June 8, Friday, Bahrain solidarity and Grand Prix clashes
At 7:20pm, the petite march ignored a call by the police to clear the streets, but complied when the troops moved to enforce it. Still in good spirits, the protesters sang a French chant meaning “on the sidewalk, until victory.” Just after 9:00pm protesters arrived behind the main staging area for the Grand Prix tourist events, which included a concert, promotional vendors, and car models. The major Formula One event, accused of being elitist and sexist, provided the impetus for the weekend’s large manifestations. A mock general, and man in a banana suit danced in front of police officers to show their discontentment. From 9:30pm to 10:00pm, the crowd continued to bang pots and pans, chanting, and booing at particular phrases (“welcome to Montreal”) from the performers on the Bud Light stage at the Grand Prix event. The protesters moved closer to the police line, giving the stiff-armed Nazi salute (a common chant was “SS…PVM”), forcing tourists to walk awkwardly in between. After marching around street vendors and groveling to police, the protesters walked to St. Catherine and Crescent, the front entrance to the Grand Prix event. Around 10:30pm, after the demonstrators taunted and threw a few projectiles, the cops charged, deployed pepper spray, tear gas, and a few rubber bullets.
By 10:50pm, protesters had reassembled in front of the Grand Prix event entrance, and performed symbolic actions (like faux-bloody flag waving), while F-1 fans looked on — some with amusement, others with annoyance or anger.
For the next hour, the riot police repeatedly pushed protesters back by clacking their shields with their batons while charging, and then turned around once the streets cleared. However, the activists quickly reassembled over and over again, sometimes where the police had just been — a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse.
At times, the demonstrators followed police, and actually made it difficult for them to leave — forcing them to get out of their vans and charge to clear a pathway. While there was a lot of action, it was unclear who the target really was. The police received by far the most attention, but some protesters called out “le douchebag” at Grand Prix goers as well. However, the juxtaposition of the police to the protesters and F-1 fans was clear: standing as sentinels at the entrance of the event, and even guarding the streets so that trophy cars could pass by safely as the evening wound down.