To protest or not to protest?

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Montreal – April 22, 2012 marks yet another long day of the hundreds of long days I spent protesting over the last seven years. This protest is different though. First, it is, by far, the largest protest I’ve ever attended with the estimated number of participants being over 250,000 people.

Taking over the street!It is a long shot from the estimated 40,000 people who showed to the Global Day of Action on Climate Change in Durban, on December 3rd, 2011, largest protest I’ve attended before today; and it doesn’t even come anywhere near the many protests I’ve attended averaging of about 200 participants. It was incredible; taking over the streets have always been empowering and today I witnessed over 250,000 people taking over the street; and it’s huge.

It was an interesting day, it’s the largest ever Earthday gathering in Quebec, attended by individuals and families of all walks of life celebrating the earth and stressing the urgency of climate action, among many other issues and demands that remain unheard by the provincial and federal governments. Today’s protest succeeded in linking together many causes and digging further into the deeper roots of many of the problems our society is facing today. Everyone from children, youth, and elderly, to students, to workers to parents. Some are concerned about the endless problems our environment (shale gas, nuclear mining, tar sands, access to water, etc.) and the future of their children, while others were concerned about accessible education, labour’s rights and generally preserving our rights to freedom of speech.

This protest joined together causes that are often seen as separate. Tuition hikes and labour rights are economic causes that are separate from things like Earthday. However, the last couple of years have caused us to look at things differently.

Recently, we’ve  seen a major attack on things that we have taken for granted. In the last year, workers have been legislated back to work many times, stripped from their rights to renegotiate their collective agreements, charitable organisations have been directly targeted losing funding over their mandates that have excited forever, tuition fees across the country, and especially in Quebec, are skyrocketing, environmental assessments are being reduced to a mere formality, among other things. It’s very difficult not to see how all things fall under a greater umbrella of attack from a neoliberal right wing government that prioritizes short term economic benefit over basically anything else and spends obscene amounts of money on buying F-35 fire jets and building prison and claims that it cannot afford health care, education and environmental  protection. People on this April 22nd protest had the answer. We need to move beyond individual band aid solutions and fight the root causes of the problem.

The important question that remains is how? Over the last few years, I’ve had more than my fair share of protests. Big and small, some were successful, others not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I like protests, I organize them, I attend them; they are peaceful and refreshing and one way to have fun while supporting a good cause. But now, I worry and I wonder if protests are serving the purpose they once used to.

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