“Manif casseroles” in Montreal

Pots and pans protest in MontrealThe pots and pans protests — “manif casseroles” — have been a nightly occurrence in Montreal for weeks now. Here is the scene along Boulevard de Maisonneuve a few hours ago, as I was walking back to my hotel from dinner. The red square on the Quebec fleurs-de-lis flag is the symbol of the student protest movement.

The protests started in Quebec over plans by the provincial government to increase tuition fees for university and college students. In reaction to large demonstrations that were occurring mostly on the streets of Montreal, the Quebec government passed a law which severely restricts the freedom of assembly and the freedom of speech, and which extends police powers over citizens. This law was a hysterical over-reaction by panicked elites, is offensive to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it has proven to be a spur to expanding the protests and increasing their support beyond the group of immediately affected students. Now, people of all ages and from all walks of life bang on their pots and pans with wooden spoons, copying a practice that was adopted in South American countries as a form of peaceful protest against authoritarian regimes there.

Enthusiastic and good-natured, the “manif casseroles” have flummoxed the authorities, who now ritually declare these protests to be illegal, but then take no action and in fact escort the protestors along their route. Political theatre is being played out on the streets of Montreal in what is turning into a long, hot summer of discontent.