Nude-in-Public: Protesting Naked during the 2012 Student Strike

The largest student strike ever to occur in the Province of Quebec was dubbed the ”maple spring” and lasted several months. Students, unions and the general population all together protested against unreasonable tuition fee increases. The red square became the symbol of this protest movement.

Maple Spring Quebec Protest
Maple Spring protest in Montreal. Photo credit Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press
Student Protest Montreal Maple Spring
Student protest during the Maple Spring. Photo credit Dave Sidaway/The Gazette

Many new and innovative ways of sending a message to the sitting government were used. After more than one hundred days of social unrest and protest, one of those new and innovative ways involved protesting naked.  To make matters worse for the government, the naked protest was scheduled to correlate with the opening of the annual Canadian Grand Prix Formula 1 auto race. This is a time when the City welcomes a large share of tourists and business elite, and having naked protestors running through the streets of downtown Montreal was problematic for both the image of the City and the Grand Prix.

I was not going to miss such a great occasion to be nude in public. I dutifully attended the protest to do my part in sending a message to the government – that by increasing tuition so unreasonably they were essentially taking the clothes off our backs.

The meeting point for the protest was at Place du Canada for a 7PM start. At this point, like most of the crowd, I was down to my underwear. Three of the protest organizers climbed onto a high statue to address and rally the crowd.  This involved a countdown to dropping their shorts. As soon as their shorts were down my underwear came off. However, the organizers quickly put their shorts back on and I was left standing in the crowd fully naked. I briefly thought about putting my underwear back on but ultimately decided to stay on message – nudity was the means and I was going to remain in my birthday suit to make a point.

Maple Spring Nude Student Protest Montreal
Organizers of the naked protest strip down on the Place du Canada statue. Photo credit Ricardo Ara/Flickr

The media reported that roughly 1200 people participated in this protest. However, not everybody was naked. The majority of protestors were at the very most topless, and most of the women had covered their nipples by taping on red square pasties. At the very most there were maybe fifty fully naked protestors, including myself.

Jade Sambrook Nude Naked Protest Montreal Student Strike Maple Spring
Jade Sambrook (centre), protesting naked during the student strike in Montreal, Quebec
Women Protest Nude Maple Spring Student Strike Montreal Quebec
Protestors march nude during the student strike. Photo credit Ricardo Ara/Flickr
Manufestation Montreal F1 Grand Prix Student Strike Maple Spring Nude
Student strike nude protest. Photo credit Coralie Lemieux-Sabourin/boiterouge.net
Naked Nude Student Strike Maple Spring Montreal Quebec
Students protest naked against tuition fee hikes. Photo credit ACAB Media/Flickr
Nude in Public Student Strike Maple Spring Montreal Quebec
Female protestor nude in public during the student strike. Photo credit Ricardo Ara/Flickr

We were also joined along the way by a large group of clothed protestors, who would march every evening starting at 7:30PM from Emilie Gamelin Square (an open space area outside of the main metro/subway station).

Throughout the night the riot police walked along side of us in order to block our passage to certain streets and vital entry points. At certain times we clashed with them, and on several occasions they resorted to using sound grenades and tear gas to disperse us. I can only imagine what it must have been like for bystanders on the sidewalk to see us chaotically running away from the riot police, and particularly seeing me running down the street in my birthday suit. Flopping penis is the image that comes to mind, and there were very many surprised reactions to say the least.

Riot Police Student Protestors Montreal Maple Spring
Riot Police walk along side the nude protest in Montreal. Photo credit Les vues éclectiques/Flickr
Riot Police Montreal Teargas Student Strike 2012 Nude Protest
Riot Police unleash tear gas during the nude protest. Photo credit Les vues éclectiques/Flickr

People on the sidewalks were quite entertained by our protest, pulling out their phones and cameras to snap photos. I distinctly remember receiving many smiles, winks, thumbs-up and positive comments, mostly from women, regarding the courage and confidence required to be fully naked in public.

As the evening progressed our protest group got smaller and smaller as more and more participants called it a night. It eventually dwindled down to the point that there was maybe 50 to 100 of us left.

We were quietly walking towards the site of the FrancoFolies Music festival so that we could get to the metro/subway station located on the other side, call it a night ourselves and go our own separate ways. Just as we got to the entrance of the festival site one of the protestors walking along side of me asked if I realized that I was the only person left that was still naked? In all honestly, I had simply forgotten that I was!

Jade Sambrook Nude Public Student Strike Montreal Quebec Maple Spring Grand Prix F1
Jade Sambrook nude in public during the Quebec student strike

After several hours of parading around downtown Montreal in my birthday suit it had simply become so comfortable and so acceptable that I didn’t even give my public nudity a second thought.

I briefly thought that I should get dressed before entering the festival site, but decided against doing so in a main street intersection in full public view. I was worried about tripping and falling while trying to slip my shorts back on. Instead I decided that I would get dressed privately in a secluded area on the other side of the festival site. Here I was, too embarrassed to get dressed in public but not the least embarrassed about my public nudity.

Our small protest group walked onto the festival site, past security officers and customer service agents and nobody said a word about my attire, or should I say lack thereof. There were probably some 40,000 folks on the street watching the musical performance on the main stage. As I walked naked on the sidewalk along side of the large crowd, I could see many women pointing me out to their friends and I could equally hear them saying things like: “look, a penis” and “OMG a penis, check it out”. To me, hearing such comments were – and still are – indicative of the lack of full frontal male nudity that we see in our pop culture and mass media. Regardless, there I was, the only naked person amongst a large crowd and nobody seemed to be bothered by it. To the contrary, people appeared both pleased and amused.

I made it to that secluded area and got dressed. Now wearing clothes, I walked uncomfortably because of them to the subway/metro station where I parted ways with the remaining protestors. I left behind an exhilarating experience while mindful of the ever lasting memories that I would carry with me.

Now when I walk though the streets of downtown Montreal I am able to tell myself that ”I was once here naked”, and that nobody was traumatized or injured because of it. Hopefully I will be able to relive such an experience and to walk just as comfortably through the streets – without police, tear gas and sound grenades – wearing only what I am so proud to have been given: my birthday suit!

6 thoughts on “Nude-in-Public: Protesting Naked during the 2012 Student Strike

  1. thomas March 9, 2015 / 17:44

    Looking good…love all the Adidas you have…ahhhhhh too bad you’re straight 😉

    Like

  2. nakednewf November 22, 2015 / 16:29

    I wish I lived in Montreal. Nothing like this ever happens here in St. John’s, Newfoundland. If it did I would gladly drop all of my clothes and participate. Hats, and everything else, off to you Jade. Well done! I wish I had been there too!

    Like

    • Jade Sambrook November 27, 2015 / 17:30

      I can imagine that it is less likely to happen in the smaller cities like St. John’s. But even here in Montreal it hasn’t happened since the massive social unrest of 2012. Now I’m not saying that I want riots, but I am looking forward to the next opportunity to be able to be naked in public for a protest. And if social unrest is required for that, then I hope it comes sooner rather than later!

      Thanks for the comment NakedNewf! And I hope the weather is still doing relatively okay where you are, considering we’re almost into December 😉

      Like

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