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Gabrielle Duchaine August 1, 2012
PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, LA PRESSE
(Montreal) Summer vacation hasn’t taken the drive out of the student movement. One hundred days after the first night demonstration against tuition hikes, and 12 hours after the official launch of an electoral campaign, thousands of casseroles and demonstrators took to the streets of Montreal Wednesday night. A warning to disperse was given by the SPVM at 10:30pm.
Even the famous Anarchopanda came to the head of the demonstration. He received a veritable ovation on his arrival, which galvanized the crowd, already feverish under a stormy sky.
Masks, a giant red square, mascots, flags, fireworks, whistles, scarves…there was everything, and there was a lot of it.
Protestors affirmed that they have no intention of being discouraged by the political strategy of Jean Charest’s, who’s counting on making elections a veritable referendum on the student question. “His arguments are based on prejudices and individualism. I dare to believe that people aren’t going to support him in large numbers,” said Julie Bergeron, a student at Université de Montréal.
Even if several polls show that a majority of Quebeckers support the position of the government on the tuition hikes and don’t want them to give in to the students’ demands, and even if the premier has opened by clearly showing his intention to make the conflict a principal electoral battleground, demonstrators have no intentions to stop making noise. “Our fight is ideological more than it is political,” says Sebastian, a student in a conservatory of music. “The fact that there’s an electoral campaign isn’t going to stop me from talking about it.”
“We’re not going to be drawn into political games,” adds Leo, a student in human sciences at the CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal.
True to form, demonstrators departed their gathering point, Émilie-Gamelin park, around 9:00pm. The Services de Police de Montreal, who have been present since the first day, inflated its numbers for the occasion. The night demonstrations over the last two months haven’t consisted of more than a few dozen marchers, so police presence was less necessary. Wednesday night, things were different. Even the intervention group was present.
The protest began with an accident. At the corner of St. Denis and Laurier streets, a car hit a demonstrator who was part of a group heading to the gathering point. The driver fled the scene.
After several confrontations between masked demonstrators and police at the beginning of the march, projectiles were thrown in the general direction of the SPVM. A platoon of the squad was then surrounded for several long minutes, beneath the pounding of the casseroles.
In the police response, several people were jostled by the crowd, leaving at least one person injured. Other demonstrators, armed with fireworks, were grabbed by the police. The situation was tense.
An order to disperse was given around 10:30 “due to criminal infractions committed,” according to the SPVM. “This demonstration is considered an illegal assembly,” the police force reported on its Twitter account.
However, protestors continued to walk through the streets of downtown, nearly all of them in a peaceful fashion. Police notably had to intervene after some demonstrators attempted to build a barricade on Ste. Catherine Street.
At least a dozen arrests were made, for use of pyrotechnic devices, for mischief, and for throwing projectiles at police, said the SPVM.
One Hundred Demonstrations since April
Recall that the first night-time march took place on April 24, after then-Minister of Education Line Beauchamps signed a 48-hour truce with CLASSE and the student federations, which was supposed to prevent actions of disruption.
Several hundred people took to the street all the same, shouting slogans like “negotiating means getting fucked.” A small group among them also smashed the windows of a bank, causing CLASSE to be expelled from the negotiating table and causing the failure of talks. Since that time, if some of the 100 marches degenerated into violence and even led to hundreds of arrests at a time [translator’s note: the majority of arrests were under Montreal Bylaw P-6, which makes the act of marching without a permit illegal, rather than for any criminal acts], the majority of them have been entirely calm.
Following the government’s adoption of the Special Law 78 last may, some 10,000 people braved the law that prohibited demonstrations of more than 50 at a time. Hardly an hour after the beginning of the march, the demonstration was declared illegal because police claimed they had had projectiles thrown at them, including Molotov cocktails.
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.