Climate activists and students unite: Rage Climatique week culminates in protests across Quebec

Protesters fighting for immediate action to protect mother earth. Photo by Angie Isnel / The Concordian

Furious youths, students and activists joined forces to protest against climate injustice. The week-long events invited militants to engage in direct actions.

Over a thousand protesters voiced their anger against climate injustice in the streets of Montreal on Sept. 29. Eighteen student unions from colleges and universities in Sherbrooke, Rimouski and Quebec striked and protested the same day. 

This demonstration happened two weeks after similar marches in New York and Vancouver which echoed one of Quebec’s largest marches in 2019, during which Greta Thunberg inspired approximately half a million Montrealers to fight against global warming.

But with 1,500 protesters according to the SPVM, many participants weren’t satisfied with this mobilization. Sexagenarian Monica Schweizer admired the loud crowd, holding her “Act Now!” sign. “I wish there were more people,” she said. “I wish there were more of our generation.”

Next to her, her friend Raman Kashylp agreed: “Grand-parents should be out here. This is the legacy that we’re leaving behind. And that will be remembered only by the destruction that it caused.”

The fury of Rage Climatique’s anti-capitalist organizers captivated the crowd. “We need to take over the streets, we need to take over the sidewalks, we need to take over the city and destroy those who are destroying us!” Covered by a mask, the speaker accused the government of continuing to invest in luxury companies like Bombardier private jets, while asking the public to recycle and compost. A single private jet emits five to 14 times more CO² than an airliner.

One day before the march, Prime Minister Trudeau and Quebec Premier Legault announced the construction of a $7 billion electric vehicle battery factory by Northvolt, co-founded by former Tesla directors. The government’s investments in green technology and innovation clashes with Rage Climatique’s call to shut down the capitalist system in order to preserve life on Earth.

The marches and protests across Quebec were the culmination of the Rage Climatique week.

“People are looking for ways to get organized, to get into this eco-anger to have a better capacity to act,” said organizer Olivier, who uses a pseudonym to protect his identity.

Rage Climatique held a week-long series of workshops, lectures, discussions and documentary screenings to engage individuals in the climate cause beyond a day’s march.

Some anonymous non-violent actions claimed by Rage Climatique have been reported during the week, such as green paint sprayed on the HEC Montreal building, accusing the business school of greenwashing. 

Protests also targeted the Royal Bank of Canada highlighting its leading role in fossil fuel investment. Some activists deflated SUV tires, leaving messages on the windshield similar to report of offense forms, mentioning “the driving of a vehicle emitting excess CO2 endangering human, animal and plant life.”

To prepare for the protest, over eighty young adults gathered at Parc La Fontaine on Wednesday, Sept. 26. The Rage Climatique group and attendees openly exchanged safety and legal tips. “There is strength in numbers,” Rage Climatique speaker Mims said. 

The anti-capitalist group stressed the importance of direct action with strong symbolism, while giving advice on protection from arrests and repression. “I don’t want to scare you,” said Mims while explaining the SPVM’s repression tools. “But I want you to be well informed.”

Marielle Loson-Poitier, experienced climate activist, voiced her concern about extreme actions that could discourage participation. “If we say from the start that there’s a chance of arrests, I’m sorry, but the vast majority will say ‘I don’t want to be arrested,’” she said. “We’d like it to remain a peaceful demonstration so that people feel safe wanting to take part.”

With firm kindness, Rage Climatique replied: “There are different types of protests with different levels of risk, so that everyone, with what they’re prepared to do or not, can choose the protest that suits them.”

The Queer anti-capitalist collective P!nk Bloc held a workshop exploring the links between LGTBQ communities, feminism, the exploitation of nature and minorities. Seated in a circle on the grass, the attendees discussed capitalist, scientific and religious ideologies, and their roles in current social norms.

P!nk Bloc led the march along with Rage Climatique, which peacefully ended on Saint-Laurent boulevard at the corner of Boulevard René Levesque with music and dance. Protestors sat down blocking the two streets, hoping that the government would respond to their week-long efforts.

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