Anti-G7 protesters, unions and environmentalists march in Old Quebec

QUEBEC — Amid a sea of banners and multi-coloured flags, several hundred anti-G7 protesters were joined by labour unions and environmental groups in a raucous march through the streets of Quebec City on Saturday during a third straight day of demonstrations against the summit.

The crowd appeared upbeat as they set off from in front of Quebec’s legislature, cheering as an organizer denounced the elite Group of Seven industrial countries as an “illegitimate” cadre that is “based on the principle of exclusion.”

Since Thursday, anti-G7 protesters have taken to the streets in a series of public stunts, marches, and a few acts of resistance carried out by small pockets of activists.

Saturday’s march, like most of the previous events, was peaceful.

As they made their way past crowds of tourists and armed police in riot gear, protesters shouted slogans in French such as “refuse the select club that is destroying the planet” and “those who sow misery reap anger.”

Their numbers were buoyed by community groups and labour unions, many of whom were bussed in from Montreal to take part in Saturday’s events.

The full day of demonstrations began early, when activists with global aid organization Oxfam donned giant masks portraying each of the G7 leaders and performed some theatre outside Quebec’s provincial legislature building.

The seven “leaders,” dressed in red-and-black plaid shirts, pretended to be on a relaxing camping trip, while a giant ball representing the Earth burned behind them, symbolizing the need for G7 countries meeting in Charlevoix to take climate change more seriously.

Later on, a handful of members of the African diaspora in Canada protested outside the legislature against the invitation to the G7 of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whom they accuse of war crimes during the time he commanded the rebel army that ended the 1994 genocide.

Since Kagame took office in 2000, Human Rights Watch says those in the country who criticize his regime “have been arrested, disappeared, or killed.”

“How can a leader like Kagame be invited here?” said Freddy Usabuwera, who fled Rwanda in 1997 to live in Quebec.

Shortly after, a few dozen people held Rwandan flags outside the international media centre in support of Kagame, saying they were proud of their president.

Prior to the march, activists in front of Quebec’s legislature held what they called an “alternative G7” that they billed as part educational activity and part protest.

As activists stepped up to the microphone and offered their critiques of the G7, crowds of people milled around in the bright sunshine, advocating for an array of causes.

A group of six North Koreans highlighted the plight of citizens in their homeland, as a young anti-capitalist with a red kerchief over his face handed out leaflets calling for a proletarian revolution.

Despite the varied messages, Chantal Poulin, a protester and teacher’s union member from Montreal, said the protesters were united in their opposition to the summit.

“The united message is we don’t want the G7, we don’t want to pay for it, we don’t want the most powerful on Earth to see themselves as the leaders of the world,” she said.

“There’s no such thing as a world leadership; it’s something we don’t recognize.”

Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for security, no more than a few hundred people showed up to any of the series of demonstrations that took place during the two-day summit.

Amnesty International, along with a human rights advocacy group in Quebec, led a 44-person observer mission to monitor the protests.

Spokesperson Nicole Filion, with Quebec’s league for civil liberties, said observers have noticed some police carrying assault rifles. She said that could scare people out of exercising their right to protest. Observers also witnessed police pointing the weapons towards protesters and, at times, journalists.

“Our group spoke to the police about the assault rifles,” she said in an interview. “They told us in this age of terrorism, they are needed to protect people.

“We don’t think assault rifles are needed for crowd control.”

The two-day meeting is also nowhere near the protests, taking place about 140 kilometres to the northeast of Quebec City in the Charlevoix region. U.S. President Donald Trump left on Saturday morning, approximately 24 hours after he arrived.

The protests began with an opening march on Thursday that ended peacefully despite three arrests.

On Friday, a tense standoff between protesters and police on a road leading to the summit site of La Malbaie in the early morning also ended calmly.

Police chased small pockets of activists through the streets of Quebec City for the rest of the day on Friday, but aside from a few pieces of furniture set on fire in the street, the demonstrations were calm.

Quebec City police said four men and two women were arrested Friday for participating in an illegal protest and for disrupting the work of an officer.

The protest actions are scheduled to culminate Saturday evening with a comedy show at a community centre that will include popular performers Fred Dube and Guillaume Wagner.

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