Quebec protests reach rowdy new level (with updates in comments)

Quebec protests reach rowdy new level (with updates in comments)

Students in Quebec have been on strike since February. They have been upset about Premier Jean Charest's plan to add $1,625 to the annual cost of post-secondary education by 2016. But during Friday's confrontations, protesters signaled that the unrest was about more than university fees — it was about the general direction of the province.

From the Metro

MONTREAL – A spring of discontent in Quebec characterized by images of red-clad student protesters took on a darker tone Friday as downtown streets were disrupted by scenes of increasingly intense civil unrest.

Demonstrators hurled projectiles from rocks to flower pots in Montreal, committing vandalism outdoors and interrupting different political events indoors. Some vandals even tossed rocks from an overpass onto a busy downtown expressway, police said.

Riot police fought back by swinging batons and firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

There were no reports of any injuries on the expressway, though at least six people were slightly hurt — including four police officers — in a long day of demonstrations.

Provincial police were called in as local officers struggled to handle crowds that disrupted two separate events, including one featuring Premier Jean Charest and, to a lesser extent, one involving federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

There had already been warnings that some students saw their daily protests as more than a fight against tuition increases. Some had taken to referring to the demonstrations as Quebec’s “Maple Spring,” in a rhetorical nod to broader protest movements elsewhere in the world.

That point was repeatedly driven home Friday by protesters who signalled that the unrest was about more than university fees — it was about the general direction of the province.

“It’s not just the tuition increase,” said Alexis Remartini, 18, who took a 60-kilometre bus trip from St-Hyacinthe to attend the protest.

“The movement has grown to include other things we don’t agree with.”

Friday’s most chaotic scene unfolded at a high-profile Charest event, as projectiles and tear gas rained on what was supposed to be the premier’s political parade.

The symposium on the premier’s signature northern-development plan was to have served, some pundits speculated, as a springboard into a provincial election. No vote date has been set.

Charest’s lunchtime speech on his Plan Nord was delayed by 45 minutes after protesters managed to bust into the Palais des congres convention centre.

Protesters made it within a flight of stairs of where the luncheon was being held. They were met with a line of riot police, who eventually removed them from the building.

The premier made it clear he had no intention of backing down from his tuition hikes, or from his northern-development plans.

Charest even joked about the protesters during his speech: “Maybe those knocking on the door this morning, we can offer them jobs,” he said, to laughter. “In the north, if possible.”

Outside, there were scenes of virtual anarchy.

While some protesters hurled objects and built barricades in the street with construction materials they’d found, police fought them off — at one point firing chemical irritants right into one young man at nearly point-blank range.

Seventeen people were arrested as police announced over a loudspeaker that the protest was being declared an illegal assembly.

Demonstrators left a scene of destruction in their wake as they weaved through the downtown streets, backing up traffic. Garbage cans were overturned and trash strewn about. At least three police cars had their back window smashed, and a window at a main entrance to the convention centre was also broken.

Nicolas Moran, 21-year-old law student at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, was one of the students who had earlier managed to get into the building.

He had a gash on his forehead and blood on his shirt.

“I wasn’t doing anything violent,” he said. “A police officer hit me over the head… But I doubt the education minister will denounce violence from police.”

Well behind schedule, Charest finally began a speech that some had expected might serve as a precursor to an election, which the premier must call by late next year.

Charest earned a standing ovation as he walked on stage.

After thanking the crowd for its patience, the premier quickly slipped into his prepared text and described northern development as an inter-generational project deeply embedded in Quebecers’ “DNA,” sharing his own family history with the north.

He said the plan, which focuses on mining and energy production, would help create thousands of new jobs and “move Quebec forward.”

Speaking with reporters afterward, Charest insisted he will not back down on $325-a-year tuition hikes that will raise fees 75 per cent over five years. Even with the increase, Quebec would still have among the lowest tuition rates in the country.

While police said Friday’s worst vandalism was not necessarily tied to tuition protests and was possibly the work of other troublemakers, Charest stuck to a familiar script.

The premier focused his response to the events on his preferred political target: the most radical student protest group, whose acronym is C.L.A.S.S.E. Opinion polls have been unkind to the premier lately, but the latest surveys suggest there is some sympathy for his position on tuition fees.

Charest has been refusing to negotiate with the C.L.A.S.S.E. because the group has avoided taking a stance against violent forms of protest.

“The social disruption is unacceptable,” Charest told reporters after his speech.

“I’ve had ministers’ offices ransacked. We’ve had ministers who have had tanks of gas put on the grounds of their homes. Molotov cocktails in front of their offices. Death threats.

“And they refuse to condemn violence? In 2012, in Quebec? That’s unacceptable.”

Also looming in the backdrop are conflict-of-interest and ethics scandals dogging Charest’s government.

His latest headache stems from an investigative report that a well-connected political organizer has been peddling cash-for-access schemes related to the Plan Nord.

Charest’s goal is to develop a 1.2-million-square kilometre stretch of the province’s north over the next 25 years. Charest has said it will create 500,000 jobs, though his claims have been met with skepticism from opponents who call the plan everything from a marketing gimmick to a sellout of Quebec’s resources.

An investigative show on the French-language CBC showed a provincial Liberal organizer — and onetime prominent organizer for the Harper Tories — discussing the Plan Nord while being surreptitiously videotaped.

