Martin: Are the Quebec riots a manifestation of the global Occupy movement?

By: /
June 4, 2012

First, let’s make one thing clear. I play no role in the current protests and don’t agree with all their demands, but I emphatically reject their broad characterization as “riots”. The violence can be traced to small, well-coordinated fringe that does not represent the essence of the demonstrations and that has been much more a liability than an asset to the student movement and to the broader protests it has engendered. That said, what we are witnessing in Québec is a genuinely homegrown movement. The student strike/boycott originated entirely as a reaction to the Québec government’s intention to raise tuition fees by 65 to 80 percent. Although led by a minority of college and university students, the movement has forced the government into negotiations that were destined to fail, considering the vast distance between the two parties’ positions.

The government’s attempt to quell protests led to even more demonstrations, which were helped by the brilliant idea of a philosophy teacher, who proposed to channel the protesters’ energy into banging pots and pans rather than police or property. By giving the street back to peaceful demonstrators rather than leaving it to violent troublemakers, this new form of demonstration gave the students a chance to gain popular sympathy. It also offered a model for other protest movements around the world. So, to return to the initial (rephrased) question: “Were the Québec protests a manifestation of the global Occupy movement?” No. These protests were homegrown. That doesn’t mean they were isolated from transnational expressions of discontent. Indeed, it seems that Québec has recently been a net exporter of inspiration for social movements around the world.