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Indybay Feature
by Anonymous
Thursday Apr 15th, 2004 6:56 PM

April 15, 2004

Over a thousand angry protestors marched on Montreal’s posh St. James hotel yesterday, causing havoc and disrupting the tea-time of the idle rich. The protest was part of a province-wide day of action marking the one-year anniversary of the elections that brought Jean Charest and the Liberal Party to government in Quebec.

Since taking power, Premier Charest has initiated a “re-engineering of the state”—a business-oriented restructuring of the province’s government, in an attempt to undermine the many social-democratic programs still running in Quebec. This has taken the form of anti-union laws, cuts to subsidized childcare, plans to reduce the number of people on welfare and other attacks on working people. One flyer for yesterday’s protests stated “As if we didn’t have enough trouble making ends meet with low salaries, precarious jobs, insufficient welfare and high rents, this government has given itself the clear mission of making us even poorer.”

The Charest government has created a lot of enemies and yesterday Montreal saw a 10,000-strong union demonstration, as well as protests organized by a number of housing and anti-poverty groups and the North-Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists.

Around 4pm people began to gather for a demonstration co-organized by the Comité des sans-emploi (Committee of the Unemployed) and CLAC-Logement (the Anti-Capitalist Convergence—Housing Committee). After some fiery speeches, the protestors marched down busy Ste. Catherine Street and right into a downtown mall, chanting “The social peace is over!” and “Make the rich pay!” Shoppers in fancy boutiques were startled by a thousand angry working-class youth in their midst. The demonstration snaked its way through the mall and the connecting train station exiting several blocks later. The crowd, which had grown in size, then proceeded past the American consulate and ended up at the St. James Hotel—perhaps the most expensive in Montreal at which rooms can cost up to $5000 (Canadian) a night.

Protestors rushed the doors and pushed passed the frantic hotel manager into the exclusive first-floor dining room. Businessmen in expensive suits were shocked as black-clad and masked anarchists jumped on the oak tables or tried—unsuccessfully—to pull the table-clothes out from under the plates and glasses without knocking them over. Protestors played the grand piano or pocketed silver forks and ashtrays. Others demonstrators sat down at tables with the hotel’s dismayed, paying clients and helped themselves to their wine and hors-d’oeuvres. “Down with capitalism” was graffitied on the wall. Several hotel security guards attempted to grab a demonstrator, but were quickly restrained by other protestors. Another security guard said to one organizer, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop you. They only pay me $10 an hour. I’m on your side.”

After a few minutes of mayhem, the demonstrators in the hotel, made their way out through the connected, ultra-chic, indoor shopping center of Montreal’s World Trade Center, tipping over small indoor-trees as they went. The protestors streamed out of the World Trade Center and around from the side of the hotel into the gathering union demonstration.

As the proletarian hooligans, street-punks, students, red and green anarchists, Maoists and the odd Worker-Communist dissolved into the larger crowd at the union demonstration, the completely-outmanoeuvred police were left with nothing to do but flash their cars’ lights and glare from the sidelines. There were no arrests.

Whether the militancy of yesterday’s actions will catch on and snowball or be lost in electoralism and nationalism remains to be seen. But the potential for an uncompromising, gutsy, fighting poor-people’s movement against the Charest government is there. The spirit of the day was perhaps best expressed by a large sticker plastered all along the demonstration’s route—inside malls, on street signs, placards, SUVs and police cars. It showed Jean Charest’s face next to the phrase “OSTIE DE CROSSEUR!”—which roughly translates as “FUCKING WANKER!”

For more information check out CLAC-Logement’s website at:
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