong message today that racist threats have no place in our homes, in our universities, in our daycare, in our government, in our place of business, in our streets,” Turner Ritchie added.

CCCC protest signs and garbage bin were inflamed before SPVM and firefighters set it out. Photo by Ian Down.

After la Meute dispersed, the remaining protesters marched north on Saint-Denis Street towards Place Émilie-Gamelin, where CCCC protest signs and a garbage bin were set on fire. The crowd slowly scattered as police and firefighters put out the fire.

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