MONTREAL — City officials in Outremont have banned all street parades and processions in response to escalating tensions with the chassidic community.
The episode is the newest dispute between the expanding chassidic community and its neighbours in the Montreal borough.
Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars and a majority of council members voted on April 2 to ban parades and processions, in the wake of a noisy confrontation last month at Purim between borough Counc. Céline Forget, who is known for her dogged surveillance of the chassidic community, and members of that community.
The clash, which was taped and posted on YouTube, degenerated into shouting, name-calling and police intervention.
In response, Outremont decided that it wouldn’t allow a chassidic sect to hold a street procession later this month to mark the visit of a rabbi from New York. The procession would have taken place after 10 p.m. and involved up to 1,000 followers.
“I don’t think this is the time to do night processions,” Cinq-Mars told the Globe and Mail. “We have to be prudent for now. Tensions can’t keep rising. I have to face my responsibilities.”
Mayer Feig, a spokesman for the chassidic community, said members are considering a legal challenge. “You can’t stop people from celebrating their holidays and holding processions,” Feig said. “We have rights, and our rights are being violated.”
In addition, despite the fact that the chassidic group generally avoids the Internet and mass media in general, some of its members have started a blog, outremonthassid.com, to present their side of the story.
Caught up in the controversy are members of a local Russian Orthodox church, whose annual Easter parade, begun in 1964, was also cancelled.
The freeze will remain in place until June 1, when the borough will review its policies.