MONTREAL - Montreal police are opening an internal investigation following the publication of a video on YouTube that appears to display a case of police brutality at a student protest in Montreal on January 27, 2012.

In the video (see below from about 0:35 to 0:43) one police officer carrying a truncheon strikes a protester three times in the abdomen prior to pushing students back about five times.

The students in question did not appear to be seriously hurt and did not make any attempt to fight back or defend themselves.

The demonstrators say that police hit a young man in the stomach with a truncheon and pushed a young woman to the ground and used pepper spray on the crowd.

About 200 youth attended the protest at the Montreal offices of the Education Ministry at 600 Fullum. They were protesting tuition hikes.

The police initially explained that they reacted after the students circled the police in an attempt to prevent them from clearing the area.

The demonstrators dispute that there was any provocation.

"As we can see in the video there was absolutely no provocation from the protesters. It was a totally impulsive gesture from the policeman," said protester Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

He rejects the idea of police investigating the incident themselves.

"As always we think a police inquiry by the police is not the best way to find out what happened that day, to put light on those unfortunate events," he said.

Police representative Ian Lafreniere said that the police chief ordered a full internal investigation because there are, "a lot of questions about what happened," as he said.

He explained that the trouble was limited to one splinter group away from the rest of the protesters who police believed to be attempting to circle police vehicles.

No formal protest has been filed as of yet in connection with the altercation.