MONTREAL — Hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of Montreal on Sunday to denounce racism, the far right and the province’s religious neutrality bill.
Organizers said the main goal of the gathering was to fight what they called the rise of racism and hate.
It was organized by a vast coalition of organizations that include women’s groups, anti-globalization movements and student associations.
Apart from a few skirmishes early on, the march was peaceful and featured demonstrators chanting and waving signs.
Many protesters said they were there to protest Quebec’s Bill 62, which requires anyone giving or receiving state services to do so with their faces uncovered.
They argued the bill marginalizes Muslim women who wear niqabs and tacitly legitimizes Islamophobia.
“The government has never been able to present anything that proves that, up until now, we’ve had any security problems whatsoever,” said Eve Torres, a feminist protester.
“Presently, we’re putting the spotlight on a group of women who have never posed a major problem in our society. It liberates racist speech, and we don’t need that in the context of the rise of the far right.”
The march occurred hours after a well-known statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Montreal’s downtown was found covered in red paint.
An anonymous group took credit for the vandalism online, describing Macdonald as a white supremacist.
The organization, which described itself as a group of “anonymous local anti-colonialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist activists,” expressed support for Sunday’s march but specified that its members weren’t directly affiliated with it.
The Canadian Press