Aside from controversial U.S. President Donald Trump, the presence most likely to dominate memories of this weekend’s G7 Summits in Quebec is that of police.
Hundreds upon hundreds could be seen on almost every block of the boarded-up streets of Quebec City over the last several days, deployed in full riot gear and armed with gas masks and rubber bullet rifles.
Life, for the most part, seemed to continue as normal for residents. But for protesters, finding a venue not blocked off by police proved an impossibility.
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Speaking with reporters at the closing press conference of the G7 Summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “willing to accept” criticism from some that police deployment was over and above what was needed at the summit.
Protesters believe heavy police presence intimidated and limited legitimate, peaceful protest.
“If things had gone very differently and we hadn’t been able to keep people safe, we’d be having a very different conversation,” said Trudeau.
“When one holds events like this, it’s much better to err on the side of being overly cautious.”
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Quebec City police chief Robert Pigeon also defended the heavy police presence in the city during this year’s summit to reporters on Friday night.
Some argued the strong police presence acted as a deterrent to peaceful demonstrations, such as a union march taking place on Saturday afternoon. Organizers suggested it would attract 1,000 people. Only 150 showed up.
“Sure we’re intimidated. It’s just bad that we’re intimidated when we just do a peaceful protest,” said one man who took part in the demonstrations on the Plains of Abraham on Friday.
Those protests, scheduled for 3 p.m. and billed as the biggest of the anti-G7 protests, never fully took off.
In the end, roughly 100 protesters were boxed in by 400 police officers.
For more than an hour, no one was allowed through the police blockade set up to contain the demonstration in the park.
Eventually, protesters were allowed to disperse.
Recent G7 and G20 summits have been marked by violent attacks by vandals breaking windows, looting, and setting vehicles alight.
The 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City saw roughly 20,000 protesters descend on the city.
On that occasion, a wave of destruction saw a number of protesters and bystanders taken to hospital with injuries from rubber bullets and tear gas.