Saturday, July 2, 2016

Court rules that Anarchopanda can keep his head

Montreal has a controversial bylaw, P-6, that bans masked protesters in a demonstration and also demands that organizers of any protest file a route of the demonstration with police for it to be legal.

Quebec Superior Court Justice, Chantal Masse, struck down the mask restriction entirely. On the issue of filing a route the justice said that if the demonstration was planned and people were invited a route had to be filed but if the demonstration were spontaneous it was not feasible to file such a route. The bylaw banning masks was passed several years ago on May 18, 2012.
The former Montreal mayor, Gerald Tremblay, introduced P-6 after weeks of protest after the Charest Liberal Quebec provincial government planned to raise university fees. Masks and covered faces were becoming common and protests were often violent. Fines for breaking rules were increased under P-6.
In a protest the following year Anarchopanda, the informal mascot of the 2012 protest, lost his head, which was seized by police. The protests were in part fueled by the new bylaw. The person in the Panda costume, Julien Villeneuve, was fined:The man under the costume, a philosophy professor at the Maisonneuve College, received two $637 fines after he was caught in a kettle — a police manoeuvre to control protesters.A few days later, Villeneuve launched a fund-raising campaign, "Pandaction", to fight the bylaw, a campaign which led ultimately to the ruling that Anarchopanda could keep his head during demonstrations. The protesters won in a separate case as well in which the protesters challenged the right of the city to use the Highway Safety Code to prevent demonstrations.
Villeneuve said he was delighted at the court ruling and said he was optimistic that many protesters still facing stiff fines under the bylaw would see their cases dropped. Villeneuve said he thought that the costume would actually calm tensions with the police. Villeneuve said: "It's a lot easier for a panda to pacify than just a random dude walking in the streets." He said that there good reasons to wear a mask at a protest. Some protesters fear repercussions at their workplace if seen at a demonstration and others fear how recognition might affect their personal life.
Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, said he had not yet read the decision. He said that everyone had the right to freedom of expression but wearing a mask and providing authorities with an itinerary of a protest route have nothing to do with that right. He claimed he could not say whether the City of Montreal would appeal the ruling.

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