Massive Montreal rally marks 100 days of student protests

By IndepthAfrica
In Canada
May 22nd, 2012
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A river of red-clad protesters is rippling through downtown Montreal on this, the 100th day of Quebec’s student strikes.

Small events are being held in support of the Quebec one in other Canadian cities, as well as Paris and New York.

Tens of thousands of people are gathering and preparing to march in Montreal, carrying signs, chanting slogans, and wearing the iconic red square of the province’s student movement.

In the crowd are supporters from outside Quebec.

While less than one-third of Quebec’s post-secondary students are actually on strike, they have attracted some support from people angry at the provincial government over its emergency law that sets rules on protests.

The law requires organizers to give police eight hours’ notice of when and where a protest will happen — and it imposes fines for offenders.

There was some debate over whether to stick to the pre-approved route supplied to police, or whether to wander off in defiance of the controversial law. Under encouragement from the more hardline C.L.A.S.S.E. student group, a minority of protesters broke off from the main crowd in a symbolic slap at the Bill 78.

Meanwhile, after taking a beating over four days from people accusing it of trampling democratic rights, the Quebec government began a counter-offensive in support of its law Tuesday.

At a news conference, Public Security Minister Robert Dutil read from a list of cities with equally tough, or tougher, rules for organizing protests.

Mr. Dutil listed Geneva, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and Spain as jurisdictions that require far more than eight hours’ notice — up to 40 days, in the case of L.A. — in order to hold a protest.

“Other societies with rights and freedoms to protect have found it reasonable to impose certain constraints – first of all to protect protesters, and also to protect the public,” Mr. Dutil said.

But the Charest government’s critics accused it of badly mismanaging the crisis.

One opposition party suggested a solution to the impasse: an election.

The Coalition For Quebec’s Future said the government, following a series of corruption scandals, had lost the moral authority to lead. It suggested Premier Jean Charest should promise to call an election in September to help ease the tension now.

For its part, the Parti Quebecois urged Mr. Charest to head back to the bargaining table with the students. It said the premier had made things worse with his decision to legislate instead of negotiate.

“This law, sadly, didn’t solve anything and won’t solve anything,” Ms. Marois said.

“The premier has lost control of the situation… Can the premier tell us how he intends to put an end to this crisis rattling Quebec? What happens now?”

MONTREAL— The Canadian Press

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