Protests have been constant in Quebec since February. There are reasons to agree with the students, and reasons to oppose them. I not going down that rabbit hole here. What I am going to comment on the the way the Quebec decided to handle the protests and the small minority of people who were acting violently and making death threats.
The legislation, also known as Bill 78, passed on May 18. Here is a summary from the CBC.
- Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any individual who prevents someone from entering an educational institution.
- Penalties climb to between $7,000 and $35,000 for a student leader and to between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student federations.
- Public demonstations involving more than 50 people have to be flagged to authorities eight hours in advance, include itinerary, duration and time at which they are being held.
- Police can order the protest move to a different spot.
- Offering encouragement for someone to protest at a school, either tacitly or otherwise, is subject to punishment.
Sounds like pretty draconian legislation. We can only hope that some, if not all, of it is declared unconstitutional. The legislation itself has actually broadened support for the students, even among those who believe tuition rates should increase.
Many are hitting the streets to complain about social inequalities, much as the Occupy Movement was last year. Yesterday, the protest focused on that example of extravagance, the Montreal Grand Prix, and the theme was nudity.
Some of the sights on the streets yesterday:
And also scenes like this:
Of course, the police had to respond this way.
Police arrested at least 39 people, but no injuries were reported. Throughout the evening, police used pepper spray, batons, brute force and sound grenades to disperse the crowds. Things only settled down at about 11 p.m. when a steady rain set in.
The evening began on a tense note, as police blocked protesters hoping to disrupt the Formula One cocktail reception. Police had closed off several streets to keep marchers away from the event at the L’Arsenal art complex. But just as the 5 p.m. anti-Grand Prix rally began, police declared it illegal and ordered marchers to disperse. They eventually isolated a group of about 200 protesters at about 6 p.m.
Montreal police spokesperson Ian Lafreniere said a dozen people in the squeezed group were arrested because police had reason to believe they were preparing to commit crimes and damage property.
It goes without saying that pepper spray was involved. The police seized at least one Molotov cocktail, so perhaps some arrests were appropriate. However, some of the Formula One spectators were not impressed.
“I thought the police reaction was a bit exaggerated. I haven’t seen protesters being that aggressive. I know this is an event that needs to be protected to preserve the city’s reputation but police brutality also hurts the city’s reputation,” said Montrealer Arturo Jacal.
Premier Jean Charest had this to say about the protests
“When we attack the Grand Prix, it’s not the Quebec government that people are assaulting, it’s all Quebecers,”
Somehow, I find it extremely difficult to understand how a mostly peaceful protest against something so ostentatious is an assault on all Quebecers. I guess Charest doesn’t consider the protesters to be Quebecers, or at least not Quebecers that matter.