Protesters promise rallies will rebound
MONTREAL — Their numbers might be smaller. The media attention might be shifting. Some of their political support might be wavering. But Quebec student protesters demonstrated Friday that they can still draw a crowd.
Now the question is: How loud will this crowd be, later this summer, when it counts?
Current events are only a pre-lude to two key upcoming dates — the return to school planned in August and, possibly, a September provincial election. Protesters and their supporters said Friday that they intend to be active on both fronts.
Thousands marched in Montreal and Quebec City as protesters kept up their ritual of holding a mega-rally on the 22nd of every month, as they had in March, April and May.
The crowd size Friday was a fraction of what it had been in previous months, just as the nightly Montreal street marches have been drawing smaller numbers. The province’s main opposition leader, the PQ’s Pauline Marois, has even said she won’t be wearing the symbolic red square on her lapel anymore.
But one political leader is still wearing that red square — and he says the protesters will be there with a vengeance later this summer.
“Everyone needs a vacation sometimes,” said Amir Khadir, an elected MNA for the tiny left-wing Quebec solidaire, who is now the politician most vocally supportive of the student strikes.
“Anyone counting on the movement running out of steam is making a mistake … Everyone taking a break today is doing it to bounce back stronger in August and September.”
Students said they have strike votes planned for August, which is when the students who were striking — about one-third of them — have been legislated to return to class.
The province’s controversial protest law, Bill 78, has declared a mid-August resumption of the school year for students who did not complete their winter-spring session. There are steep fines for those who block access to schools.