Students and supporters gathered in downtown Montreal on Thursday for a nightly protest, as Quebec's tuition crisis continues to stoke social unrest across the province.

The 31st night of protest included a growing number of Montrealers joining in a neighbourhood-wide cazerolazo — casserole protest.


The casserole protest galvanizes Montreal neighbourhoods. (David Gutnick/CBC)

Since the weekend, hundreds of people in the island's central neighbourhoods have taken to their balconies, porches and sidewalks with pots and pans.

The casserole movement was launched through social media networks to protest Quebec's hardline Bill 78, which suspends the winter semester, restricts student protests and imposes heavy fines on protest organizers.

Police declared Montreal's march illegal, saying it violated a municipal bylaw because the route was not provided beforehand, but the demonstration was allowed to continue as long as it remained peaceful, and police warned they would sound a siren 10 seconds before making any move to disperse the crowd.   

The march split into two long processions that kept away from the downtown core where police made mass arrests on previous nights. One group went through trendy Outremont, skirting the area where Mayor Gerald Tremblay lives.

The Montreal march stretched into early Friday morning with only four arrests reported, as it maintained a peaceful tone.

On Wednesday night and early Thursday, more than 650 people were arrested after a peaceful downtown march degenerated into a tense standoff with riot police at the corner of Sherbrooke Street East and St-Denis Street.

In Quebec City, 176 protesters were arrested under Bill 78's new provisions.

Quebec's Liberal government has pledged to  resume talks with student groups to resolve the three-month old tuition talks.

Student groups say they are eager to see the conflict resolved, in spite of the government's reluctance to discuss Bill 78.

With files from The Canadian Press