Police arrested more than 500 striking students Wednesday in Montreal after declaring an overnight march illegal, evidence the four-month long tuition protest is only gaining momentum.
About 3,000 demonstrators marched through the streets with many onlookers coming outside their homes to bang pots and pans or wave red flags from balconies in a show of solidarity.
After someone threw “projectiles” at police, they declared the protest illegal, although they allowed marchers to continue for four hours before “kettling” a large group and arresting them individually, The Montreal Gazette reported.
“We said we would march every night until this is settled, and that is what is happening,” student Nicolas Lahaie told the Gazette.
The unrest – which began just before midnight Wednesday – led to the largest number of arrests yet as the strike stretched past 100 days.
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Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said Wednesday she’s willing to speak with student groups, but warned they must be prepared to make concessions.
She’s not willing to eliminate the province’s proposed tuition hikes, according to The Canadian Press.
“I’m not giving up. I’m very tenacious, very determined,” she said, CP reported. “I want to talk to them, and it’s up to them to take some steps so that we might talk.”
The controversial kettling technique might only provoke students into continuing their actions through Montreal’s busy summer tourism season, however.
Tough legislation introduced last week gives law enforcement new tools to address protests, yet critics say it jeopardizes civil liberties.
The new law delayed the current semester until August, and there’s talk among students of interrupting the Montreal Grand Prix next month.
“Rich douchebags are going to be disrupted by night demos,” activist Jaggi Singh told CP.
The Montreal Jazz Fest, Just for Laughs and the Formula One Grand Prix attract tens of thousands of visitors annually.
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