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World’s Largest Jazz Fest Opens in Montreal

(THE CANADIAN PRESS) MONTREAL – The world’s biggest jazz festival opened Thursday with its opening act declaring his support for Quebec’s protesting students.

Crooner Rufus Wainwright lauded the protesters, in a province where one-third of students are on declared strikes because of tuition hikes.

“I’m always going to go with the students and with the dispossessed and the, you know, angry mob,” Wainwright said with a slight chuckle in response to a reporter’s question. “It’s just my nature.

“I will be wearing red. I don’t know if I’ll have the square but I’ll be wearing red.”

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, which marks its 33rd year with this edition, is one of the crown jewels of Montreal’s tourist season, along with the Just For Laughs comedy festival next month.

Wainwright joins a long list of celebrities and artists who have supported the protesters. Very few have been critical of them, with the head of the comedy festival among the rare critics.

Festival officials had worried that their event might suffer because of the continuous student protests, which have seen large crowds marching through downtown Montreal for the last few months.

Events organizers and Mayor Gerald Tremblay have met with student organizers to try and get them to curtail their marches.

The marches, meanwhile, have already been smaller in recent days and one group said it mainly planned to hand out pamphlets around the festival detailing protesters’ gripes.

Wainwright was booked to headline the jazz festival’s massive free outdoor concert Thursday evening which traditionally packs the city’s downtown.

He said although he lives in New York half the time, he was aware of the protests. He noted he had spent some time with the Occupy Wall Street protesters in the U.S. and performed for them as well.

“I think it’s a global situation. We’re all involved.”

Numerous artists, including Arcade Fire and Quebec’s Loco Locass, have been vocal in their support for the protesters, with Loco Locass inviting student leaders onto the stage during their performance at this month’s La Francofolies and Arcade Fire wearing the students’ red square symbol during an appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Wainwright smiled when asked if there were any rules for behaviour for people attending the outdoor show Thursday night.

“Do whatever you want,” the laid-back singer replied.

“I know there have been a lot of protests in the city. I’m not necessarily welcoming people to protest. If they feel that they need to, then that’s fine. But I just think it (the show) should be inclusive of the whole city and what’s been going on and it should be a celebration of Montreal, everyone included.”

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