Thousands took to the streets Thursday afternoon in Montreal to protest the Quebec government's cost-cutting measures. 

Unlike the 2012 protests in Quebec, which centred on a proposal to increase tuition fees, students this time around are focused on what they call the province's heavy-handed austerity measures.

Student Protest 20150402

Students carry a mock papier-mache head of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard as they demonstrate against government cuts at a protest in Montreal on Thursday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The rally Thursday was the largest so far this year in the fight against the Liberal government's plans to reduce spending on education, health care and social services.

Organizers say 75,000 people attended. Though the crowd consisted mostly of students, organizers said there was also a union presence. Unions have been protesting cuts to government spending, particularly when it comes to changes to municipal pension plans, since last year.

Last week, the government tabled the province's first balanced budget in six years without raising taxes.  

Jacques Létourneau, president of the CSN labour union, which represents 325,000 workers, called on members to join the protest. 

Some teachers also took part.

The 1,200 professors at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) opted to strike for two days after they failed to reach a deal in their collective agreement.

UQAM went to court seeking an injunction against five student associations and their leaders after some students blocked access to the university on Monday.

On Wednesday, the court ruled in UQAM's favour, allowing students who don't want to strike to attend classes.

English schools join protest

At least one English CEGEP also took part in Thursday's march, after Vanier College voted in favour of a one-day strike. Two other colleges, Dawson and Champlain St-Lambert, voted against it.

McGill University's undergraduate law students also took part in Thursday's demonstration.

"As future lawyers, we have a responsibility to make sure that we're standing up for groups that are vulnerable that would be affected by austerity cuts," said Jacob Schweda, a McGill law student.

Student Protest 20150402

Students demonstrate against government cuts at a protest in Montreal on Thursday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Two-thirds of them voted in favour of a one-day strike.

The protest began at 1 p.m. ET at Square Victoria in downtown Montreal and officially ended around 3:30 p.m.

No itinerary was provided, which is mandatory under a municipal bylaw. Because of that, police called the protest "illegal."

There was heavy police presence at the event, but no one was arrested. Two people were given tickets for breaking a bylaw.