MONTREAL- A tense standoff at city hall ended in relative peace Monday evening with one lone arrest, as many anti P-6 protesters dispersed upon learning that city council had decided to delay a vote on the protest bylaw.
Montreal riot police appeared to be prepared for a major conflict, as they moved in swiftly on a group of protesters, arresting one on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.
The demonstration began outside city hall early Monday evening, as the second opposition Projet Montreal was expected to table a motion to repeal the municipal bylaw.
"The goal here is to put an end to these mass arrests, to these preventive arrests, to blame everyone for the alleged wrongs of a handful of people," said Projet Montreal city councillor Alex Norris.
Bylaw P-6 forbids the wearing of masks during protests and ends the practice of spontaneous demonstration, requiring organizers to provide a route to police in advance of any march. It was passed by city council at the height of student protests last May,
So far in 2013, over 700 people have been detained and ticketed under the bylaw, each handed a $637 fine.
Opposition to P-6 started in the early morning hours of Monday when a number of signs decrying the bylaw were installed in Emilie-Gamelin Square by the student group ASSE. The square was the typical starting point for marches during the 2012 student protests.
"This sort of bylaw can not be tolerated," said a representative from ASSE named Jeremie. "We will continue to fight it in the courts and in the streets."
The ASSE signs were designed to appear as if they had been installed by the city. They ironically celebrated the elements of the bylaw most disliked by its opponents. The large square was also ringed with false police tape, clearing marking it off as a "no protest zone."
The signs and tape were removed by police shortly after their installation.
That event was followed a few hours later by a short march from the courthouse to city hall where demonstrators spoke out against P-6.
Demonstrators argue that the bylaw violates their right to free assembly by requiring that they provide an itinerary to police. They also plan to contest the fines because they don't feel they did anything wrong by gathering.
Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum stands by the bylaw and credits the application of P-6 by the Montreal police for renewed calm in the city.
The main opposition in city hall, Vision Montreal, has confirmed that it is in favour of removing the bylaw, but will vote against the "irresponsible" motion tabled by Projet Montreal.
In March, Manon Masse, a defeated candidate for Quebec Solidaire in Montreal's east end, called on the government to "restore the right to protest."
One of the first acts of the Parti Quebecois once in power last September was to revoke Bill 78, a province-wide law passed by the Liberals that mimicked many of the powers given to Montreal police by P-6. The party has taken no steps against P-6.
Legal blogger Veronique Robert wrote in the weekly Voir that the use of P-6 by the police was "alarming and frightening." She called on the police to look into the conflict between the bylaw and protesters' legal rights.
Those questions should be asked at city hall over the next few days.
MONTREAL MAYOR MICHAEL APPLEBAUM - THE PEOPLE ARE IN THE WAY http://phylliscartersjournal.blogspot.com/2012/11/montreal-mayor-michael-applebaum-people_7850.html