Police arrest 447 anti-capitalist demonstrators in Old Montreal
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2013 5:16PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 2, 2013 5:27PM EDT
Montreal police arrested 447 anti-capitalist demonstrators in Old Montreal Wednesday evening after police and protesters clashed on de la Commune St.
Most of those arrested will be charged with illegal assembly under municipal bylaw P6, an infraction accompanied by a $637 fine. Six will be slapped with criminal charges of assault or violations of previous conditions
About 300 people were placed inside a circle of riot police officers next to Place Royale near the waterfront about one hour after noisy protesters gathered at Place Jacques-Cartier across the street from City Hall.
The group planned to march to Club 357C, where the Charbonneau Commission into anti-corruption has heard many private meetings took place between politicians and heads of construction companies.
"Let's bring our rage directly to the secret dispensaries of power: the private clubs where political and economic elites plot and conspire against the people," said an earlier statement from the organizing group, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence of Montreal.
"It is in these quiet lounges and luxurious dining rooms that the capitalists draw up the plans of our oppression and our exploitation."
The protest, however, was quickly declared illegal as tensions began to mount. At 6:30 p.m., demonstrators were asked by Montreal police to leave the scene peacefully due to municipal bylaw P6, which requires protesters to provide a route for marches, and because they said criminal acts had been committed.
Police kettled the protesters next to Pointe-a-Calliere, a museum at 350 Place Royale in Old Montreal.
Officers were hit with sticks, beer bottles and billiard balls thrown in their direction. The protest was declared illegal shortly before 8 p.m.
A brass band, which was among the group kettled by police, played on and kept the protesters entertained while they waited to be led away one at a time and loaded into waiting buses.
The scene unfolded as people sitting at sidewalk cafes took photos with their phone cameras. The noisy scene did not prevent them from enjoying their outdoor meals.
Police have begun a new tack in recent months with regards to protests. Instead of allowing them to continue despite breaking the controversial bylaw, as they had done in the plethora of student demonstrations that took place last year, now police are quickly diffusing rallies, shutting them down by kettling demonstrators.
Those fined under the municipal bylaw are slapped with a stiff $637 ticket. Some may also face criminal charges.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators against McGill University’s new austerity measures gathered at the downtown campus to show their dissatisfaction with deep budget cuts.
Demonstrators at McGill said the quality of education is going to suffer as a result of austerity measures that come with $19.1 million in provincial budget cuts this year and next. They believe the measures could range from cutting jobs to the possible closure of a library.
McGill's administration refused to comment to CTV about the protesters' concerns, and told CTV journalists they were not authorized to be on campus to cover the demonstration.
Protesters said the new cuts are not in line with a number of decisions made by McGill’s administration.
“It's really about front-line services, cuts to support to students and professors, too -- who are facing having to teach very large courses without assistance,” said David Roseman, vice-president of labour relations for the McGill union group MUNACA.
Unions representing various university workers, including teaching assistants and support staff, came together to send a message.
“It's affecting the quality of education at this institution, and we don't think this is the way of doing budget cuts. We don't think that we need to be cutting technicians, that we need to be cutting librarians, course lecturers, teaching assistants,” said Justin Marleau, vice-president for teaching assistance of the AGSEM union group.
Lenora Lewis, a Ph.D. student and course lecturer in the department of integrated studies in education, said she’s worried about her future, both as a lecturer and a student.
“For example, in my department there's talk about cutting the library service completely. That is very worrying to us as graduate students, and we also know that some of the professors are not really in line with this decision,” said Lewis.
The unions say there are fewer well-paying jobs available, and experienced workers are being pressured into early retirement, meanwhile, executive positions are growing, said Roseman.
“There's been a virtual explosion in the executive classes at McGill. At last count, something like 24 executive positions at McGill, all with their own staff,” he said.
With the Quebec government imposing $38 million in university budget cuts for the university in two years, the unions say they understand the administration has to make difficult decisions.
They argue, however, the university needs to reorganize its priorities.
Click here to see more photos from the dramatic evening.
-With a file from The Canadian Press