As the United Nations’ COP15 conference on biodiversity continues in Montreal, protesters gathered in Square Saint-Louis for what has been dubbed the “Large protest” by organizers.
It is one of several demonstrations being spearheaded by a grassroots’ group made up of self-described ecologists and anti-capitalists.
A few hundred participants gathered in the city square, where speeches were made decrying a lack of political will to enact climate action.
Simon Pierre Lauzon, with a group called Alternative Socialiste, told Global News he doesn’t believe COP15 — where delegates and world leaders from 200 countries work to hammer out a deal to protect the planet’s biodiversity — will lead to change.
“It basically gaslights the population into thinking that these people are going to solve anything when for the last 20 years they’ve been making goals for themselves and not actually even reaching their own objectives,” Lauzon said.
“It doesn’t matter what they say they’ll do if they don’t actually do it.”
Lauzon believes change will come only if groups with a shared interest in protecting the environment unite to put pressure on businesses and governments while placing people and nature above profits.
“In their own isolation, they are not big enough and strong enough to bend the government to do the changes that are necessary in society to tackle climate change,” he said.
Meanwhile, others in the square unfurled a large red banner that read in French: “For biodiversity, against COP15” before setting out to march through city streets amid a large police presence.
Montreal police spokesperson Manuel Couture reported one incident of vandalism early on in the march, saying the windows of a financial institution on Saint-Hubert Street had been broken.
By 5 p.m., however, Couture said the intensity of the crowd was beginning to change, with fireworks being set off and stickers being placed on cars.
This prompted officers following the march to issue a warning: “We are presently observing unlawful conduct. To ensure the event proceeds smoothly, we order you to immediately comply with rules.”
The demonstration was still ongoing at 6 p.m. but was winding down, according to police who said the number of participants had begun to dwindle.
The protest ended before 7 p.m. and Couture said there were no arrests.
— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez