Protesters tear-gassed at Quebec Liberal meeting
Published Friday, May 4, 2012 8:43PM EDT
Riot police at a Quebec Liberal Party convention used tear gas against hundreds of protesters who descended on the scene Friday evening in Victoriaville.
Though it's believed that the Jean Charest Liberals moved their annual gathering to Victoriaville to avoid students in urban centres, Friday's event quickly took a turn for the worse when demonstrators faced off against police.
The Canadian Press reported that some protesters beat up a provincial police officer, while riot police responded with chemical irritants and stun grenades.
The protesters have been raging against proposed tuition hikes in the province, which would see the cost of post-secondary education go up by $1,625 over several years.
Dozens of busses carrying protesters came to Victoriaville from urban centres like Montreal and Quebec City. Victoriaville is about 160 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
The student protest began more than 80 days ago, and student groups have demanded that the Charest government back away from the proposed hike.
CTV Montreal reporter Laura Casella was caught in the middle of the mayhem and filed a short report.
"Of course my eyes are burning a little bit right now," she said.
"The riot police are here behind me. They've launched pepper spray and tear gas into the crowd. Things took a turn for the worse very quickly here," she said.
Casella said that officers launched the tear gas and pepper spray as student protesters marched toward the doors of the convention area where Quebec Liberals are meeting.
Other video images from the scene showed a large crowd of protesters pulling down barriers and holding anti-government placards. Some protesters had their faces covered.
Reports from the scene suggested the crowd had also hurled projectiles at police guarding the convention site.
But there was some hope for a resolution, as student leaders convened for an emergency meeting with provincial negotiators.
"We're coming here in good faith -- we hope the same goes for the government of Quebec," said student leader Leo Bureau-Blouin.
"Let's not get our hopes up, though: I don't think a 12-week crisis gets solved in a few hours."
Meanwhile, in Victoriaville, Charest displayed optimism, despite having to delay his convention by an hour.
"It's always a bright moment when we meet our members," Charest said. "This is part of political life -- moments that are a little intense. Let's hope it goes well. I think it will go well."