PublishedTue, 26 Oct 2021, 18:05
- Last Saturday, Jeanne-Mance Park was filled with people of all ages dancing and waving placards.
Thousands of people gathered in Montreal on Saturday, October 23rd, to protest against the ban on indoor dancing.
People gathered at Jeanne-Mance Park for "Open Dance Floors / Ouvrir Les Pistes De Danse." The crowd was varied, with hardcore ravers who had rolled through from the night before alongside kids and older heads who have been visiting local club Stereo since 1998. For everyone, the demands of the protest were clear: lift the restrictions surrounding nightlife and allow venues to reopen.
In Canada, restrictions related to Covid-19 are dictated by provincial governments. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Quebec government, which oversees Montreal, has placed restrictions on all indoor music venues. As of November 1st, restaurants and bars can open at full capacity, but the no-dancing rule remains. (Only Quebec and British Columbia continue to ban dancing in bars and nightclubs.)
For Montrealers wanting to dance, the only legal options have been outdoor summer events like MUTEK and Piknic Électronik. With winter around the corner, participants in the nightlife scene say they're desperate for indoor spaces, especially as in nearby cities such as Toronto, New York and Chicago, venues are already open. With Montreal's vaccination rate currently over 80 percent, much of the scene feels strongly that it's time to reopen.
"We've waited long enough and, honestly, I don't think that any of us can go another winter without raving," said one attendee on Saturday, who wished to remain anonymous.
The protest was originally meant to be a short march, starting at Jeanne-Mance Park and ending at Place des Arts. But because there was no official plan to close the streets, plus safety concerns regarding the DJs playing in moving vehicles, the organisers and the authorities came to a compromise and the march became a protest. Overall, the event was peaceful, with no signs of police brutality.
Open Dance Floors was a collaboration between various organizers: clubs like Stereo, Club Unity, Le Salon Daomé and New City Gas, plus techno collective OCTOV and non-profit organisation MTL 24/24. The protest was divided into four main stages, all with good soundsystems and proper dance floors. OCTOV thumped out fast-paced techno. Omnia, known for their summer festival, went for psytrance and jump-up drum & bass. Club Unity, which sits in the heart of Montreal's gay village, played house and tech house. The main attraction, though, was perhaps the Stereo stage, where Misstress Barbara threw down an energetic set.
"When we see concerts and shows with people dancing and singing with no masks on... we just now look at it and say it's not fair," Mike Rein, co-owner of Stereo, told CBC News. "We're OK with masks, we're OK with passports, we're OK with everything. We just want the right to open."
Here's a clip of the protest via Misstress Barbara's Instragram account.
Photos: Betty Bogaert