Tuition protesters clash with riot police
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012 1:42PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2012 8:19PM EDT
About 200 student protesters clashed with Montreal police Wednesday afternoon outside the Hydro-Quebec offices on Rene Levesque.
The protesters rallied in Phillips Square at 11:30 a.m. for about an hour and a half before marching to Hydro-Quebec, and blocking access to the building. Police asked them to disperse, which led to a scuffle between them and student demonstrators.
Police declared the march illegal as it began since protesters had not informed police of the route, but said it could continue as long as no other offenses took place.
Protesters said that not only were they opposed to tuition hikes, they also thought that the Crown corporation was gouging consumers with electricity rate hikes.
“We have to show that we're not giving up,” said one protester of the demonstration.
Camille Robert of student group CLASSE said the turnout, comparatively small to many of the massive demonstrations that took place in recent months, was irrelevant.
“We think that the number is not that important and there's still a lot of people to contest the government,” she said.
Soon after access to Hydro Quebec was blocked, bottles and other objects were hurled at police, prompting the arrival of the riot squad, who chased away protesters.
With CEGEP classes resuming next week, Liberal leader Jean Charest appealed to protesters to let those to want to return to class, do so.
“At this point i think all we should be focusing on is calling on everyone to assume their responsibilities and to do what is necessary so that these students can follow their courses,” he said on the campaign trail Wednesday.
While before the election, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois sported a red square, Wednesday she had a different message.
“I hope that all the students can finish their courses,” said Marois.
Students, for their part, are torn on whether or not to continue the protest movement during an election campaign, saying any unrest could sway public support toward their rival, Charest and his Liberals.
Student protester Danick Bonette said the next move is precarious.
“If we go back calmly, he's going to say with the law I put in place, everything is back in order. It's a win-win situation for him,” said Bonette.
Political analyst Bruce Hicks agrees.
“If it becomes violent and there's property damage or confrontations with police then the students themselves become blamed and that will help Jean Charest,” he said.
Student groups said they plan to continue protesting, and may continue their boycott of classes if Charest is re-elected.