Spread the Red: solidarity in Quebec

Photograph by Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne. ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

Quebec protests against rising tuition fees – March 22, 2012. Photograph by Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne. ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

Faced with a significant rise in their university tuition fees, students in Montreal successfully took action by demonstrating their opposition in record numbers for most of 2012.  Dubbed by some as ‘The Maple Spring’, their carefully organized actions led to a tuition freeze on 5 September 2012.

This blog post explores their struggle through the ubiquitous red square the student’s chose as a symbol.   One such square, and an allied red feather, will be featured in the solidarity section of our forthcoming exhibition ‘Disobedient Objects’.

Photograph by Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne. ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

Manifestaion against the Summit on Higher Education – February 26, 2013.
Photograph by Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne. ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

 

The squares protestors used were easy to make, requiring only a piece of red and a safety pin.   However, these simple elements came together to form a powerful and versatile symbol.  It adorned the streets of Quebec, as protestors carried red banners, waved red flags and incorporated this square throughout their demonstrations.  The red square was also prevalent on social media, as users showed support by changing profile pictures to red.

The squares students wore required two items to make – a red felt square and a safety pin.

The squares students wore required two items to make a red felt square and a safety pin.

 

Photograph by Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne.  ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

A protestor whose red hat reads ‘No to the increase’ blocks the National Bank on 4 November 2012. Photograph by Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne. ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

 

Quebec protests against rising tuition fees – March 22, 2012. Photograph by Jérémie Dubé- Lavigne. ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

Quebec protests against rising tuition fees – March 22, 2012. Photograph by Jérémie Dubé- Lavigne. ©Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne

Montreal’s student demonstrators wave donuts to distract riot police in 2012.  Many of their homemade fishing lines are decorated with red fabric, emblems of their struggle against tuition hikes.

Montreal’s student demonstrators wave donuts to distract riot police in 2012. Many of their homemade fishing lines are decorated with red fabric, emblems of their struggle against tuition hikes.

The red square itself was adapted from student protests in 2005, opposing a $104 million cut to education grants and government -run student loans program.

In 2013, wearing red gained new currency.  In video below – created by Isabeau Douce –  members of the Idle No More movement discuss their initiatives, mobilization of the red feather, and its links to the 2012 Montreal student protests

 

The photographs featured in this post are by Jérémie Dubé-Lavigne.  He can be contacted via this link

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