archives of global protests

Breaking news: A BREACH IN THE WALL
Jesse Fox Mayshark 2001-04-20

BOULEVARD RENE-LEVESQUE — One of the first confrontations between police and protestors took place on the Boulevard Rene-Levesque around 3 p.m. near the Grand Theatre.

As a crowd of spectators, some of them with small children, lined the perimeter of the fence along the sidewalk, a group of black-masked black bloc activists pulled large sections of the concrete and wire mesh construct down and advanced toward about a dozen officers in olive riot gear.

The action was the culmination of a parade that began at Universite de Laval around 1 p.m. and proceeded peacefully, if noisily, all the way into downtown. More passive groups peeled off along other streets prior to hitting the fence, leaving only "red" and "yellow" groups to stand off at the perimeter.

("Red" groups advocate direct confrontation; "yellow" groups resist passively, but a contingent of them had pledged to support any red groups who broke through the fence.) For about 10 minutes, the activists contented themselves with shouting slogans ("Whose streets? Our streets!") and throwing plastic bottles and golf balls. The police deflected those with plastic shields and stood their ground. Soon, other squads of police arrived to provide back-up.

Then came a molotov cocktail, which smashed and burned harmlessly on the concrete. And then a crowd started pulling on one section of the fence. (It wasn't clear how many of those behind the fence were involved and how many were providing moral support by yelling and cheering.) It took only about three minutes of rocking to pull it over, and a small group of anarchists scrambled through the opening, pushing a metal street barrier before them.

Things escalated quickly: a group of police rushed at the protestors pushing them back; other groups began pulling down other sections of fence; a few more molotov cocktails landed, and one officer's pant leg caught fire (it was quickly extinguished by other officers); with the entire fence across the boulevard down, groups of protestors began moving in several directions, spreading out along side streets. Finally, a third squad of officers appeared, with several carrying tear-gas guns.

As the first riot squad fell back from the protestors, the new arrivals fired gas canisters into the throng. The crowd of spectators, which had been moving back and forth nervously, dispersed with a few parents reaching down to cover their children's mouths with kerchiefs and shirt sleeves.

As of 4:30, there are still reports of gas along Rene-Levesque.

The Wall goes down...