Repost: 518 arrested in nightly Montreal student protest

I have the impression that we can no longer trust that newspaper articles will remain up after being posted. So I’m re-posting this, with full credit to the original author and publisher.  

Mass arrest rounds up largest number of people so far in three month dispute  

By Max Harrold, The Gazette May 24, 2012 10:02 AM

MONTREAL – It was a peaceful river of humanity for more than three hours, with about 3,000 people walking, chanting and feeling united on the 30th consecutive night of the student protests in Montreal.

Then, in a heartbeat, Wednesday night’s big march turned ugly.

Just before midnight police surrounded a large group of protesters at Sherbrooke and St. Denis Sts. to make a mass arrest, Montreal police Constable Daniel Fortier said. Police said on Thursday morning the arrests totaled 518, making it the largest number of people arrested in a single night so far in the weeks-long student protest.

506 of those arrested were caught in the kettle, including 30 minors. They were each fined $634 for illegal assembly, while the penalty for the minors is $118. The remaining 12 were isolated arrests, including four for criminal acts and eight for city bylaw infractions, police said.

One person was arrested for wearing a mask, police specified, the first arrest under the new anti-mask law. The penalty is $1000 to $2000 for a first offense.

Rocks and a fiery object were thrown at police officers, Fortier explained. He did not know if police were applying provisions of Bill 78, a new Quebec law that forbids unannounced protests.

Fortier said most of those arrested will face municipal bylaw infractions for being at an illegal assembly. A much smaller number will face more serious charges of assault and armed assault. The group was being gradually transported on Société de transport de Montréal buses.

Showing proof of the attack against them, a Montreal police officer pulled three golf ball-sized rocks out of his pocket and showed it to a Radio-Canada TV news crew that was broadcasting live. The Radio Canada reporter held up an object found on the ground that he said was a crude incendiary device.

The cops had until then accompanied the larger of three evening protests without incident since it left Place Emilie Gamelin at Berri and Ste. Catherine Sts. and meandered all over downtown and the Plateau.

The protesters chanted, sang and banged pots and pans. And they cheered at people who waved red fabric from their balconies in support.

“Marchons, chaque soir, jusqu’à la victoire!” (Let’s march, each night, until we are victorious) the protesters shouted. And, to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” they chanted “If you want (Quebec Premier Jean) Charest to take off like his (education) minister, clap your hands.”

Another popular one translates roughly, without the profanity, as: “The special law, we couldn’t care less.”

Nicolas Lahaie, 30 and Eric Bonneau, 26, both doctoral biochemistry students at the Université de Montréal, said they were tired physically but mentally prepared for the long haul.

“We said we would march every night until this is settled and that is what is happening,” Lahaie said. Marchers take turns although there is no major organizational effort to do so. “We just show up when we can,” Lahaie said, adding he had attended 15 marches of the 30 nightly ones.

He and his friends were handed $146 tickets for being at an illegal assembly May 16. “We’re all going to contest it.” Lahaie said he was somewhat hopeful that student leaders will meet once again with Quebec Education Minister Michelle Courchesne. But he said the government should come to the talks ready to bargain, and not refuse to budge on tuition fees.

“We would accept the fees being indexed to the inflation rate,” Lahaie said.

Bonneau said he told his girlfriend he would try not to get arrested. “It means we don’t wear masks. We don’t break anything,” Bonneau said.

Earlier, at Place Emilie Gamelin, Université du Québec à Montréal literature students Virginie Blanchette-Doucet and Benoit Loyer, both 22 and who have boycotted their classes for 14 weeks, talked about the sense of frustration coupled with numbness that has set in.

Loyer said he has attended five nightly marches. His friends and classmates call each other and try to come together when they go to the protests, for moral support and safety reasons.

“We’ve become blasé but we’re still mad,” Blanchette-Doucet said. “We’re all tired of this.”

In Quebec City, 170 people were arrested during a march that was declared illegal before it even began. The protesters did not give police an intinerary of the march eight hours in advance, as stipulated by law 78. Each person arrested will be ticketed for contravening the new law, the capital’s police service said.


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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