Arcade Fire frontman says Quebec student protests are example to follow

Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler says he was moved and inspired by Quebec’s student protests and hopes students south of the border have similar tenacity when it comes to their fight for stricter gun control.

“I went to a rally and there was like [hundreds of thousands of] kids in the streets and the thing was, they kept it up for like six months,” he said.

“They just kept going and kept going and it wasn’t just like this one flash in the pan, ‘hashtag’ thing.”

He made the comments backstage at the 2018 Juno Gala Dinner & Awards ceremony Saturday night in Vancouver, where the Montreal-based group accepted the International Achievement Award. The band also performed at the event. 

He was asked about his thoughts on the massive student-led rallies for gun control, which had taken place earlier in the day.

Butler, who grew up in Houston, Texas but now calls Montreal home, said he saw first-hand the effects of lax gun control as a kid and said he’s proud of the generation that came after his for its unwillingness to accept the status quo.

‘Gave me a lot of hope’

Quebec’s student protests dominated the news and flooded Montreal’s streets in 2012, when the Liberal government attempted to raise university tuition by more than $1,500 a year.

Students staged protests throughout the spring, at times clashing with police, and inspired a secondary “casserole” protest, which encouraged Quebecers to go outside and bang on pots and pans in unison daily to show their solidarity with protesters and displeasure with a law that imposed restrictions on demonstrations.

Quebec student protests Casseroles

Quebecers banged on pots and pans during the 2012 student movement to protest against Bill 78, legislation that placed restrictions on demonstrations. (Rogerio Barbosa/AFP/Getty Images)

In May 2012, Arcade Fire appeared on Saturday Night Live wearing red squares, which had become the symbol of the movement. 

Butler said Saturday the sustained protests showed the power of an organized youth.

“It felt the way that, when I read about the sixties, how it seems like it might have felt and it really gave me a lot of hope,” he said.

“I hope that we can continue to persist on that and not just do one flash in the pan and see it through. I really do have hope in that generation and it’s about f–king time. It’s crazy.”

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