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Montrealers Took To The Streets This Weekend To Protest Quebec's COVID-19 Lockdown

The organizers say they wanted to shed light on the lockdown's mental health effects.

On November 27, MTL Blog reported that a newly published document by The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) highlighted the extreme hardships that Montreal's tourism industry has faced due to COVID-19.

The next day, on November 28, protesters gathered in front of Dorchester Square to send a message to the provincial government that business closures in COVID-19 red zones have impacted the mental health of hospitality workers in Quebec.

The organizers chose a green ribbon as the emblem for their message, and encouraged protesters to wear merchandise related to their respective workplaces — whether from a local bar, restaurant, gym, or theatre.

MTL Blog spoke to two of the protest's organizers — Matthew Ackad and Zaza Clementz — to get a better idea of why the protest was organized and how protesters got their message across to the Quebec government.

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Why was the protest organized?

Ackad said he and three others wanted to hold a protest to give a voice to people who are out of work or on the verge of losing their businesses due to COVID-19.

He said he wanted to illustrate the mental health effects of mass business closures in Montreal.

"[I wanted] to show that we are more than just an industry; we are people too and our mental health is suffering because of this," Ackad said.

Alex Melki | MTL Blog

Clementz echoed Ackad's statements and said she could no longer wait for the government to address the significant hit the hospitality industry has taken due to COVID-19.

"I couldn't be silent anymore about what is really happening in the hospitality industry," she said.

"We had a powerful message sent to the government where everybody had [their] wrist up while Guillaume Michaud, a local DJ from Montreal, was playing a very meaningful track — 'Greatest Day' by Double Touch, featuring Reigan."

What does the protest want to achieve?

The Facebook event page says the protesters want to urge the Quebec government to reopen restaurants, gyms, bars and other local businesses in red zones.

"We invite you all to come: family, friends, and all, to stand in solidarity with your fellow Quebecers to send a message to our provincial government that we need to take into consideration the magnitude of consequences lockdowns have on all of us," the statement says.

Clementz said the organizers observed a few hundred protesters gathered to support their cause. She said the four protest organizers — Clementz, Ackad, Marie Bellefeuille and Roula Alj — spoke to protesters to get a better sense of their struggles.

"We just want to open conversation with the government and be taken into account in the process of decision-making," Clementz said. 

Alex Melki | MTL Blog

How did police respond to the protest?

The protest's event page was careful to specify the purpose of the gathering, so as not to attract protesters who refused to wear masks or comply with Quebec's COVID-19 public health protocols.

"Please know that this protest is not an anti-mask, anti-virus, anti-police or other protest," the event page said. 

"The SPVM will ensure security and that safety measures are respected: mask wearing and safe distancing. Should you feel that these safety precautions do not apply to you, you will be asked to leave the area."

Alex Melki | MTL Blog

Both Clementz and Ackad said Montreal police were cooperative and helpful in handling the crowd that had assembled.

"They were very open, flexible and understanding," Clementz said.

"[They] were advised that it was going to be a peaceful assembly of people," said Ackad.