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Hale reports: "Emergency law tried to limit size and scope of tuition-hike protests, but police allow demonstration to go on as planned."

Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes bang on pots and pans during a demonstration in Montreal on Thursday, May 24, 2012. (photo: Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)
Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes bang on pots and pans during a demonstration in Montreal on Thursday, May 24, 2012. (photo: Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)



Montreal's Student Protesters Defy Restrictions As Demonstrations Grow

By Erin Hale, Guardian UK

26 May 12

 

Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns

 

emonstrators in Montreal have continued to defy an emergency law passed by the provincial government in Quebec to restrict protests by students against planned tuition fee hikes.

As has become traditional, groups of protesters banged pots and pans, marching around the city for several hours.

But there was no repeat of the mass arrests that characterised the protests earlier in the week. On Wednesday, more than 500 Montrealers were arrested – more than during the entire October 1970 crisis when martial law was declared in the city in response to actions by Quebec nationalists.

The total number of those arrested in the current protests has now exceeded 2,500, and the judicial process is already showing signs that it is struggling to cope.

As protesters snaked through the city's neighbourhoods on Thursday, residents and customers in restaurants showed their support by banging pots as they passed by.

The protest, which began at Place Emilie Gamelin, was declared illegal before it began, because organizers had not provided police with an itinerary, as required by a controversial new emergency law. But Montreal police said in a message posted on Twitter that protesters would be allowed to march as long as they remained peaceful. Four people were arrested.

Helicopters and riot police are an increasingly common sight on the streets of Montreal as a province-wide student strike passed the 100-day mark, but popular support only seems to be growing as the government attempts to clamp down on the strike.

Small red squares, the symbol of the strike historically worn by Montreal students supporting free tuition, are everywhere in the city – cloth pinned to peope's lapels and daubed onto signs and walls.

Families and older residents are increasingly common sights at protests as well, demonstrating against Bill 78, which places restrictions on protests of more than 50 people. The bill imposes fines of $125,000 a day on student unions that defy its provisions, and student leaders shown to support unplanned protests can be fined up to a maximum of $5,000.

Michelle Hartman, an associate professor at McGill University who attended Thursday night's protest with her young son asleep in his stroller, said she had seen the variety of protesters expand since the strike began.

"There have been people all along who aren't just students … and I think all along there have been supporters, but definitely since the Bill 78 there have been more and more people just from all different places coming out."

Hartman also noted support from English-speaking students as well. Since the student strike began on 13 February in Montreal, French-speaking universities and colleges have dominated the movement, having led the major strikes and political mobilizations in the 1990s and 2000s.

"What I find really inspiring about the movement is that I've noticed a lot of the students that I know from McGill, English-speaking students, international students from all over the states and other places participating along with their French-speaking and organizing with [them] more than in the past," Hartmann said.

Henri Fernand, 65, who took part in the protest in his wheelchair, told the Montreal Gazette: "The youth is our future and I'm proud of them. I'm here in solidarity with the students."

The protests have resulted in a backlash against the Quebec prime minister, Jean Charest, who has refused to back down over the tuition fee increase, and the new law.

Students have been boycotting classes over the past three months, arguing that the increases would lead to an increased dropout rate and more debt.

In response to the protests, the provincial government rushed through Bill 78 on 18 May. As well as the restrictions on protests, it suspends the current academic term and provides for when and how classes are to resume.

Some student organisers said that the introduction of the bill, far from cowing the demonstrations, had actually brought more support for their cause.

 

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+21 # John Locke 2012-05-26 11:43
Keep in mind that no system of governance can deal with mass arrests and the possibility of everyone demanding a trial.

we have a speedy trial mandate in America if 100,000 people were arrested in New York City, they would not be able to handle more then a few cases and the rest would be dismissed! Civil disobedience can make a difference it's only how it is applied! and we need cameramen taking every act on film...
 
 
+1 # mdhome 2012-05-28 20:09
OWS is a step in the right direction for the saving of the USA and the students in Montreal are the future for them. Major civil disobedience will become a much larger force and the only way left for the average person to overcome the wall that the "1%" has erected to prevent any but themselves to be in the 1%.
 
 
+3 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-27 06:35
If elections or protests could change anything they would be made illegal.

Guess what..
 

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