Outrage at Holocaust evoking badges at Outremont – The yellow ‘protest badges’ worn by some residents at an Outremont Borough council meeting on Monday night, is being called thoughtless and naïve. The rectangles pinned to their clothing might not have been in the shape of the Yellow Star that Jews throughout Nazi-occupied Europe were forced to wear as a means of identification – but it evoked the horrors of the Holocaust.
The group who wore the badges were there to protest the use of yellow school buses by the community’s Hasidic Jews. They called the smaller mini-buses, used regularly by the borough’s Hasidic residents to transport their children and members of the community to school and around the neighbourhood, a ‘nuisance’.
It is causing outrage from the Jewish community and by many others across Montreal (and beyond) who are having difficulty understanding how they could have not seen what it clearly brought to mind.
One woman, Ginette Chartre, a representative the group wearing the badges, defended it as a ‘symbol to express irritation with the bus situation’.
“It’s a way of talking, of expression, just like the students did with the red square. But us, what we’re living is the yellow bus, so we can’t put that square as pink, white or beige, because it symbolizes the buses.”
But their intentions were further questionable when in an interview on Tuesday she said, “They (Jews) always bring up their painful past… they do it to muzzle us. We’re wearing the yellow square because the school buses are yellow.”
And despite of being told by other residents the yellow square evoked the Holocaust, Chartre said she wouldn’t stop wearing it. “We’ll march down the street wearing them, banging pots and pans if we have to… we are living an injustice, we are being persecuted by them.”
Outremont resident Jennifer Dorner, a representative of the community group Pluralism Outremont, was at the meeting and told the council she was ‘disturbed’, calling the badges ‘unacceptable’ and asking those wearing them to remove them. She also explained why they were offensive and also criticized the group’s targeting of the school buses.
“As a citizen living close to so many Jewish neighbours, many of which are my friends in the Hasidic community, I feel it’s necessary to talk about this. When we see this and hear about these kinds of actions that are completely ignorant of the history that impacts 25% of the population of our neighbourhood, it’s just appalling.”
There have been disputes going on for years now between the Hasidic community and some residents of Outremont, the latter often questionable in their intent. This incident is sure to spark continued debate.