Latest student protest ends peacefully

About 2,000 students are staging a sit-in on Sherbrooke Street near Quebec Premier Jean Charest's Montreal office.
Students block Sherbrooke Street in downtown Montreal, across from McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management.

The latest student protest against tuition fee hikes ended without incident Tuesday, when police ordered students to end a sit-in on Sherbrooke Street near McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal. 

About 2,000 students and their supporters marched from Victoria Square to the intersection of Sherbrooke and McTavish streets, not far from Quebec Premier Jean Charest's Montreal office.

The protest was mostly peaceful, although there was a slight altercation between students and police when a firecracker was set off near a group of police officers.

Police pulled out their batons and had pepper spray at hand, as students chanted, in French, "We are staying peaceful!"

Office workers observe student protesters from a nearby building.

Mounted police move in

Late in the afternoon, police ordered students to disperse, informing them the demonstration was an illegal gathering and that anyone who refused to leave could face arrest.

A line of police officers on bicycles and on horseback formed a wedge and slowly moved into on the crowd, eventually forcing students back onto the sidewalks on either side of Sherbrooke Street.

Shortly afterwards, only a few stragglers remained.

Some CEGEP teachers and others joined students to show their support for their movement to end tuition fee hikes.

"Everyone in society should be able to go to university if they have the will and the capacity to," said CEGEP Marie-Victorin professor Charles Lemieux.

Windows were smashed at La Presse's headquarters. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

Editorialist laments violence

Tuesday's rally came less than 24 hours after a similar demonstration ended on a violent note.

Demonstrators smashed windows at the headquarters of Montreal newspaper La Presse, on St-Laurent Boulevard.

The paper's editor-in-chief, André Pratte, called the incident unfortunate.

"Many people write at La Presse. I think students certainly want to have the possibility of respecting their points of view, and they should respect others."

Student action against planned tuition increases have escalated in recent weeks, with daily gatherings popping up across the province.

They say they will strike until the Liberal government relents.

The government has repeatedly said it won't negotiate its fee increases — a view echoed by many observers, including Pratte.