Tens of thousands of protesters gathered this past Saturday to send Premier Jean Charest a cautionary warning on the contents of the upcoming budget. After the shocking social cuts that were announced almost a year ago in Charest’s previous budget, social activists came out of winter hibernation to remind Charest that the people of Quebec will not tolerate a repeat.
The roughly 50,000 protesters, comprised of students, union members, women’s groups, les patriotes, the raging grannies and the average pissed-off citizen with baby in tow, gathered at Place du Canada at 12pm. The protest was initiated by the disturbing and unjustified preemptive arrest of CLAQ (Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitalistes Quebec) organizers by police officers on horseback for “conspiracy” (a.k.a a bullshit charge intended to scare off activists).
Despite the unlawful arrests, the protesters persevered and started to march around 1pm. By this time, the sign carrying activists had grown significantly in numbers and started to chant in unison “we won’t pay for your crisis” and “the people united, will never be defeated”.
Protest signs varied from pictures of the Premier with “services Ã vendre” spelled out across his face, to protesters with Charest masks and clown hats on. My personal favourite sign of the day was the giant banner hung from a St-Catherine Street building that said: “Si la unjustice est la norme; le combattre c’est notre devoir”. High five to the rooftop guerrilla banner hangers.
While each group of protesters seemed to be angered by specific issues such as tuition increases, health care service fees and increased hydro usage fees, they were united in a delivering a single message: M. Charest, a budget is a question of choice and it’s not okay to choose corporations over public services.
The protest wrapped up at around 2pm in front of Charest’s office building with a pep rally. Our voices were loud and clear but only time will tell if they were actually heard. The budget will be released on March 17th and personally I am pessimistic about its contents. If only Charest could turn his hearing aid up and put his glasses on he would realise that unlike his corporate BFFs, people actually care about their social services and their education.
Check back in the next few days for a more in-depth look at the issue of tuition fees…
Photos courtesy of David Huehn