On Saturday, Feb. 12, a counter-protest to right-wing populism of the so-called “freedom” convoy was organized in Montreal. During this face-off, the police treated the two sides very differently. The double standard was obvious: dozens of riot police surrounded and intimidated the counter-protesters, while peacefully aiding the far-right convoy movement.
The counter-protest, organized by No Borders Media, gathered around 150 protesters. Among them, many were residents of the neighbourhood who were worried about letting a right-wing movement take place in their streets. Socialist Fightback was present in great numbers with 30 militants present. The union movements and the other leftist groups of Montreal were notable by their absence. This was unfortunate—as we’ve repeatedly explained, we need mass mobilization on behalf of the unions and the left in order to push back against the populist right.
Once assembled, we marched together towards the exit of the parking lot at Jarry Park to block the cars and trucks from being able to participate in the convoy protest. At that moment, the police positioned themselves between the protest and the counter-protest. Amid a sea of Canadian and Quebecois flags, and even Patriot flags, we were able to see Donald Trump flags as well as flags and shirts of the People’s Party of Canada and images of its leader Maxime Bernier. Many of our militants were yelled at by convoy supporters to take off their masks. We know that elsewhere in the country, participants in the convoy have violently harassed healthcare workers, passers-by, and homeless people.
Despite the convoy movement being dominated by the far-right and its violent episodes in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, and therefore the obvious potential for harassment, only a few police officers on bikes were there to escort convoy members and facilitate their movement through the area. In the meantime, our counter-protest of around 150 protesters was surrounded by heavily armed riot police who proudly told us that we wouldn’t be going anywhere. The numbers of this small army almost matched ours. When we were finally allowed to walk, the police made sure to stay glued to us continuously.
Many of the riot police who barred the way of the counter-protest were wearing the “thin blue line” patch which represents the Blue Lives Matter movement, a reactionary movement which is opposed to Black Lives Matter. The symbol itself was adopted by the far-right since the fascist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. It’s ironic that while religious symbols are strictly prohibited for police officers due to the discriminatory Bill 21, these police officers were allowed to wear a racist political symbol! Another example of the double standards imposed by the police department and by our capitalist governments in general.
The protest and the counter-protest in Montreal show us what many people have known for a long time. The police are not there for our protection, but rather for the protection of the interests of the capitalist class. Police officers are not shy about taking up their batons to beat students protesting for free education, or even Indigenous protesters in Wet’Suwet’en or elsewhere. However, they are unable to fight the far-right—because they do not wish to do so! We’ve seen police officers sympathize with the convoy in Ottawa and it’s well known that far-right extremists have a base among law enforcement. We cannot in any way count on the police to oppose them, nor the state in general. Only the organized working class movement can send the far-right back to where they came from.