'More than just an American issue': Thousands protest Donald Trump in Montreal

Several thousand people gathered outside Place-des-Arts in Montreal on Saturday, just as an estimated half-million people were doing the same in Washington, D.C.

Organizers, participants fear Trump will roll back gains made by women's movement

Pussyhats — pink toques with pointed cat-like ears — dotted a large crowd that gathered in downtown Montreal Saturday as part of worldwide protests against the incoming administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Several thousand people gathered outside Place-des-Arts shortly before noon, just as an estimated half-million people were doing the same in Washington, D.C.

At both protests, and at more than 600 "sister marches" across the United States, Canada and dozens of other countries, the one-day old Trump administration was singled out as a threat to women's rights. 

Trump's campaign promises, and past comments, have sparked fears his administration will roll back women's rights on issues like reproduction, wage equality and domestic violence. 

In Montreal, participants said they wanted to demonstrate support for women in the U.S. as well as other vulnerable minority groups.

"It's important for us to show solidarity, to show what we stand for as Canadian citizens," said Lindsay Peets, who was wearing a pussyhat, which has rapidly become an emblem of resistance to Trump. 

"This is more than just an American issue. I think this rally — more than just showing solidarity — is showing that we as Canadians stand for equal rights."

Concern about Trump's influence

Many of those at the Montreal rally expressed concern that Trump's brand of conservative populism would influence politics north of the border. ​

"The siren song of populism will be sung here as well as," said Élisabeth Vallet, a well-known professor of American studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal, who addressed the crowd. 

"We have to be aware that we are at risk of returning to the model that our mothers and grandmothers knew."

Eunbyul Park, who attended the protest with her infant boy and husband, said she believes Trump's influence is already being felt in Canada in debates about immigration and identity. 

"We have to stand our ground," she said.

Park added that as someone married to a Muslim, and the mother of a young child, she felt attending the protest was a way to help secure a more tolerant society.

"I really want my child to grow in a place that is very open-minded, that respects everybody," she said. 

Demonstrators attend the Women's March on Washington near the White House. (Sait Serkan Gurbuz/The Associated Press)

Turned back at border

Along with protesters in pussyhats, the crowd was filled with placards bearing slogans such as "women's rights are human rights" and "equality for all."

Dozens of Montrealers also headed to Washington to take part in the massive protest there, though some reported being turned back at the border.

​"The first thing he asked us point blank is, 'Are you anti- or pro-Trump?'" Joseph Decunha, a McGill University physics student, told CBC about his encounter Thursday with U.S. border guards. 

The Washington march was organized to coincide with weekend activities marking Trump's inauguration. He was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States.

With files from Jonathan Montpetit