Hawzah News Agency (Montreal, Canada) –Many wore the Muslim hijab and a handful wore the Jewish kippah while dozens pushed strollers and a couple of marching bands played as close to 3,000 people took to the streets of downtown Montreal on Sunday afternoon to protest racism.
Although the event had been planned before the Oct. 1 election of François Legault and the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) and was intended as a general protest against systemic racism, speakers criticized the premier-designate and his party for what they said were racist policies.
Speakers were especially critical of Legault’s decision, announced shortly after his election, to follow through on a campaign promise to ban the wearing of religious symbols by civil servants in positions of authority, including teachers, judges and police officers. If they refuse, they will have to transfer to other jobs or leave the civil services, CAQ MNA Geneviève Guilbault, a spokesperson for the transition to government, told reporters last week.
As she addressed demonstrators, Marlihan Lopez, vice-president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ), said although many women representing the CAQ were elected, “they represent racist philosophies.”
Protesters chanted, "Legault has got to go" and "François, Quebec belongs to me" as they marched from Place Émilie-Gamelin along René-Lévesque Boulevard.
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The CAQ, which won a majority in last week's provincial election, is promising to introduce a law prohibiting civil servants — including judges, police officers, prosecutors and teachers — from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. Legault has yet to be sworn in as premier.
A representative for the CAQ government said Wednesday that those who don't comply with the coming law could be re-assigned or lose their employment altogether.
People filmed the march on their phones and protesters lit a smoke bomb on René-Lévesque Boulevard that sent red smoke into the air. Upbeat music played and protesters carried a large banner that said: "Together against hate and racism."
Many of the protest attendees donned religious symbols. Nadjah Oumid was one of them.
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"The hijab, for me, is like a part of me," Oumid said. "I think the government shouldn't oppress people for what they want to wear."
She said she thinks it's sad that people wouldn't be able to access certain jobs because they wear a hijab.
Another protester, Sonia Haddad, says she wanted to take a stand against racism for her children.
"We're part Arabic, part Quebecois… so I think all of us together, we have to really be in solidarity," Haddad said.
"I'm very scared of what's happening in politics right now in Quebec," she said.