MONTREAL – Anti-capitalist protesters clashed with police in downtown Montreal on Friday night, with authorities firing off tear gas in an attempt to disperse them.
Police said one officer suffered facial cuts and was taken to hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
“Police cruisers and cars belonging to ordinary people were damaged,” said Montreal police spokesman Laurent Gingras.
Demonstrators took over Sainte-Catherine Street, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, marching in both directions and blocking traffic as they took part in the annual May Day protest.
Officers on horses could be seen trying to disperse protesters.
The demonstration took place just a few blocks from the Bell Centre where the Canadiens were playing Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Police declared the demonstration illegal shortly after it began because organizers did not give the route beforehand.
Rich Bonemeal, a spokesman for Montreal’s Anti-Capitalist Convergence, said in a statement “it’s capitalism we must destroy.”
“It’s our dissent, it’s our rebellion, and May 1st is our day,” Bonemeal said.
“We don’t have to ask permission, say please and thank you, or apologize for our presence disrupting the course of capitalist activity. We are in the streets because we want to be disruptive. It’s a right you don’t ask for, it’s a right you have to claim.”
Earlier in the day, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Montreal and elsewhere in the province in peaceful protests to mark International Workers Day.
Those demonstrations focused primarily on big banks and the Quebec Liberal government’s cost-cutting measures.
Alexa Conradi, president of the Quebec Federation of Women, said the Couillard government hasn’t taken into account any of the proposals presented by social groups.
“Instead, what it’s doing is causing cuts to education…in public services, in health care and in the regions.” she said. “A lot of these services are absolutely essential to maintaining a degree of equality in our society.”
Conradi added that various groups decided to protest throughout the province because of what she called the government’s refusal to listen to them.
The Montreal demonstrations brought together a variety of groups that included unionists, students and social groups.
Early on Friday, an Old Montreal building that houses many financial and trade institutions was targeted, forcing police to secure the area.
Employees had to show their ID passes to get inside the huge building, which is also home to several provincial government departments.
The biggest march, featuring several thousand people, was noisy but orderly. It ended at the Montreal Stock Exchange after helmeted riot-equipped police had followed them along their route.
Joel Pedneault, a spokesman for the coalition that organized the march, said banks were targeted because of their record profits.
“So we can go and get some money there in order to keep the public services we have and make them even better,” he said.
Pedneault said actions were organized in most cities in the province, including Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Chicoutimi.
“Our strategy is to affect the economy as much as we can, so in the morning we were blocking the entrance for people going to the National Bank tower.
“The idea is to have an impact in many places, instead of just one place.”
Normally, on May Day, there is usually only one big demonstration.
Daniel Boyer, president of the Quebec Federation of Labour, said members wanted to organize protests in their own region rather than having to travel to Montreal to take part in the traditional huge demonstration.
“We said OK, but it had to be sufficiently big enough to have the same impact or even larger than the (usual) protest,” he added.