Students and demonstrators are chased by police along Rene Levesque Blvd. in Montreal, on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012, during a protest against tuition increases organized by CLASSE.
Photograph by: Dave Sidaway, THE GAZETTE
Gazette journalists share their memories of 2012.
MONTREAL - Having followed the boycotting students through countless protests, demonstrations and uprisings, I learned a very valuable lesson during last year’s tuition dispute.
No, I don’t mean I learned the value of determination or mobilization in fighting for a cause.
What I learned was this: if 5,000 people are running in one direction, you would be foolish to walk in the very direction they are fleeing.
Still, I did it time after time, looking for “the story.” Well, the story was always that police had just sprayed tear gas or pepper spray and everyone was trying to get the heck out of there. Except me.
Therefore, I plowed through residual tear gas and pepper spray mist on several occasions, and even though I never took a direct hit, I can attest to the fact the stuff is extremely unpleasant. And it really succeeds in dispersing a crowd. (I have to admit that by May, by then a veteran of several major protests, I had this figured out and did a better job of taking cues from the crowd.)
There were other lessons from the battlefield, as well. Don’t tweet and walk at the same time; I almost fell in a huge crater on Ste. Catherine St. doing that during one of the marches. Don’t interview dads carrying their toddlers on their shoulders during a protest because the toddler will invariably kick you in the face while you stop to talk. Don’t drink coffee right before a demonstration because when you stop at a fast-food restaurant to go to the bathroom, you could find yourself behind the very last police cruiser bringing up the rear of the procession, in a virtual no man’s land far removed from all the action.
And, whatever you do, make sure you’re not positioned near the drummer or the bagpiper during a demonstration because you will soon be wishing the police would use some pepper spray to scatter the crowd.
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