I’m attending the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference in Montreal at the moment. As I was returning to the conference hotel (Fairmont Queen Elizabeth) around 9:30 pm, hundreds of demonstrators marched peacefully down Blvd. Rene-Levesque in protest of the Quebec government’s austerity plan. Suddenly, riot police ran past me and fired a barrage of tear gas canisters into an intersection crowded with demonstrators. I could have missed something of course but it seemed to me to be a strange response to very peaceful protest, particularly given the recent news of a student protester in Quebec City who was hit in the face by a police tear gas canister. I asked a man standing close by who told me he lives here what had happened, and he advised me that the police sometimes need to respond when “protesters get too close the buildings.” Seems like a rather high price to pay for walking near buildings. Austerity smells a lot like tear gas tonight in Montreal.