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Guillaume Bourgault-Côté – May 24, 5:40 p.m.
[Caption: In Montreal, the 30th night protest of the student conflict ended at around 1 a.m. with the mass arrest of 475 individuals. Photo: Annik MH De Carufel - Le Devoir]
Nearly 700 people were arrested last night in Montreal (518) and Quebec City (176) as protests –declared illegal by police– drew to a close.
In Montreal, the police carried out 518 arrests during the 30th consecutive night march. This included a mass arrest of 506 individuals, plus 12 isolated arrests (one for wearing a mask). The majority of the arrests referred to a violation of a municipal bylaw regarding unlawful assemblies.
This despite general agreement that yesterday’s protests went well. Participants in two different types of protest were caught up in the mass arrests. On the one hand, the daily night march from Émilie-Gamelin Park was declared illegal before it began around 8:30 p.m., because the SPVM (Montreal Police Service) had not received advance notice of the planned route. An order to disperse was announced.
Nonetheless, police officers tolerated the 3000-strong march for several hours, because it was running smoothly (much like the huge protest on Tuesday, which was illegal but tolerated from beginning to end). At the same time, every night since Friday, hundreds of Montrealers have been taking part in raucous, spontaneous pot-banging protests in neighbourhoods throughout Montreal.
Though the precise story is not yet clear, it has been confirmed that a contingent (several hundred individuals) of pot-bangers left Masson St. and headed south, most of them heading down Iberville St. According to one photographer who was present throughout evening, these protesters paraded joyously through the streets of Montreal. Other “pot-holders” from Villeray or Little Italy also migrated south over the course of the evening.
Then, around 1 a.m. these two or three protests partially merged at the corner of Sherbrooke and St. Denis. Some claim that it is the police who directed people to converge at the central point. According to the police, “objects [rocks, pyrotechnic devices] were thrown at the officers. Once again, we announced a call to disperse, after which we proceeded with a group arrest,” spokesperson Raphaël Bergeron says.
Gathered in 17 city buses, the protesters were transported to a detention centre, where they are currently being identified. Fines of $634 will be awarded. These may be contested.
This morning, many are criticizing the methods deployed by police. Online media and social networks are abuzz with first-hand accounts of being trapped by police with no possibility of responding to the order to disperse. Though some projectiles were thrown, accounts agree that the general atmosphere of the protests was peaceful.
One participant told the Devoir this morning that “the ‘pot-holders’ from Rosemont, Villeray, Little Italy and the Plateau were never informed that the Émilie-Gamelin protest was illegal. They were arrested on one of the few blocks where there are no alleys [to disperse],” affirms Julien Lacoste. This account, similar to many others, suggests that the SPVM laid a trap to surprise the protesters.
Except that the SPVM says warnings were announced and people knew (especially those who began at Gamelin Park) that the protest was illegal, and that police reacted after projectiles were thrown.
Protest in Quebec City
In Quebec, it was under Law 78 and a road safety bylaw that 176 people were arrested just before midnight. Declared illegal from the beginning (no route was provided) the protest was nonetheless calm. But a little before midnight, police cracked down and arrested all the participants, who had started a sit-in on St. Jean St. They will be fined close to $500 for impeding traffic.
[See original article for a video and photo gallery of the events.]
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.