Historic montreal protests, once about student tuition, now decryan ‘unconstitutional’ government response

Early summer in Montreal always brings with it the Jazz Festival,Sundays spent lazing on the mountain that gave the city its nameand an audible rejoicing. But not this year, as the familiarroutine has collided with unprecedented skirmishes between policeand protesters. That the downtown core is finally snowless is farless striking than the fact it has become clogged withdemonstrators, primarily students, who maintain a rigorous scheduleof marches. Every evening they alter the regular soundtrack of theseason, shouting slogans and banging pots and pans in what hasbecome the longest, and also the loudest, strike in Quebec’shistory.

These scenes of unrest and outrage such as Montreal has never seenhave now been repeating themselves for more than three months. Theprotests can be traced back to a tuition proposal put forth byPremier Jean Charest’s Liberal government, which would raisepost-secondary fees by 82%, or about $1,700, over five years ofschooling. But in recent days, demonstrators have focused insteadon the emergency legislation adopted last week by Quebec’s NationalAssembly. Bill 78 requires that the organizers of protests —gatherings of 50 or more people — submit their route and otherdetails to authorities for approval eight hours ahead of time, andinstitutes a system of severe financial penalties fortransgressors.

The law passed 68 to 48 on the afternoon of May 19— a day that Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, whoopposed the bill, deemed “one of the darkest … in Quebecdemocracy.” (MORE: Three Hours in Montreal) The legislation, which also suspended the current semester for 25implicated schools, was designed to quell the social crisis.Instead, it provoked a whole new wave of indignation, just asmarching students were losing whatever public support they hadgarnered. A growing number of Montrealers, even Montrealers on thegovernment side of the tuition debate, view the vaguely-worded Bill78 as draconian. Since its passing, the opposition has only becomelarger and more diverse. People have begun gathering nightly toparticipate in what has been dubbed “The Saucepan Revolution,”clanging their cookware in echoes of those who opposed the Pinochetdictatorship in Chile. IPL Hair Removal Machines

Driving in and around the city center duringthe evening has become nightmarish, owing not only to theblockades, but also the clouds of smoke and burning pyres of orangetraffic cones. Demonstrations are increasingly ending in violence. Last week, the situation escalated quickly. On May 19, protesterslaunched projectiles and at least one Molotov cocktail at thepolice. IPL Laser Machine Manufacturer

Three days later, on the 100th day of the demonstrations,over 100,000 people turned out, many deviating from the determinedroute; police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and batons. Thefollowing evening, the 30th consecutive night of protests, 518people were detained following a relatively peaceful march thatlasted a few hours. Rows of riot officers blocked the demonstrationfrom moving forward, snaring the crowd in a “kettle,” asdemonstrators chanted, “Let us disperse!” One officer pulled a trioof sizeable rocks out of his pocket before a camera crewbroadcasting live as evidence of protester violence. In one night,more arrests were made than during the entire 1970 October Crisis,when the War Measures Act was invoked and the police vested withspecial powers. Many of the detainees will face $634 tickets. Diode Laser Hair Removal Equipment

(MORE: Protesters and Police Clash at Occupy Oakland) If the protests have now transcended the initial tuition dispute,they have also moved beyond Montreal’s borders. Elsewhere in theprovince, from Granby to Jonquiere, people are playing thepercussions with their kitchen implements. Solidarity events havebeen held in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, France and New York,where one gathering was organized by the Occupy Wall Streetmovement. The Canadian Federation of Students plans to call anOntario-wide strike in the fall in support of Quebec students.Members of the Arcade Fire appeared on Saturday Night Live donning the square red patches that are the protesters’ callingcards, effectively bringing the action to mainstream television.Michael Moore has made a statement via Twitter.

But though the conflict has outgrown the student movement, it willnot end until the students desist. Which is why, following theturbulence of May 23, the Charest government invited four mainstudent factions to participate in official talks. Meanwhile,Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the feisty 21-year-old spokesperson for theCoalition large de l’association pour une solidaritésyndicale étudiante (CLASSE), the militant group thatinitiated the strike, has called for summer-long protests. Onesection of Bill 78 stipulates that a student federation could befined up to $125,000 per day if it prevents pupils from attendingclasses. But Nadeau-Dubois says he intends on doing just that— taking all “necessary means” to enforce strike mandates— when school starts up again in August.

At a recent pressconference he called the law “unacceptable” and “probablyunconstitutional.” Already student groups have filed a courtchallenge seeking to strike the bill down. VIDEO: The Sights and Sounds of Occupy Wall Street’s “Day ofAction” PHOTOS: TIME’s Pictures of the Week.


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