100 Days Of Unrest

Record Numbers Join Against Tuition Hikes, New Laws

  • A man waves the Quebec flag during the May 22 day march. Photo Corey Pool

  • The night protest turned violent, resulting in around 100 arrests, as well as several instances of violence towards both reporters and demonstrators. Photo Corey Pool

On the humid afternoon of May 22, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Montreal for a massive demonstration in protest of raising tuition fees, and the controversial new laws recently imposed by the Charest government.

Officially the 100th day of student protest in Quebec, the demonstration that began around 2 p.m. at Place-des-Arts in downtown Montreal is now being described as the biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, in light of the government’s new protest law, Bill 78.

According to one clause of the new law, organizers of a demonstration must announce their route and have it approved by the police eight hours in advance. Though the route for this demonstration was revealed and approved, the plans were discarded at the first intersection.

The Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante had announced one-day prior that they would be refusing to comply with the new law.

The Biggest Day of Action Yet

With the great roar of thousands of voices, horns and whistles, the crowd lurched forward, leaving Place des Arts around 2:45 p.m. and moving slowly north on Jeanne-Mance St.

Suddenly, and much to the confusion of both the police and media alike, the crowd, led by CLASSE leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois turned West along Sherbrooke St. in stark defiance of the eastwardly intentions.

With estimates ranging from 250,000 to half a million people, the demonstration broke into several groups, engulfing much of downtown Montreal while the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal scrambled to keep traffic moving.

Similar to the large demonstration held exactly one month prior, the crowd remained entirely peaceful throughout the afternoon. Joined by young families, seniors, and students, the march maintained a festive, almost celebratory sense about it.

After approximately four hours of marching and a flash rain shower, the demonstration slowly petered out at Lafontaine Park, following speeches by various student groups.

Manif Du Soir

Following the afternoon’s demonstrations smaller groups continued to march through the streets, followed more closely by the SPVM.

Around 8 p.m. groups of people across Montreal gathered in the streets to bang on pots and pans for 15 minutes in demonstration against Bill 78, for what has now been dubbed the first of many “#casserolencours.”

By 8:30 p.m. a group of about 1,000 protestors gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin, the now infamous birthplace of over a month of nightly demonstrations.

Much different than the afternoon’s celebratory march, the SPVM tweeted that this demonstration had been declared illegal under the new law less than an hour after it began.

The demonstration continued throughout the evening, seeing many violent clashes between the police and groups of protestors.

Though declared illegal several times, the demonstration continued for several hours, being fractured into several smaller groups by police in riot gear.

All tolled there were roughly 100 arrests made throughout the evening, some in mass arrests and kettles, and others individually.

One OpenFile Montreal reporter was arrested and eventually released, while several other journalists, including this reporter, described being roughed up or threatened with non-lethal devices by the police.

The 29th nightly demonstration is still expected to take place tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Place Émilie-Gamelin.

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