For the second time in two weeks, the streets surrounding the National Assembly of Quebec are filled with demonstrators demanding an immediate end to all pandemic measures in the province.
Protesters, some arriving in convoys from areas like Beauce and Saguenay, began gathering in large numbers near the provincial legislature this morning around 11 a.m., honking their horns and carrying signs criticizing politicians and calling on the government to end pandemic measures.
As of 4 p.m., the area in front of a makeshift stage erected near the protest site was still packed with protesters. Many cheered and chanted “liberté” (freedom), while others blew vuvuzela horns as music blared from the speakers. The largest crowd of demonstrators gathered on René-Lévesque Boulevard, a large avenue right next to the National Assembly.
Some protesters handed out stuffed animals to children and mascots were also spotted there to entertain them.
Despite Quebec government announcements that it plans to phase out the vaccination passport and lift most pandemic measures by mid-March, protesters say the government must go further in removing restrictions .
“We are here to denounce all the suffering that the people of Quebec have experienced,” said an organizer, Kevin Grenier, addressing the crowd from the stage. Two other organizers also took the stage to ask elected officials to end all COVID-19 measures.
Beauceron Jérémie Sarrazin arrived in Quebec after taking part in the Ottawa protests over the past three weekends. He says he’s here because he’s fed up with continued public health measures.
“Kids in school with masks and stuff, we can’t take it anymore,” he said, also calling for an immediate end to vaccination mandates.
“It has to stop now. People have to wake up and normal life has to resume,” Sarrazin said.
Alexandre Dufour showed up at the protest with his snare drum to cheer on protesters and support truckers who are against vaccination mandates.
“It’s about freedom of choice and unity among the people you know, not division,” he said.
Protester Antoine Goyette also supports this idea, saying he is not against vaccines or pandemic measures, “but we must be able to have the choice”.
Organizers are also calling for an end to the health emergency, first declared at the start of the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020.
The Quebec police (SPVQ) made three arrests just before noon Saturday. Police have not released details of the arrests, which they say occurred “on the outskirts” of the protest.
“The majority of protesters are respecting and honoring their agreement to protest peacefully,” police wrote.
More police powers
City trucks are again used to block access to certain streets around the National Assembly.
The portion of boulevard Honoré-Mercier between boulevards Grande Allée and René-Lévesque was closed to prevent motorists from accessing the area in front of the assembly.
La Grande Allée is also pedestrian only between rue de Claire-Fontaine and boulevard Honoré-Mercier.
#DEMONSTRATION| In anticipation of the arrival of the demonstrators this evening, here are the streets that will be exclusively pedestrian: Grande-Allée from Concorde to Portes St-Louis AND Honoré-Mercier, between Grande-Allée and René-Lévesque. Plan your trips pic.twitter.com/70K9od7ePX
A truck parking area has been established on René-Lévesque between Honoré-Mercier and Claire-Fontaine, as agreed with the organizers, said the Quebec Police (SPVQ) in a press release. Tweeter.
“Any further parking elsewhere will not be tolerated and will result in a police response,” police said.
Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand says the SPVQ has “prepared for all possibilities” and is confident the protest will go off without a hitch.
“We are preparing for the worst, but we hope for the best,” Marchand told Radio-Canada on Saturday morning.
“We have all the tools to make sure it will be a correct and compliant demonstration.”
Ahead of this weekend’s protest, Marchand decided to give police more powers to “act instead of react”.
The city’s executive committee passed two new bylaws: one giving police the power to control traffic, parking and street closures in the city, and another reinstating the ban on cooking in outdoors and to consume alcohol in parks and public spaces.
“As we do for each demonstration, we will have a certain tolerance, as long as the smooth running of the demonstration is not compromised,” declared André Turcotte, deputy director of the SPVQ.
Many agents in yellow vests patrol around the National Assembly.
During the weekend of demonstrations two weeks ago, the SPVQ also made three arrests and towed a vehicle. They also handed out 48 parking tickets, 50 tickets for by-law violations and 72 for violations of traffic laws.
Quebec police say they will respect the right of demonstrators to protest against public health measures, but specify that “no vandalism or criminal offense will be tolerated”.
The protest comes after Ottawa police intervened yesterday to arrest protesters who were taking part in a three-week occupation of downtown. Police successfully cleared the area in front of Parliament Hill today as the total number of arrests reached 170.