Mayor, police chief call for calm, quick end to protests
MONTREAL - The mayor of Montreal and the chief of police are calling for calm and a prompt resolution to the ongoing tuition protests, but are quick to admit that will not be enough.
The day after yet another protest ended in violence and dozens of arrests, Tremblay said it is long past time that those who are marching on a regular basis in opposition to tuition hikes realize that their demonstrations are being hijacked by criminals.
"There are people taking advantage of these demonstrations to commit illegal acts," said Tremblay.
"Montrealers are fed up with this! Montreal always has to put up with this! Our storeowners always have to deal with vandalism!" said an emotional and angry Tremblay.
Police chief Marc Parent pointed out that the majority of protests, and the majority of protesters, are peaceful, but that the situation has been going on for a very long time with more than 160 protests in Montreal over the past three months.
According to a source close to CTV Montreal, only half of tickets handed out during Wednesday night's protest were given to students. Of those arrested and facing criminal charges, only one-third were currently students.
"160 to 165 demonstrations, it's unheard of in Canada. I've never heard of it in the United States either," said Parent.
Parent said 30 per cent of protests are now ending in violence.
"50 per cent of people say we intervene too fast. 50 per cent say we don't intervene fast enough," said Parent.
"Yesterday at least 15 verbal warnings were given."
Tremblay said he is proud of how police are handling the protests, but said it is only a matter of time before someone makes a mistake and someone gets badly hurt.
"We can make as many appeals for calm as we like but we have to understand that police officers are starting to get tired!" said Tremblay.
"If there's a tragedy in the metro or on the Ville Marie Expressway, who is responsible? Me, the mayor of Montreal? Police with everything they're trying to do, the government of Quebec? Students?"
"We are doing everything humanly and financially possible," said Tremblay.
Both civic leaders called on students and the provincial government to work things out. On Thursday afternoon, Education Minister Line Beauchamp put off any future talks, refusing to sit down with Quebec's more militant student group, despite that group have denounced violence.
"There are no winners. I do not blame anyone. But the real debate is to find a solution," said Tremblay. "Our reputation as a city is being tarnished by these protests."