In Quebec, caution — but little fear — as city and shop owners prepare for night of G7 protests
Overnight, the streets of Quebec City have changed.
Protesters drawn by the G7 Summit taking place in nearby Charlevoix are expected to descend on the provincial capital on Thursday evening for the first of a series of planned demonstrations that will curl through the streets.
As recently as Wednesday afternoon, there were few outward signs of a city preparing for the violence that comes with such summits. In past years, scenes of rioters breaking windows, looting shops, and torching police cars have become all too familiar.
Extra security guards stationed outside of high-profile locations, such as the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, and concrete blocks designed to deter vehicle attacks, such as those seen at recent summits in Toronto, Nice and London, as well as the sounds of a helicopter circling overhead every hour or so, were about the extent of visual clues that the city was bracing for anything out of the ordinary.
WATCH: People march in protest of G7 summit in Quebec
Yet that changed on Thursday morning, as residents and business owners began buckling down for what might come.
Boarded up windows and street blockades emerged, though most residents putting them up told Global News they were just a precaution.
“I’m a little worried, but I think people can still be respectful even if they protest,” said Anne-Laurie Lefrancois, one of the young Quebec City residents helping to board up and decorate protective placards along Rue Saint-Jean, in the heart of the city.
WATCH: Shop owners in Quebec City are preparing for protests ahead of the G7 Summit
“I’m a little worried because it’s still our streets, it’s still our shops. They have opinions and they want to be heard, but they still have to think about what the city will look like [after the summit is] done, because we’re the ones who will have to rebuild it.”
Some local businesses are remaining open, tentatively, while others are closing down entirely.
One manager at a retail chain said the store, while open on Thursday, would be closing down entirely on Friday and Saturday because of concerns about employee safety.
WATCH: People prepare for march against G7 summit in Quebec City
Other chains, including Lush and David’s Tea, had locked doors or were boarded up entirely as of Thursday afternoon.
In the historic Old Quebec, another local shop owner said she would be boarding up just in case — but also trying to do whatever she could to encourage protesters to be peaceful by painting the barricades she put on her shop windows.
Esther Garneau, owner of the Galerie Zen art gallery in the neighbourhood, said she was hopeful the presence of police in the area and their preparations will prevent violence from breaking out.
“I don’t think there will be, no. I know there is a big effort by police,” she said, speaking in French.
“But it just takes one person and things could degenerate rapidly.”
WATCH BELOW: Counter-protesters clash with police in Quebec City
Ensuring security in the city will be a significant undertaking: three different police forces will be involved.
READ MORE: Police in Quebec prepared for G7 protests
The RCMP will be focused on protecting the members of official delegations stationed in the city, while Quebec City police will be responsible for handling protests.
Unlike at the Summit of the Americas in 2001, Quebec City police say they will not be blocking off any of the roads protesters plan to march through or trying to contain the participants.
Barricades are also not expected to go up unless the situation begins to escalate.
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On the other hand, barricades will be erected around the provincial legislature buildings by the Sûreté du Quebec, the provincial police service.
In La Malbaie, about three hours away, security was also out in force for the arrival later Thursday evening of dignitaries.
While most of the delegations will be staying in Quebec City, the leaders themselves and their immediate delegations will be in the Charlevoix region where the official events of the summit will take play on Friday and Saturday.
Protests so far are scheduled for Thursday night in Quebec City and Friday in Charlevoix.
Protesters are also threatening to block the road between La Malbaie and Quebec City on Friday.