Fists in the air and knees on the ground, thousands of demonstrators observed a moment of meditation for a second consecutive Sunday in Dorchester Square, in downtown Montreal, to protest against racism and police brutality.
Prime Minister François Legault’s insistence on denying the existence of systemic racism in Quebec has earned him the wrath of several activists who spoke before this monster crowd.
“The message is for you, François Legault. If you want a divided Quebec, Quebecers who are here tell you that they don’t want this Quebec, “said Anastasia Marcelin, director of the organization that convened this second demonstration.
The organizers had made the bet to advance the hour of the march to avoid any mayhem and the majority of the demonstrators did indeed disperse calmly around 2 p.m.
After meeting at Place Emilie-Gamelin in the morning, they set off under the blazing sun, chanting “No justice, no peace!” “And holding up signs which included” Black Lives Matter here too “and” If you are not anti-racist, you are an accomplice “.
It was difficult to keep a distance of two meters between the participants, but most of them had their faces covered.
In the wake of last Sunday’s demonstration, Prime Minister François Legault said that the situation in Quebec is out of all proportion to that south of the border; racism is, according to him, the affair of a “small minority” of individuals.
“We have this discussion quite often,” he said. Discrimination exists in Quebec, but there is no systemic discrimination; there is no system of discrimination in Quebec. “
The ex-boxer Ali Nestor stresses however that “all the proofs have been made”.
“He publicly denies it, but he is very aware of it. He is an intelligent man, he knows very well that there is systemic racism that exists in Quebec, “argued the man who now heads the organization Ali et les Princes de la Rue, which fights against dropping out of school in initiating young people in difficulty to the practice of martial arts.
“They have always denied it and they will deny it until they get it down their throat,” added Monique Dauphin, 73, who walked alongside her grandchildren, Anaïssa and Jahkim.
“As a grandmother, I spent my life doing this,” says the Haitian-born activist. Rue Sainte-Catherine has been hearing this cry for years: “No justice, no peace!” “
The police were very low profile while the highly diverse procession filled rue Sainte-Catherine, boulevard Saint-Laurent, then rue Sherbrooke, before going down rue De Bleury to boulevard René-Lévesque.
The new leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, Dominique Anglade, as well as the Federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, were present at Place Émilie-Gamelin, where they briefly addressed the crowd.
Rallies also took place in other cities across the province, notably in Sherbrooke and Quebec, in front of the National Assembly. Members of the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire had announced their presence there.
On Twitter, the Quebec City Police Service indicated that the demonstration ended shortly after 1 p.m. and thanked the participants for its conduct “in peace and good order”.
These events are part of a wave of mobilization that has spread across the globe, spurred on by the death of George Floyd, this African-American suffocated by a police officer who kept his knee pressed against his neck for nearly nine minutes, almost two weeks ago, in Minneapolis.
The anger that has been sweeping across the United States has since echoed in Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets in a show of solidarity this weekend.
“Systemic bias” at the SPVM
Members of the organization of the Montreal march finally withdrew the invitation that had been sent to the director of the SPVM, Sylvain Caron, after many activists opposed his presence, considered inappropriate for an event which must in particular commemorate the victims of police violence.
The Hoodstock collective, which emerged after the death of young Fredy Villanueva during a police intervention in Montreal-North in 2008, distanced itself from the event as a result of this oddity.
Pharaoh Hamid-Freeman, of the new generation Black League, explains that some activists are however ready to “take the next step” and collaborate with the police.
A report commissioned by the City of Montreal reported last October of “systemic biases” in the treatment of members of certain racialized minorities by the city’s police.
University researchers have found that black and Aboriginal people are four to five times more likely than white people to be stopped by police, a disproportion that increases 11 times more risk for Aboriginal women.
Initially promised for last March, a policy framing police arrests is now expected on July 8, following one of the recommendations in this damning report.
The City of Montreal Public Safety Commission intends to launch a public consultation process to modify and improve this policy, a draft of which must be presented to it in the coming days. The timetable for the consultations has not yet been announced.