It’s protester arrest season in Quebec

By Nora Loreto

There were 100 people arrested outside my house a few weeks ago. Close to 300 were arrested throughout Québec City.

They were mostly students; the ones who take to the streets when it’s dark and march around town to condemn the actions of government.

We’ve seen this before: in 2012, the serpentine night rallies were routine. As the protests progressed then, the police repression grew.

Now, the students are back. But this time, it’s not just students who are angry. Fed up with the radical austerity measures of the Liberal government, there has nearly been a protest a day in this province in all of 2015. Even the police arresting the students were protesting the government, in their silly pants.

But the police have no sympathy for the students. Even though it’s obvious the fight for their pensions is the same fight waged by the students against education funding cuts, one cannot expect solidarity from a cop.

It was nearly 10 p.m. From our livingroom we heard a vicious barking dog and saw cops pour into our street. Police had set a trap for the protesters: they would not advance, nor could they turn back.

A hundred students with flags and banners. Once jammed into a human box, it was announced: they’d all be arrested. I was standing on my front steps, the only front steps in the perimeter.

Friends ran up to see me. Strangers asked for water, to use the bathroom, to escape.

By about 10:15, one of my friends said: ils viennent pour nous – they’re coming for us. I wasn’t part of the protest. But it’s my struggle too. In the safety of my property I told him it was okay. I have the right to stand on my doorstep.

A cop in riot gear walked up to my bottom steps and starts pulling people off of it. Ils sont avec nous, I yell. It doesn’t matter. He pushes more people away from my property. Ils sont avec nous. C’est pas le proprietaire de la ville, c’est chez nous.

I’m reduced to fight for my private property rights. What the hell.

A cop pushes me down the steps as my new friends try to pull me back up. J’habite icitte, I yell. The cop doesn’t listen.

The students danced in the streets. The cops took their sweet-ass time and the students organized a game of improv. The cops deliberately slowed down so as to force the maximum amount of discomfort on the students. The students sang.

About 11:15 the cop guarding my threshold asked for ID to prove I lived there. He had already seen me go in and out. He had seen me with my daughter who wouldn’t sleep due to the flashing lights and noise outside her bedroom. I refused. He said he would have to talk to the man inside.

Fine, I said. Here’s my damn licence.

The students waited outside for three full hours while the cops processed about 100 people. Once processed, they sat aboard a city bus. The cops even had a portable table for the occasion.

A student march of 100 would have easily passed through the streets. They would not have shut down two intersections for three hours. They would not have kept babies awake.

Instead, we witnessed the new normal: detain, arrest. Hold people outside for hours. Refuse access to bathrooms. Point rubber-bullet cannons at them. Let police dogs loose on them.

Let them know that protesting the deepest public-sector cuts Quebec has seen in 40-plus years will be crushed by state repression.

If this is meant to send a message to Québec’s youth that they should not protest, the strategy is wrong. They weren’t scared off protesting. Their political education is evolving; sharpening. And something important is emerging.

One hundred people were arrested outside my house last night. Local CBC Radio didn’t say a word about this, as if mass arrests like these happen all the time.

They will keep happening. We have to resist the new normal.

Nora Loreto comes to us with the permission of, a progressive online magazine.

Nora Loreto
Nora Loreto