Quebec student demonstration declared illegal

Thousands march against austerity

MONTREAL – Six people were arrested by Montreal police on Thursday after thousands of student demonstrators flooded into downtown streets to oppose austerity measures in the last provincial budget.

A passerby in his 50s was also injured when he was hit by a projectile thrown during the march, police said.

The demonstration was organized by student group ASSE, which was one of the drivers of protests in 2012 against tuition-fee increases brought in by the government of then premier Jean Charest.

The unrest caused by the regular marches then are considered to be one of the factors that led to Charest’s defeat in the election that fall which brought in Pauline Marois’ minority Parti Quebecois government.

Thursday’s protest came days before Quebecers go to the polls and this time Marois was visibly targeted with a number of placards.

Marois and the PQ had supported student protests in 2012 and she had even marched in a demonstration, banging a pot. PQ members also wore the red square symbol of the student movement during the protests.

However, many students were dissatisfied with Marois’ solution of lowering the proposed tuition fee increases instead of cancelling them altogether.

Measures in this year’s budget were not implemented because Marois called a provincial election about two weeks after it was tabled in the legislature.

The protesters blame the PQ for increasing the cost of public services, education and electricity.

Two former student leaders — Leo Bureau-Blouin and Martine Desjardins — are PQ candidates for the April 7 election.

Riot-equipped police allowed Thursday’s demonstration to proceed after it was declared illegal because no route had been given to authorities beforehand.

While mainly peaceful, police and demonstrators clashed after some projectiles were thrown. Police also used tear gas at some points.

Police said the arrests were for “criminal acts.”

The demonstration was called to oppose what organizers described as austerity measures contained in last February’s provincial budget.

At least two people were arrested.

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