Reblogged from The Montreal Gazette:
Photograph by: John Mahoney , The Gazette
MONTREAL - The man behind the student uprising’s furriest disguise is heading to court to try to change the rules surrounding masked protests in Montreal.
Julien Villeneuve – more commonly known as his alter-ego, Anarchopanda – held a news conference on the steps of the Montreal courthouse on Tuesday accompanied by a team of lawyers. Wearing his full panda costume, Villeneuve marched back and forth in front of the building on Notre Dame St. for a few minutes before mounting the steps and addressing a large crowd of reporters.
“What we just did, under municipal bylaw P-6, is illegal,” he said, holding the microphone up to his mouth under the large, bulbous panda head that has become a familiar sight at marches, sit-ins and various other events over the last 15 weeks. “We could be ticketed $500 ... but we probably won’t. Why not? Because we’re not the most tenacious students during a night protest, and we’re not people who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time with those students.”
Villeneuve and his legal team hope to convince a Superior Court judge to suspend provisions 2.1 and 3.2 of the municipal bylaw, which were added to the city’s existing legislation concerning “peace, public order and safety” on May 18, while they seek to have the new rules struck down permanently. Those specific provisions require protest organizers to submit a planned route to police in advance of any demonstration, and forbid demonstrators from wearing masks without a reasonable motive.
“Mr. Villeneuve is alleging the constitutional invalidity of the provisions,” explained Samuel Bachand, one of the lawyers representing Villeneuve.
Bachand described the new rules as “an unjustifiable infringement on guaranteed liberties” to which all Quebecers are entitled under the province’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
“It’s not for a police officer to decide whether one has a reasonable motive or not to wear a mask in a demonstration,” he said.
While Villeneuve has donned his Anarchopanda costume numerous times during marches since the bylaw was adopted, he has never been fined or arrested for wearing a mask.
Over the last several months, he has become the unofficial mascot of the student uprising – a position that has transformed him into something of a local celebrity, albeit an anonymous one. Until Tuesday, he seemed content to be identified simply as “Anarchopanda,” but the impending legal action prompted him to reveal his name.
By day, Villeneuve is a mild-mannered philosophy professor at Collège de Maisonneuve. By night, however, he can usually be spotted at the front of the marching masses in full panda regalia, and is known for both his tireless enthusiasm during demonstrations and his numerous (and normally unsuccessful) attempts to hug officers in full riot gear.
More than 4,000 people follow him on Twitter, and a photo of him embracing CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois graced the front page of Le Devoir last week.
“The bylaw is unjust, so that’s why we will fight it in Superior Court,” Villeneuve said Tuesday. “We hope to bring justice for all those who have been arrested en masse up until today.”
The court proceedings, which Villeneuve will attend “in human form” along with Bachand and two other lawyers, are set to begin Thursday morning at 9 at the Montreal courthouse.
“Provisional measures meant to suspend the aspects of the bylaw should be rendered almost right away,” Bachand said. “The final judgment on the constitutional validity and legality of the bylaw ... could take more than 30 days.”