Police swiftly shut down student protest about Quebec spending cuts
Published Monday, March 23, 2015 1:15PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 23, 2015 7:09PM EDT
A Montreal rally in which dozens of students gathered to protest provincial spending cuts was shut down by police within minutes of its start, sparking anger among demonstrators and leading to at least one arrest.
Almost 150 students from Concordia University and several CEGEPs gathered in downtown Montreal around noon Monday, to march through the city's streets. But shortly after, the demonstration was declared illegal because students had not provided police with a planned protest route.
The announcement that the protest was over appeared to raise tensions, leading to the arrest of one woman who was handcuffed and led away after an officer was pelted with ice and injured. That clash prompted officers to fire a canister of tear gas at the demonstrators.
Another protester was also arrested and 24 students were ticketed for their actions during the clash.
“(There was) a lot of confrontation, a lot of tension during the protest. They were using six lanes, people were chasing police officers,” said Ian Lafreniere, spokesperson for the Montreal police, speaking to reporters.
CTV Montreal's Kevin Gallagher reports that the students said they wanted to protest more than just tuition hikes and university cuts; they are also angry about cuts to social services in the province and want their demonstration to launch a broader social movement.
"What we are seeing right now is a government that is impoverishing the entire population," UQAM student Fannie Poirier told Gallagher. "So what the government needs to expect is us to react as a society and as a population."
A similar march, on Saturday, attracted a much larger crowd, with thousands of students and citizens in attendance.
CTV Montreal's Vanessa Lee says Monday's protest was much smaller, likely because of the cold weather. With the wind chill, it feels like -15 degrees Celsius in the city.
Student groups in the province are planning several strike days and demonstrations over the next few weeks, in a new wave of protests that they are dubbing Printemps2015 or Spring2015. The names are reminiscent of 2012’s Maple Spring, when thousands of students held nightly marches in downtown Montreal.
This time, the student groups say they have the support of 25,000 students from l'Université de Montreal, UQAM (Universite du Quebec a Montreal), Université de Montreal, Université de Quebec à Chicoutimi and CEGEP du Vieux Montreal.
They are planning a large protest in front of the National Assembly on Thursday, to oppose the provincial budget being delivered that day, which is expected to cut spending even further to curb the province's debt.
Also Monday, approximately 600 classes at Concordia University are cancelled for the day, following a vote by students in several departments to boycott classes.
Concordia representatives said over the weekend that the one-day class cancellation would be “a day of dialogue and reflection” for students.
They said that they had learned many lessons during the spring of 2012, when some students tried to block others from attending class.
The school noted, however, that professors were still expected to deliver their curriculum and students not attending classes were still expected to meet the requirements of their courses.