Three articles enclosed.
Montreal student protest sees 85 arrested
By James Mennie, Peggy Curran, Katherine Wilton, Anne Sutherland, Karen Seidman and Monique Muise, The Gazette (Montreal), April 26, 2012
MONTREAL – Montreal is waking up to a morning of smashed windows, vandalized cars and questions about how a protest degenerated into yet another violent clash between police and demonstrators. Anger over a short-lived effort to put an end to the tuition crisis through negotiations bubbled over Wednesday night when a hastily-organized demonstration turned ugly and police used batons, pepper spray and percussion bombs to disperse the crowd.
After two hours of peaceful protest, police declared the march illegal and the situation unravelled quickly. Percussion bombs and pepper spray exploded at the corner of Peel and Ste. Catherine Sts., a car was set on fire at the corner of Stanley and Ste. Catherine Sts. and chaos ensued as the police started to push the crowd back using whatever tools they had in their arsenal. Onlookers blamed a small group of protesters for instigating the trouble.
Image: A pedestrian covers her nose against the tear gas in the air during a night protest by students in downtown Montreal following the news that the CLASSE student association was expelled from discussions with the government on Wednesday, April 25, 2012.
A standoff between mounted police and taunting protesters brought the crowd, estimated at about 5,000, to a dead halt at Drummond and Ste. Catherine Sts. and then the police intervention squad moved in banging their shields. Officers in full riot gear marched up Peel St. and the air in the area was thick with pepper spray. The crowd then split into two groups, some heading back up to Sherbrooke St., where they had come from, while others went east on Ste. Catherine.
Within the crowd, some people were wearing ski goggles and masks as they ran away from police who had ordered the protesters to disperse around 10:15 p.m., not long after the vandalism started. Windows of banks and several stores were shattered while cars were vandalized and bricks were also reportedly thrown at mounted police. The windows at Police Station 21, on Ste. Elizabeth St. and René Lévesque Blvd. were also smashed. Police arrested a total of 85 people – 69 men and 16 women.
Three police officers suffered minor injuries, police said, and a handful of protesters were also taken to hospital with minor injuries. There were reports of one television cameraman being hit in the eye with a paintball.
Police are now reaching out to the public for help in the aftermath of the protest. On Thursday morning, they urged anyone who witnessed acts of violence or vandalism being committed to be in touch with investigators. Anyone who had their property vandalized is also be urged to come to their local police station and file a formal report.
There was no denying the anger last night at Education Minister Line Beauchamp’s decision to exclude the most militant student association – CLASSE – from talks, a move that was viewed as callous and divisive, but student leaders called on their members to demonstrate peacefully.
Billed as the “Ostie de Grosse Manif de Soir,” the demonstration was scheduled hastily after talks broke down in Quebec City. “We want students to understand the principle is to stay peaceful,” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec. “We won’t go where the government wants us to go.”
Still, it was a violent demonstration on Tuesday night during what was supposed to be a truce that originally sparked Beauchamp’s strong stance to exclude CLASSE from the talks – which forced the FEUQ and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) to show their solidarity with CLASSE.
There was a palpably angry mood at an afternoon demonstration that came minutes after the collapse of negotiations. Organizers of what had been billed as a student march timed to coincide with what would have been the end of the semester sensed the mood of the hundreds of demonstrators who assembled at Place Émilie Gamelin on Wednesday afternoon. “Today I applaud your courage, your determination and our resistance,” UQAM political science student Chloé Domingue-Bouchard told the crowd before it began the march. “It was that courage that led to the negotiating table … and we will not be intimidated by Line Beauchamp.”
The afternoon march which, while noisy, wove through the city core without incident, followed a hectic 24 hours for police.
The Wednesday morning commute was disrupted by smoke bombs thrown in the Lionel-Groulx and Henri Bourassa métro stations. A third smoke bomb was later thrown the atrium of Complexe Desjardins.
Asked about the disruptions of the past 24 hours, Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay urged the Quebec government to fast-track a resolution to the conflict as quickly as possible.
