Big Montreal march marks 100 days of student anger

Tue May 22, 2012 3:12pm EDT
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By Leila Lemghalef

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Thousands of people marched through central Montreal on Tuesday to mark the 100th day of student protests over tuition increases, a campaign that is turning into a broader movement against the Quebec government and aspects of the capitalist system.

The government in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province, fed up with sometimes violent demonstrations, last week unveiled a tough proposal that would make protests more difficult to organize and impose stiff fines on those who disobey.

Quebec's bar association, trade union leaders and other commentators quickly denounced the draft legislation - known formally as Bill 78 - and said the Liberal government of Premier Jean Charest had gone too far.

"We don't care about the special law!" some marchers chanted as they set off in the light rain to the sounds of horns and trumpets. One marcher held an umbrella on which the number 78 was painted with a line through it.

"Charest, you have met your Waterloo," read one banner. Many protesters wore small red cloth squares, which have become the symbol of the campaign.

A Leger Marketing poll released on Tuesday showed 73 percent of Quebecers felt the law would not help quell the protests against planned tuition increases. Many students say they would ignore the legislation once it is adopted.

"We deplore the fact that the Charest government has chosen repression rather than discussion," said Leo Bureau-Blouin, head of the moderate Quebec College Student Federation, speaking as the marchers set off.

Police arrested hundreds of people during clashes over the weekend in Montreal, Quebec's largest city and a popular tourist destination.   Continued...

Protesters march during a demonstration against a new emergency law in Montreal May 21, 2012. The law was passed by the local government last Friday to curb demonstrations, setting a requirement that police be informed of rallies of more than 50 people about eight hours before they take place. REUTERS/Olivier Jean