Quebec student strike: Do you hear the noise?

Since February, more than 300,000 students in Quebec, Canada, have been on strike over the provincial government’s proposed tuition hike. Students have been forced to confront police repression coupled with draconian legal measures to limit the right to peaceful protest. Despite it all, support has grown for the students and their struggle. Most recently, thousands of moms and dads, grandparents and children have been flooding the streets in the early evenings across Quebec, banging pots, lids and colanders-like the Argentina’s cacerolazos (protests) during the 1990s against neo-liberal measures-in support of the students and to express opposition to right-wing austerity measures.

The following is a first-hand experience from Quebec, followed by a video that helps capture the mood and beauty of the protests found on Alternavox.

Tonight, I took a casserole [saucepan] and I came timidly out into the street. There were people out. I wondered who had a casserole. I was shy. I didn’t want to be out on the sidewalk alone. Disturbing people.

Then, I saw a young boy, also alone, a teenager, with his mother and grandmother. His grandfather was there too, walking behind them, slowly. He was limping. But in his hand, he had a casserole like the others.  I joined them. We met up with another girl. As she was wearing a red square, we asked her where the demonstration was. “On Hochelaga,” she said, “at Charles-Valois square.” There we went with casseroles in hand.  On the way, I checked my phone. It was 8:00 PM. And we were still just a small group.

The young man and I looked at each other. Would we dare? Yes. Him first. Then all of us. We tapped, using wooden spoons, on our old casseroles. We heard another in the distance. Another. Yet another. Young students came out into the street, walking towards Charles-Valois square. They tapped in rhythm. We learned. They walked confidently. They had experience.  In the distance was Charles-Valois square.

The grandmother and grandfather found a bench to sit on. They tapped, trembling, on their casseroles. There were a hundred people, then two hundred, then one thousand. We started to walk. Police cars arrived on the street corners and in the alleyways. We crossed paths a few times. Young people looked straight into the eyes of police, without fear and without arrogance, but with conviction. I even saw police officers lower their eyes. I saw one in particular. He was the same age as the students. I got the feeling that he realized he had chosen a line of work he wasn’t passionate about.  This night, I think, he wasn’t doing what he dreamed he would be doing.

Children, men, women, seniors, people in wheelchairs, people of all nationalities, the crowd took the path it wanted, and did so in spite of police, in spite of the law.  All along the way, on the balconies, in the windows, people came out with their casseroles, and they made noise too, scratching away at the special law one tap at a time. People protests and laughed and shouted. People clapped. People tapped, loud. Loud.  Loud.

Some joined the march. Others, too timid, tapped while staying almost hidden behind a door or a tree. You only heard the casserole.

I am walking, and, all of a sudden, in the window of a building around a corner, I see a woman, in flowing clothes, almost naked, wrinkles showing despite her heavy make-up. She looks at the crowd and smiles. She is young, but she is missing teeth.  I see that she is holding a beer bottle in one hand, and a spoon in the other. She is tapping on her beer bottle with her spoon. She is tapping, tapping and I see tears on her cheek.

I have seen and heard all this. I have heard the sound of the casseroles. I have heard the suffering of people. I have heard their loneliness, their pain, their anguish. I have heard them shout their rage, their anger. I have even heard them being proud.

I see all the young people who are hearing and seeing the same things as me. We are calling them entitled? We are called them spoiled children? No! The real entitled ones are steering our government, are selling us, lying to us, cheating us, giving us their advice, making comments, sensationalizing.

The real spoiled children are the ones who make new political parties at the slightest disagreement. They believe themselves superior to everything.  They order the police to beat us down and they live in a soundproof room. They believe they can manipulate us with surveys. They try to divide us, old against young, one region against the other, Quebec against Montreal.

The real spoiled children believe that the only way to see the world is in economic terms, their economic terms, in terms of their lies and manipulations.  The real spoiled children believe that, in life, some people win and some people lose.  No!  If only they could know that life is about more than that.  No surprise that they don’t believe that it is.

Quiet down, you spoiled children, and listen to the noise of the casseroles. Just once. If only they could know that the real great people of the world defied the law themselves. The son of God himself, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, John-Paul II, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and so on. Social progress is one broken law after another.  Enough with your moralizing, ladies and gentlemen who are all too ready to lay down before the law. The people know that law must be respected, and they know what laws to mock. People can think, in spite of your complacency.

I came home tired. I must have marched three hours. I came home while young people were still out marching, still tapping on casseroles.

And these are the ones we said are lazy and spoiled. Listen up! Listen to their words and their casseroles.

Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable. Original French text:

(Alternavox editor’s note) If this article has moved you in any way you may be happy to know that Toronto is joining in the fun. There are over 30 Canadian cities that will be holding their very own casseroles loudness! To check out the massive Toronto event go to the Facebook page

And for visual inspiration:

Photo: via Alternavox



Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.