Like its Occupy Movement cousins across the globe, Occupy Montréal emerged from the now ubiquitous ethos of a 99% weary of being controlled and overtaxed by the 1%. With no real demands, Montréal’s Occupiers sought primarily to convey their outrage at the democracy they live in.
Occupy Montréal officially began on October 15th with a few thousand people occupying Victoria Square in the city’s downtown. The Square sits in the midst of banks, corporations, and the world trade center that comprise Montréal’s financial district. Although a city bylaw prevents people from staying in parks after midnight, the group was far too large to remove. Mayor Gérald Tremblay therefore allowed them to remain. From the beginning the group stated that theirs was a non-violent protest and that they simply wanted to be heard.
Throughout their stay in Victoria Square, which the Occupy Movement unofficially renamed Place du Peuple (Place of the People), citizens of Montréal aided the movement by donating food, equipment, and books to the Occupiers. Even the fire department visited the camp to speak with movement officials about safety measures and problem areas. The Occupiers made explicit efforts to keep the police at bay, mostly with their incredibly affable approach to protesting. They kept noise levels low at night, took steps to ensure a tidy camp site (including bins for recycling and composting), and even befriended the police officers assigned to the area with the goal of keeping lines of communication open and potential problems at bay.
Near the end of the movement there were over 200 tents in the park, including a larger “kitchen tent”. Unfortunately for the Occupiers, on the morning of November 25th , the police and city workers came to clear out the park. This expulsion was not out of the blue but rather well advised with two prior warnings. It was a very quick and non-violent event as most of the Occupiers had already accepted their fate and allowed the city workers to clear out the park. Only a few people remained, tying themselves to various structures around the park. No arrests were made. Mayor Tremblay even congratulated the Occupiers and told them to leave with their heads held high.
For a protest, it was very peaceful and uneventful. Perhaps too much so. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has yet to acknowledge any importance of the Occupy Movement across Canada. Although Victoria Square has been completely cleared out, it is still being used for assemblies and meetings by the Occupiers. The Occupy Montréal website is still active and is being used to organize smaller assemblies dispersed across the Burroughs of the city. Even with the expulsion from the Square, Montréal’s Occupiers state that this is just the beginning.