Hundreds defy Montreal's 8 p.m. curfew in destructive protest

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Montreal Sunday in defiance of a newly adjusted curfew aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 cases before dozens of them smashed windows, lit fires and damaged property in the city's old quarter. Police say they have handed out 108 tickets and made seven arrests so far.

Montreal police say they have handed out 108 tickets, made 7 arrests so far

Some protesters lit fires in garbage cans and on the street, while others set off fireworks and chanted slogans deriding Premier François Legault. (Giuseppe Valiante/The Canadian Press)

Montreal police handed out more than 100 tickets and made several arrests after a Sunday night protest against the city's newly adjusted curfew turned violent.

Police spokesperson Const. Véronique Comtois said the preliminary tally includes seven arrests made and 108 tickets handed out — 107 for breaking public health rules, and one for contravening a municipal bylaw.

Dozens of acts of mischief and criminal fires are still under investigation, she said.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Old Port, a tourist district, for the protest against the 8 p.m. curfew. It began in relative calm — a mostly young crowd danced to music from loudspeakers while lighting fireworks and chanting, "freedom for the young."

But eventually, a few protesters lit a garbage fire in Place Jacques-Cartier, which was met with tear gas from riot police. Some also seized projectiles from city streets, hurling them at nearby windows and shattering many.

Police soon rushed the crowd, prompting dozens of protesters to scatter and cause mayhem down the cobblestone streets.

Many of the demonstrators were not wearing masks.

This storefront window is one of many that were shattered during protests against Montreal's curfew Sunday night. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Premier François Legault said last week that he was rolling back the curfew from 9:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Montreal and Laval despite a relatively stable case count as a precaution, due to the heavy presence of more contagious virus variants.

The government previously placed Quebec City, Lévis, Gatineau and several municipalities in Quebec's Beauce region — all of which had seen sudden spikes in cases — under the earlier curfew.

WATCH | Hundreds protest COVID-19 curfew in Montreal:

Old Montreal streets damaged after hundreds protest city's 8 p.m. curfew

1 year ago
Duration 0:55
Shattered windows, charred garbage, and a vandalized bus shelter were left in the wake of Sunday night's anti-curfew protest.

Some protesters interviewed by Radio-Canada questioned the government's logic behind advancing the curfew. Some claimed that Quebec is exaggerating the severity of the pandemic, while others said there was no scientific justification for the curfew.

Minister says health system strained

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé told Radio-Canada he believes the protesters represent a tiny part of the population.

"We see it in the polls, people continue to listen, people continue to be aware of what we are going through," he said, citing the ongoing strain affecting the province's health-care system.

A curfew was first imposed across Quebec Jan. 9. It required Quebecers across the province to be in their homes from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. unless they had a valid reason to be out.

The curfew was later moved back to 9:30 p.m. in some regions, including Montreal, and lifted altogether in some of Quebec's more remote regions.

The crowd of mainly young people danced to music from loudspeakers, lit fireworks and chanted 'freedom for the young.' (Giuseppe Valiante/The Canadian Press)

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

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