Quebec students break off talks with government over group’s exclusion
By Kevin Dougherty, The Gazette (Montreal), April 25, 2012
QUEBEC — Talks broke off Wednesday two days after the Quebec government finally agreed to sit down with students to resolve what they call an 11-week strike, but the government insists is a class boycott, sparked by a $1,625 tuition hike.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp said Quebec’s largest student association, the CLASSE, for Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, broke the truce she imposed, blaming the CLASSE of staging a demonstration in Montreal Tuesday night that ended in vandalism, violence and injuries.
“This demonstration was announced on the site of the student association called the CLASSE,” Beauchamp said emerging from a meeting with the Quebec cabinet. “We cannot pretend today that they have dissociated themselves. I consider therefore that the CLASSE has excluded itself from the negotiation table.”
“Madame Beauchamp does not want to talk about the tuition hike,” was the response of CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau, noting that with 86,000 of the about 180,000 students on strike, the CLASSE represents close to half the total. “This decision by Madame Beauchamp is obviously another strategy to sabotage the discussions,” he added. “Madame Beauchamp will not resolve the crisis without the CLASSE,” Nadeau-Dubois said.
The presidents of the FEUQ, Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, and FECQ, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, told reporters they accept the CLASSE explanation that while the demonstration was announced on the CLASSE website, it is an open site where anyone can post strike news, and the CLASSE was not involved. And the two federations said they would suspend negotiations as long as the CLASSE was excluded. FEUQ president Martine Desjardins renewed her offer to have two CLASSE representatives sit on the CLASSE negotiating team.
Beauchamp also referred to a new notice on the CLASSE site for a demonstration in Montreal Wednesday night, saying she could not repeat the theme of the demonstration because it included one of the worst expressions in Quebec’s lexicon of liturgical swear words. The minister was referring to “ostie,” meaning communion wafer.
The “Ostie de grosse manif de soir pour la fin de la trève,” meaning, The “Communion wafer-ly big night demo to end the truce,” was to be led by Université du Québec à Montréal political science students, who object that the CLASSE softened in agreeing to sit down with Beauchamp. Nadeau Dubois was at pains to say, that like the Tuesday demo, the Wednesday event was not organized by the CLASSE.
FEUQ’s Desjardins, recalled the irreverent 1968 “L’Osstidcho,” transforming expression “ostie de show,” and featuring singers Robert Charlebois, Louise Forrestier and monologist Yvon Deschamps.
“It’s only a name,” she said. “We have to step back a little bit because right now everyone is very emotional and we need to be rational about this,” Desjardins said, speaking in English. “The minister should stop playing the school marm, handing out punishments to everyone,” Desjardins said. “She should sit down and negotiate in good faith with us.”
So far at the table, the only issue to de discussed has been improvements in student aid. The government team is led by Pierre Pilote, a Montreal lawyer who negotiated Quebec’s most recent public-sector agreeement with about 500,000 teachers, nurses and other public employees.
“There is no will to really discuss the tuition problem,” Desjardins said. “This is just a new strategy to distract the discussion that was going on and another strategy to divide the movement and make sure there is no solution to this conflict.”
Léo Bureau-Blouin, president of the FECQ representing CÉGEP students, noted that the talks had only lasted 40 hours. “We are extremely disappointed that the minister of education has short-circuited the negotiation process before we even completed the 48-hour delay that she imposed,” Bureau-Blouin said. “For us it is a really big disappointment to see they are willing to eject, at all costs. one of the important actors in the mobilization.”
Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois said tensions are so high the government’s only option is to suspend the first of five annual $325 tuition increases planned for next fall.
Premier Jean Charest often notes that Marois and most of her caucus wear the red cloth square that is the symbol of the student strike. The PQ leader said the premier “tries to manipulate my words, to manipulate the public,” appealing for an end of violence from all sides. “It’s time for things to cool off,” Marois told reporters. “A dialogue is not actually possible.
“I appeal to the students. The acts of violence must, must stop.”
Quebec students stage new protests after tuition talks fail
By Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press, published in Globe and Mail, April. 26, 2012
For three days, there was the faintest sign of potential that Quebec’s student unrest might find an imminent and peaceful resolution. Any such hope was dashed Wednesday as talks broke off between the provincial government and Quebec’s main student groups.
