24 May 2012
Protest threat to Canadian GP?
The Canadian Grand Prix could be targeted by disaffected students protesting against hikes in tuition fees.
Having left the unrest of Bahrain in the rear view mirror, F1 could have been forgiven for thinking that threats of disruption were over for another year, only for a new problem to rear its head.
This time, the disruption could come from disaffected students in Montreal, who view next month's grand prix as the ideal vehicle via which to air their grievances. The students, numbering 150,000, have been 'on strike' for 100 days in protest at escalating tuition fees, and clashes with police have become increasingly violent, despite new laws preventing protestors gathering without prior approval from the authorities. According to the La Presse newspaper, art least one group has now threatened 'a weekend of disruption' surrounding the grand prix, which they claim 'represents sexist, non-environmental values and economic elitism', and is due to take place at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve over 8-10 June.
"I cannot deny that we have an eye on the situation and will follow the evolution of conflict in the coming days," promoter Francois Dumontier admitted, "It is not clear that we will be targeted but, student protests or not, this is an international event and we already have a safety plan that ranges from simple mischief to wider disruption.
"The grand prix is often targeted because we are a major event. We have experienced similar situations in the past - in the case of the striking unions, for example - even though none has had this magnitude.
"Some say [the grand prix] is capitalist and there is plenty of money there, but we must not forget that it [brings] a lot of new money into Montreal [and] also helps us offer a job to many students, whether in the concessions, in our organisation and in shops and restaurants."
While some believe that the protestors could target the grand prix itself, Dumontier also suggests that interrupting transport links to the circuit could pose a bigger problem.
"It is certain that the location is not the same for the grand prix," he noted, "The Jazz Festival, the Francofolies, are in the city centre. We are on an island on a private site. Our client takes the subway...."
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