In protest of a protest bylaw

Montreal’s protest-regulating bylaw makes protests less effective

A student-led protest against austerity was recently shut down by police for not providing an itinerary to the City of Montreal beforehand.

The shutdown, which involved several violent conflicts with police, was enforced under controversial Montreal bylaw P-6, which demands protest groups provide details about their protest beforehand. Under the bylaw, the planned route of the protest must be given to the city ahead of time. It also prevents protesters from wearing anything that covers their face, another stipulation that was broken in the Monday, March 23 protest.

Quebec is no stranger to violent protest, but this law, which undoubtedly sought to curb that violence, has likely had the opposite effect. In raw video provided by CBC, police can be seen attempting to kettle protesters and disperse the crowd, no doubt leading to the response that resulted in two arrests.

Violent protest is unlikely to ever solve a problem in Canada, but a protest squelched and neutered, like any still legal in Montreal, is likely to be much less effective and poorly attended by media. There doesn’t have to be rioting, there doesn’t have to be violence and certainly no one has to get hurt, but a protest that does not disrupt everyday life does not accomplish anything. It’s a lot like workers going on strike but never leaving the production line, or asking permission before committing an act of civil disobedience.

P-6 hate is abundant, and some of it’s from the judiciary. A Montreal municipal court judge threw out the fines of three people charged under the bylaw in a March 22, 2013 protest, according to a Feb. 9 CBC article. He called the law poorly written and “flawed.”

Others views on the bylaw are less tempered.

“When you give your (protest) route, you’re asking for permission to take that route. That’s contrary to all our rights. You don’t have to ask for permission to exercise your right to free speech, so why would I have to have ask for permission to protest?” asked François Saillant during a protest against the bylaw on April 21, 2013 according to a Montreal Gazette article on the same day. Hundreds had gathered to protest outside city hall. That protest wasn’t planned and it resulted in one arrest. No word on whether or not the arrested person was charged the exorbitant $637 fine.

The bylaw and the fine serve as chilling effects to protest. Especially in this age of information, in this age where Canada is investing more than ever in cyberwarfare and other information tools, why would anyone want to volunteer information to the government?