Their three-day attempt at negotiation was always a long shot: the sides were an ideological chasm apart, with the government refusing to back down on tuition hikes and student groups demanding exactly that, and perhaps more. So the discussion ended as it began — with riotous scenes in the streets of downtown Montreal, numerous smashed windows, scuffles between police and protesters, and no solution in sight.
The unravelling began with an uproarious protest in Montreal late Tuesday that saw five arrests, an injured police officer and the window of a bank smashed. There were more disruptions Wednesday morning.
A pair of smoke bombs tossed in the Montreal subway system slowed down service, while there were several protests in the city. One of them saw student demonstrators team up with laid-off workers to block the street outside an Air Canada shareholders’ meeting.
Those events were taking place despite the so-called “truce” declared by the Quebec government and student leaders. The sides had been meeting in Quebec City, hoping to hammer out some sort of compromise on the contentious issue of tuition hikes. Given that the groups had agreed to stop organizing any disruptive actions during the talks, the latest events prompted questions about whether the student leaders actually control the movement they’ve spearheaded.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp said the fact that those protests were announced on the website of the most hardline student group — nicknamed the C.L.A.S.S.E. — made it clear they were not to be trusted at the negotiating table. She said student groups were supposed to abide by the ultimatum she had issued earlier this week: Rein in the rowdy protests, or be excluded from talks. “You can’t play both sides,” Ms. Beauchamp said. “I regret that this C.L.A.S.S.E. has chosen its camp.”
She booted the hardline group out of the negotiations. Within minutes, the two other student groups at the table voiced their solidarity with the C.L.A.S.S.E. and announced they were also walking away. Minutes later, there were protesters spilling into the streets of Montreal and Quebec City. By day’s end, thousands were marching in Montreal, denouncing the Charest government and demanding general elections.
A few members of the crowd masked themselves. Some fired paintballs. Cars were vandalized. Windows were smashed at several banks and other businesses. Police responded by pepper-spraying protesters and media in their path — a response some protesters called excessive. Even a downtown police station was attacked by protesters. A Twitter post from police read, “The windows of (station) 21 … were completely shattered.”
The spokesman for the more militant group, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, said the minister’s actions had “extended the (student) strike by quite a bit and poured oil on the fire.” He accused Beauchamp of sabotage, saying she never really wanted to negotiate in good faith. He said the government has only been working to divert public attention — away from the planned tuition increase, and onto the issue of violence.
As for the heart of the dispute, the Charest government has repeatedly said it will not back down on the 70 per cent tuition hikes it’s planning over the next five years. The student groups, for their part, are demanding a freeze or even a complete elimination of tuition.
Some students are also casting their struggle in broader terms, arguing that this battle isn’t just against tuition hikes but also against capitalist practices. The C.L.A.S.S.E. website lists the group’s principles as including the struggle against globalization that emphasizes the profit motive above all other concerns; the group also says it’s in favour of union with all international progressive struggles seeking the betterment of society.
Its website has several pages of detailed positions the group has adopted over recent years, including:
— Opposing a Free Trade Area of The Americas.
— Opposing all Canadian military intervention in Afghanistan “or in any other country.”
— Supporting the “anti-capitalist revolution” in Pakistan in 2007.
— Wanting sanctions and a boycott of Israel’s “apartheid regime.”
— That courses, lesson plans and reading lists be “feminized.”
— Support of squatter’s rights and low-cost housing.
— A guaranteed minimum income of at least $1,000 a month.
— And lower RRSP tax ceilings and higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
Recent surveys suggest the unrest hasn’t hurt the Charest government politically. Polls indicate Quebecers generally support the fee hikes. And one survey this week suggested the poll-leading Parti Quebecois, which has staunchly endorsed the students, has lost support and seen its lead evaporate in recent weeks.
In a sign of how he might view the issue as a potential political winner, Premier Jean Charest has taken to repeatedly pointing out that his political opponents are wearing, on their lapels, the iconic red squares that have come to symbolize the movement.
A provincial election must be called between this spring and late 2013.