Protesters hit the streets in downtown Montreal throughout the day Wednesday as the COP15 biodiversity conference officially got underway.
“They walked about six hours straight,” Montreal police Const. Manuel Couture told Global News. “There was one mischief, one armed assault. But so far the protest went really great, smoothly and we didn’t arrest anybody.”
A group of some 60 demonstrators, donning all black and holding banners that read “Block COP15,” marched and chanted outside the Palais des congrès. Those who took part described themselves as anti-capitalists and ecologists.
READ MORE: Biodiversity conference opens in Montreal with focus on conservation targets
A large police presence followed the protesters, with more officers waiting in buses near the perimetre of the convention centre, where a giant fence has been installed. The police officers stepped out of buses as the demonstration approached the building, where access is restricted.
The march eventually made its way to the nearby Cégep du Vieux Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal, where some students are on strike during the conference. Peaceful protests continued throughout the day.
The United Nations conference on biodiversity is expected to draw many protests over the next two weeks. There are various security measures in place, including a heightened police presence and the closure of the Place d’Armes Metro station adjacent to the venue for the duration of the event.
The first made itself known Tuesday when a small group of Indigenous protesters began drumming and singing during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s opening speech, but they escorted out of the room by security after a few minutes.
The 15th global talks to the save nature from human destruction will bring world leaders and participants to the city, for a total of about 17,000 delegates.
Ava Sphn, who is participating at COP15 and comes Switzerland, weighed in on the protests.
“I don’t think it’s constructive,” she said. “Let’s fight for a better global biodiversity framework, I think that’s what’s most important.”
— with files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian Press