What exactly caused/allowed the shift to almost fully nonviolent protest in Montreal?
The broad outlines are, of course, clear. But the full psychology/causality is of interest.
I’ve been following the Montreal situation pretty closely for weeks. My girlfriend used to live in Montreal and was there just last weekend.
There had been substantial ongoing BB activity in the student protests – even though most student protesters were NV, smashy and low-grade violence had been happening for weeks (and appeared to be escalating). Polls clearly showed majority support for the government – with support for the government rising and support for the students falling over time – due in substantial part to the violence (and inconvenience); even though a majority in polls felt that student leaders should not be held responsible for the violence.
It’s likely that, had Charest and the Liberals just stood pat, their position would have continued to strengthen.
[I’ll mention some additional details here – there’s been an anglo/francophone split on the student strikes. Students in most anglo schools, with the exception of Concordia, have not been on strike. Support for the strikes has been higher in the francophone community; support has also been higher at low income levels.]
A week ago, my girlfriend’s best friend, a highly-left-of-center middle-income anglo (an RN), was not particularly sympathetic toward the students. She felt that the tuition increase was not exorbitant, and the behavior of the students was not currying her favor. My girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend is a prominent newspaper columnist (also anglo and left-of-center) and had just written a column essentially taking the side of the government over the students.
Then the Liberals passed bill 78.
Within a day, my girlfriend’s best friend (and her friend’s spouse) were marching in the streets, clanging pots (and articulating support for the students).
Last Monday, thousands took to the streets, including people calling themselves “white bloc” – intent on encouraging a peaceful march and discouraging vandalism. (yes – I know - “white bloc” would be an incredibly problematic name in the U.S. ).
The polls essentially flipped.
There’s still a bit of vandalism that’s happened in the past week, and some stones were thrown on Wednesday. But nothing remotely approaching what had been happening previously (in the way of violence/vandalism).
Some of the reasons seem obvious. The steep punitive measures/fines under bill 78 might have discouraged BB behavior. More importantly, in my experience, mass participation (large numbers of people of all ages, including non-radicals) tends to reduce violence. And young radicals who were prone to smashy might be inhibited by recognizing its incompatibility with the efficacy of mass-mobilization manifestation de casseroles (i.e. if everyone is out in the street banging on pots – including one’s mother and sister – why mess up this powerful beautiful statement of collective civil resistance with vandalism). The “white bloc” phenomenon (people spontaneously saying “no” to the BB behavior) likely also helped.
I find the current cessation of BB-behavior psychologically interesting - especially given the typical intractability of BB once it gets going.