It is well past midnight and I have been marching non-stop for the past four hours. There are literally tens of thousands of people marching throughout Montreal tonight!
The march I participated in started in one neighbourhood in Montreal, the Plateau, with a couple of dozen people at the corner of Mt-Royal and De Lorimier at 8pm. Within half an hour we were a thousand strong as people came out streaming from their homes, from restaurant terraces and coffee shops banging on pots and pans.
As we marched through the neighbourhood, we merged with other groups coming from the north, south, east and west. By 9pm we were several thousand. By 10pm were more than 10 housand and marching towards the neighbourhoods to the north: Rosemont, Villeray and Parc Extension. By 11 pm, this march was over three kilometres long, with an estimated 20 to 30 thousand people, chanting slogans and joyously banging on their pots and pans.
And this was only one of several spontaneous marches going on throughout the city. The cops were practically invisible. How could they cope with thousands of people streaming simultaneously from 6 to 10 different neighbourhoods in the city, with no fixed route and no discernible organization or leadership?
Throughout the day calls were put out through facebook and over the Internet with literally dozens of meeting spots given in a ten different neighbourhoods.
These marches are totally illegal, openly flaunting the repressive bill 78, making a mockery of Premier Charest attempt to crush the student and peoples' movement.
It is a direct answer to the incredible number of mass arrests - close to 700 hundred people were arrested during Wednesday's nightly marches alone. These arrests have been replete with many acts of police brutality. Stupidly, the government thought this massive act of repression would cow the people, barely 24 hours after Tuesday's giant demo when more than a quarter of a million people marched in the streets of Montreal.
Instead, this last gambit has exploded in the government's face, galvanizing hundreds of thousands of people and turning this struggle into a giant people's movement, the likes of which I have not seen in over 40 years of political activism in Quebec.
The people have taken over the streets and the city in a massive act of civil disobediance. Furthermore, the movement of civil disobediance has spread to the rest of the province with demonstrations, marches and pots being banged in many towns and cities accross Quebec.
This incredible movement sparked by the student strike against increased tuition fees has morphed into a powerful mass movement against austerity measures and repressive policies.
Far from petering out, it is gathering strength and has thrown the provincial government in total disarray. A full-fledged political crisis is looming.
Keep your eyes on Quebec, there is more to come!
Roger Rashi is a long-time social activist in Quebec.
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