June 9, 2018 – Anna Mehler Paperny and Kevin Dougherty, Reuters
A heavy police presence and an isolated summit site thwarted protesters at the Group of Seven meeting in Canada on Saturday, dousing all but a smattering of demonstrations against the powerful world leaders.
With U.S. President Donald Trump and top U.S. allies huddled at a luxury hotel, almost unreachable due to heavy security, groups intent on disrupting the gathering were left to march through quiet city streets 140 kilometers (87 miles) away.
Ten people were arrested in connection with anti-G7 protests Thursday and Friday but the scattered demonstrations were largely peaceful as authorities closed off streets and responded to any protests with ranks of police in riot gear.
“The way we see it, we were ready for all eventualities,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Philippe Gravel.
Quebec’s provincial legislature was closed in the lead-up to the summit, thousands of civil servants were sent home and several downtown businesses boarded up their windows in anticipation of violence that never came.
Other summits have gone differently: Protests at the G20 in Toronto in 2010 turned violent amid riots and a police crackdown. Police teargassed protesters at the Third Summit of the Americas in 2001. A protester was shot dead by riot police at the G8 summit in Italy in 2001.
Twice on Friday demonstrators sought to block highways leading from Quebec City to the resort in La Malbaie where leaders met for the two-day summit.
The second time they succeeded briefly, as about two dozen protesters faced off with riot police. After a few minutes of chanting the protesters set furniture on fire and fled.
Roger Rashi, who organized a forum to discuss G7 issues such as gender equality and climate change in Quebec City, said the low turnout was partly due to a lack of organization and partly scare tactics by authorities.
“We have been warned over and over … don’t even daydream about doing something they tell you not to do,” Rashi said.
Deploying heavily armed police scares people, said Nicole Filion, a coordinator with La Ligue des droits et libertés, a civil liberties group observing the demonstrations.
“It’s not a context that is favorable for the right to protest.”
Still, protester Yannick St.-Jacques Lauriault said the group succeeded despite the low turnout in shutting down Quebec’s legislature and briefly blocking access to the summit highway.
“For such a small group of people, I think that’s a success.”