It was supposed to be a memorial for four caleche horses that died.

Instead, the moment of silence was abruptly cut short by screaming.

As carriages full of tourists passed by, anti-caleche activists and a driver faced off in a heated debate over alleged cruelty in the industry.

“You feel frustrated, you feel hopeless because you feel it could be prevented,” said Mirella Colalillo, who organized Saturday’s protest.

During the gathering, about two dozen strong, the driver interjected and went on a tirade that lasted almost 30 minutes.

“You are liars!” the driver, Pierre Lauzier, asserted. “I am protesting against your protest!”

In early November, a video showed a horse named Charlot wheezing and struggling to stand. The 15-year-old animal died on Saint-Jean Street.

The provincial government will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death - but drivers insist their horses are in good health.

“All these protests are from people who don’t know anything,” said Michel Prince. “Everyone is going around saying ‘free the horse’ – education is free. Maybe they should read a book.”

The City of Montreal plans to ban caleches at the end of next year, but protestors say it’s not soon enough.

“We understand that we have to wait a year, but we can’t see them all die in the meantime,” explained Susan Mackasey.

“We file complaints continually, and we’re not being heard,” Colalillo added.

Drivers of horse-drawn carriages say reported incidents are not their fault, and that the city doesn’t understand the work they do.

“Spend a day with us – just spend a day and see how the horse reacts to us,” Lauzier asserted to demonstrators. “As far as the city – they never came down to talk with us.”

Even though this driver refused to budge – rebuffing requests to take his arguments elsewhere – once the ban is in effect, many will have to relocate.

Although the demonstration was crashed, protestors say they’ll keep fighting to move up the date of the final ride.