French Canadian students in Montreal stripped down to their skivvies and marched practically naked while Grand Prix audiences filled downtown cafes and restaurants Friday. Police clamped down hard on scantily clad youth and blockades restricted access to the race grounds but streets surrounding the world class race were overflowing with thousands of buff Quebecois students in red war paint lending a colourful and vibrant aspect to this year's race.
Beleagured Premiere Charest accused the protesters of hurting all of Quebec, as ticket sales for the event plummet this year due to the unrest sweeping across the province.
According to Gallery Quebec:
"Clashes erupted when thousands of Quebec students stripped to protest against a proposed tuition hike in a bid to embarrass the hosts of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix here in Montreal.
The protests and media attention have already put a dent in the global sporting event, which usually generates an estimated CAN$100 million (US$97 million) in revenue for the city but this year has seen lagging ticket sales.
Riot police fired stun grenades and tear gas late Thursday, trying to prevent the protesters from approaching the event, as the demonstrators sought to draw international attention to their three-month campaign.
Nearly 40 people had been arrested by late Thursday, according to police."
Earlier in the day, hundreds of student marchers stripped down to their underwear, the women thinly concealing their breasts with red body paint and the red cloth squares that have become a symbol of the protests.
“Everyone naked in the street,” they chanted as they banged pots and pans together — another feature of the nightly demonstrations held across the mostly French-speaking province.
“Formula One! Polluter! Sexist! Thief!” they shouted.
Demonstrators said they had removed their clothes in order to demand more transparency from the province, which is partly funding the race while also demanding that students pay a larger share for university education.
“Our nudity expresses the demand for transparency,” a male student, clad only in gray cotton underwear, told AFP. “The government is masked. It conceals its own motives, as we have seen in the negotiations"
On June 6, cities across Canada and around the world held casseroles night protests in solidarity with Quebec, soliciting speculation that the protests were turning into something far greater than a tuition hike protest. The verve, determination and passion of the Quebec students have become something of an inspiration to youth across the country and indeed around the world who feel disempowered and disenfranchised with the current world status quo.
Check out this amazing panoramic view with audio to feel like you were there with the protesters:
Author's note: In awe of these Montreal protesters, my theory is that secretly we all want to have this kind of chutzpa, and walk naked and painted red down the streets of our town ....Mr. Charest would do well to remember that these are the descendants of the people who cut off Marie Antoinette's head...and this time they're really really mad. He needs to listen to what they are demanding. Seriously.