Cops tear gas protesters as thousands march across Quebec

Demonstrators call for justice over the death of George Floyd in Montreal yesterday. (AP pic)

MONTREAL: Protesters in Montreal were tear-gassed Sunday as thousands gathered across Quebec to demonstrate against racism and police brutality in the French-speaking Canadian province.

Demonstrators marched peacefully in the centre of the city for the second time in a week as part of a global wave of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in US police custody when a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

After the march ended some of the protesters gathered near police headquarters where officers used tear gas to disperse them, Radio Canada reported.

Last Sunday’s protest also ended in clashes in the evening.

During the march, protesters chanted, “Black Lives Matter”, “No justice, no peace”, “Je ne peux pas respirer” (“I can’t breathe”) and “Il faut que ca cesse” (“This has to stop”).

Organisers gave speeches before the start of the march, slamming Quebec’s Premier Francois Legault for claiming a few days prior that there was no “systemic racism” in the province.

Protester Madani Ba, a 28-year-old musician and artiste, told AFP that he once was subjected to two different identity checks in the span of five minutes on the same street.

“There’s a lot of racial profiling, ask anyone of colour and they will tell you the same thing. It’s unbelievable – and it has to change,” he said.

Jessica Francois, 29, said she had come to the protests to show that “the colour of your skin does not justify the inequalities we can see, for instance, in Quebec”.

Demonstrators marched peacefully and were asked to stop several times to kneel in memory of Floyd.

While many protesters wore masks, it was hard to maintain social distancing of 2m, particularly while waiting for the march to begin.

More protests took place in Sherbrooke, east of Montreal, and in the provincial capital Quebec City. Other demonstrations had occurred Saturday in Toronto, and other cities across the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined thousands in Ottawa on Friday. He knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same length of time that police officer Derek Chauvin had kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“Over the past weeks, we’ve seen a large number of Canadians suddenly awaken to the fact that the discrimination that is a lived reality for far too many of our fellow citizens is something that needs to end,” Trudeau said earlier that day during his daily briefing.