Quebec election call fuels renewed street protests
Students, supporters march for 100th straight night after Sept. 4 vote announced
Student demonstrators and their supporters took to the streets of Montreal with renewed vigour last night following word that Quebec's political ranks are gearing up for a late summer election campaign — the latest turn of events in the months-long protest over tuition fees and controversial legislation.
Some injuries were reported and there were about a dozen arrests Wednesday night in demonstrations that took protesters through the streets for the 100th night in a row, with many banging on pots and pans — reminiscent of evening protests that spread across the city in the spring.
The number of protesters Wednesday was higher than in recent weeks.
'Here's your damned red square.'—Man with blood-soaked handkerchief who was caught in street protest
Some carried large red banners with anti-Jean Charest slogans, and electoral messages such as, "Our dreams are too big for your polls."
Earlier in the day, Premier Charest triggered an election — set for Sept. 4 — after meeting with Quebec Lt.-Gov. Pierre Duchesne in the morning, and asking him to dissolve the national assembly following months of election rumours.
The election call comes on the heels of the province's raucous student crisis over tuition increases — an issue that gripped the province over the winter and spring.
Many of the hundreds of people who joined the latest street march also donned masks to mock a controversial city bylaw forbidding face coverings at public protests.
Bottles, candles thrown at riot police
Protesters started their march in the Villeray district, north of the Jean-Talon Market, and slowly made their way south via St-Denis Street.
The Villeray protesters joined another group in the Émilie-Gamelin Park, near the University of Quebec (UQÀM).
Police supervised the crowd and declared the protest illegal just after 9 p.m. ET, but told people they could continue to march if they kept the peace.
At one point, a small crowd overturned dumpsters to block a downtown street and some people tossed projectiles including bottles and candles at riot police.
A car reportedly slammed into one protester amid a crowd marching in the street. The victim suffered injuries not deemed life-threatening. Police said they had a description of a vehicle's licence plate and model, and were investigating a possible hit-and-run.
Another man, wearing a dress shirt and pants, and who did not appear to be a protester, was bleeding from his face as he held up a blood-soaked handkerchief.
"Here's your damned red square," he shouted, referring to the symbol of the protest movement. He was escorted, limping, away from the crowd.
There were about a dozen arrests reported by 11:30 p.m. while events were still unfolding.
Thousands of students boycotted classes
Thousands of students started to boycott classes in February to protest tuition increases. By spring, the boycott evolved into daily protests.
After months of negotiations, student leaders rejected the government's final, watered-down tuition increase offer in May.
The student-fuelled protests escalated, prompting the Liberal government to pass Bill 78, a temporary law that restricts the size and location of some protests, if authorities aren't alerted ahead of time.
The legislation also suspended the winter semester for college and university students, effectively allowing them to retake missed classes later this year rather than losing a term.
Protesters have been subject to the rules laid out in Bill 78 since its adoption, but it's not clear whether any of its rules have been formally implemented by police.
The passage of the bill fuelled public anger towards the government.
What was initially a student-led protest movement spread to include civil rights groups, families and seniors.
An adjunct casserole protest movement mushroomed in May, with average people taking to the streets every night to bang on pots and pans in cities across Quebec.
The protests were dwindling over the summer, just as Montreal's festival circuit kicked into high gear, before heating up Wednesday night.
With files from The Canadian Press