Montreal is a real mess lately. The student protests over tuition hikes have grown increasingly rowdy since they began in February, leading to the implementation of controversial restrictions on protest in the region. While the U.N. has condemned the restrictions (a.k.a. Bill 78) the greatest opposition to the protest-banning bill has come from the students themselves, who have renewed their protest with greater enthusiasm.
One of the stars of the protest is Anarchopanda, a college professor with a mission to calm the tension by hugging everyone while wearing a glorious panda costume. Hugging police clad in riot gear might not be the recommended plan for most, but Anarchopanda has managed to do so without getting pepper sprayed or clubbed to a bloody pulp. With the police violence seen in many protests in the last year, the fact that Anarchopanda has thrived without receiving a sound beating reveals a lot about his protest strategy, and the value of non-violent civil disobedience. Plus, it would take a particularly tone-deaf cop to start whaling on a cuddly panda.
When Occupy Wall Street was getting out of control, the police started playing rough, as in this episode on November 17, where cops deployed nightsticks and pepper spray in New York and California—a tangible demonstration of the monopoly on force in action. But Anarchopanda isn't fighting anyone. He's simply challenging the moral authority of the state…with hugs! Cops know how to handle violent Quebecois protestors, but they seem baffled by their current panda protester.
And if Anarchopanda does end up on the receiving end of pepper spray or a nightstick? Well, that panda head probably makes one hell of a helmet.
Anarchopanda–style protest is becoming increasingly popular—his clown cousins showed up in Chicago last month.
See Reason's coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protest here.