With Bahrain behind us, it would be OK if you thought that Formula 1 wouldn’t have to worry about the safety of staff and fans again (well, at least until Brazil).
Turns out that may not be true.
Students in Montreal are protesting university tuition increases, and it appears things are getting a little bit rough. Students have “clashed” with police in recent, according to coverage by the Montreal Gazette.
Now, I know these things always can seem or be overblown — we’ve got a 100 students here, 30 there — but what caught my eye, and made me think there might be more to the story, was an editorial last week in the Gazette on the issue. It lays out the more serious actions that have been taken:
This was driven home by Thursday’s concerted attack on the métro that shut the system down, disrupting the lives of tens of thousands of Montrealers. It was an attack on a vital public service – in effect, an attack on the general public, on us all. Thus all of us now, all Quebecers, have an obligation to reflect and decide – and let it be known – whether we want a society governed by democratic rule and a legitimate system of laws, or whether one governed by the dictates of mobs and vandals. If any good comes of this outrage, it will be to make it clear that this conflict over tuition fees has brought Quebec to a societal crossroads.
The crippling of the métro may or may not have been perpetrated by boycotting students. But it happened in the context of the student revolt, and would probably not have happened in the normal course of Montreal life. So the students who have pushed the confrontation to this intolerable point will find themselves rightly wearing some of the blame.
The Gazette continues, with not much sympathy for the protesters:
The time has come for true majority rule enacted by Quebec’s democratically elected government backed by a decisive majority of Quebec’s citizenry – something that the latest polling happily shows is shaping up. It is evident by now that no accommodation short of abject surrender will becalm the student mob. It is up to the government to draw its own line, and to draw it hard. Students who wish to attend classes or exams should be enabled to do so, if necessary by law-enforcement authorities. Students who wish to keep cutting classes in defiance of a deadline to return should have their semester scrubbed. And teachers who don’t show up on the job should have their pay suspended.
An assertion of the lawful and legitimate order of things would be in the long-term interest of all Quebecers.
From an NPR story I heard this morning, the ongoing protests are becoming more of an issue because Montreal is quickly coming up to its tourism season — and that’s when the lights went out (to keep in F1 lingo) for me. The grand prix is part of that tourism.
Now, will it actually be unsafe for people to go to the race? Probably not — but right now, of any city set to hold a race, Montreal would appear to be the most chaotic (other than Austin around 3 a.m. on any given Sunday morning).
And just so I’m not the master of hyperbole on this story, I’m going to leave you with the end of the Gazette’s editorial:
But it is madness to repeat now what was foolish then. It may take a certain wrench of the collective mindset, but in light of the current situation, Quebec must decide in short order what it wants, now and for the future: order or anarchy.
We know which one Bernie Ecclestone would choose, right?