Montreal police arrested 294 people during a protest to underline the anniversary of a massive rally that marked a turning point in last year's Quebec student crisis.

Last year's protest saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets to denounce the former Charest government's planned tuition increase.

However, police quickly stepped in on Friday evening to disperse the crowd and arrested several people under municipal bylaw P-6 — the bylaw "concerning the prevention of breaches of the peace, public order and safety and the use of public property."

Authorities said most people who were arrested were fined $654 for walking against the designated flow of traffic.

No one was kept in custody.

Sgt. Jean Bruno Latour, spokesman for Montreal police, said some journalists were part of the two mass arrests that took place around 6:30 p.m. The mascot, Anarchopanda, was also seen in one of the police kettling manoeuvres.

The protest fizzled around 7 p.m., but several people were still surrounded by authorities at 8:15 p.m. pending arrests.

Police criticized for behaviour

Sgt. Latour defended the police's manoeuvres and said people's rights are still being respected, but that "all protests have to remain peaceful and respectful of all citizens."

Several protesters criticized the police force's attitude toward protests, saying that authorities demand that crowds disperse too quickly without leaving them the chance to get their message across.

"They cut the protests after five minutes. We don't even have the time to express ourselves. It's ridiculous. They arrest people when there are no offences. I'm disgusted," said a woman at the protest.

Manon Massé, a member of Québec Solidaire and former provincial elections candidate, said her party is requesting an independent public inquiry into police behaviour during protests.