That organizer, Pierre Coulombe, was videotaped suggesting to reporters, who pretended to be potential clients, that they could have access to Plan Nord decision-makers for a fee.

Instead of handing cash-filled envelopes to political insiders, he suggested clients should simply promise them multi-year jobs on their departure from politics.

He indicated such jobs might pay them about $25,000 annually and require that they attend only one meeting a year while being sent on occasional business trips to Europe.

Not far from Charest’s event, an announcement by the federal immigration minister was also interrupted by two protesters who had bought tickets to his speech.

As Kenney began his speech, they twice shouted that his immigration reforms would destroy people’s lives. They were both quickly escorted out of the hotel room.

Kenney was in Montreal to announce, in his latest immigration policy reform, that people must prove they can speak English or French to gain Canadian citizenship.

Comments

wojtek
May 7 2012 20:50

Riot police turn bus into Victoriaville jail cell: A first hand account from the Québec student strike

Also, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) are unsurprisingly keeping tabs on anarchists and other revolutionary groups:

Quote:
MONTREAL -- Federal spies are in Quebec to gather intelligence on subversive groups suspected of infiltrating student demonstrations to instigate violence, QMI Agency has learned.

Source say CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) is probing possible threats to national security posed by groups, including the Black Bloc.

The masked nihilists have attacked civilians and police officers in several Canadian cities.

Black Bloc members have been visible this year at dozens of protests by striking students in Quebec.

Also of interest, sources said, are three communist groups - the Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR-RCP), the CLAQ (Confrerie de la librairie ancienne du Quebec), and the Union Communiste Libertaire.

Sources say CSIS is also keeping an eye on the Reseau de Resistance du Quebecois, a separatist group whose manifesto calls for "rebellion against the imperial occupier," namely the English.

Elsewhere, it's looking like an overwhelming rejection of the latest offer by the students and allegations have emerged that a student negotiator was pressured into signing the offer which he “did not agree with”.

An interview with Benoit Renaud, political activist from Gatineau, member of the national coordinating committee of Quebec solidaire, a student in the 1986 and 1990 student strikes, and member of MDE in the 1996 student strike:

Rank and File Radio: The 2012 Quebec Student Strike: Past, Present, Future

An article from the commune on May Day:

yes we canada: the student movement in québec

wojtek
May 7 2012 21:20

Three students discuss the role of direct democracy and political demands in building a massive movement:

wojtek
May 8 2012 12:53

There's a NCAFC Demo in London on the 16th May in solidarity:

Demo: Support the Quebec students' movement - no to police violence!

SOLIDARITAIRE!

Students at Sydney University in Australia are fighting 340 jobs cuts as well as course cuts, this is Solidarity's banner from their 700-person rally yesterday. They're watching Quebec very closely.

An article at rabble.ca also:

In appreciation of the Quebec student strike

Montage of police repression:

wojtek
May 8 2012 17:57

I disagree with the 'workers' government' conclusion, but other than that I don't know what to think of this WSWS article. I thought direct democracy and mandated delegates prevented this sort of thing re CLASSE?

Unions and student associations betray Quebec student strike

Fleur
May 8 2012 19:46

It was a tentative agreement, subject to approval by individual student groups in their faculties/ colleges at their GAs. So far one college has voted in favour and 15 against. There are many more to come, but right now it looks like the strike will continue. There was a demo this morning in the financial sector and there are more scheduled through the week.
I'd take issue with the comment in the commune article that the CEGEP federation is like the Russell group, there is no equivalent to the Russell group in Quebec. Everybody who goes onto post-seconadary education goes to CEGEP.
Incidentally, it's not just CSIS who are keeping busy. We also have GAMMA squad (it stands for watching the activities of marginalised movements and anarchists.)

wojtek
May 9 2012 19:05

Tuition agreement with Quebec doomed to fail, student votes indicate

Students voting in strong majorities to reject agreement

Fantastic post from News from the 2012 Quebec student general strike:

"The Quebec student movement today: Cegep de Rosemont general assembly votes to not even consider the government's offer. Not to be outdone, facing the threat/possibility of a cancelled semester, the Faculty of Letters and Humanities at the University of Sherbrooke general assembly votes to demand a pony for each student whose classes are cancelled. Oh yeah, and multiple daily demos including 15 straight night time demos in Montreal, over 160,000 on strike for 13 weeks and so far 83,250 students have voted to reject the government's offer, 3,200 to accept it."

Fleur
May 10 2012 14:12

Whole of Montreal metro system closed down due to smoke bombs this morning.

wojtek
May 10 2012 18:48
Fleur
May 10 2012 21:45

It caused considerable disruption this morning, the metro being down, not least because it was raining, which always causes traffic chaos - 2 foot of snow, no problem, drizzle, nightmare! Protesters also occupied the lobby of the Montreal stock exchange this morning.
CLASSE officially rejected the government offer.

wojtek
May 12 2012 21:06

fleurnoire-et-rouge, do you think it was provocateurs?

Quote:
The scope of the repression by the police is almost unheard of in Quebec — one would have to go back 40 years to see anything of this magnitude. Over the course of one week alone, we saw upwards of 600 arrests at various campuses and demonstrations. At the Université du Québec à Outaouais (UQO) on 19th April, the police broke the picket lines and locked the students out of the campus. A few hundred students soon arrived on buses to demonstrate in solidarity with their brothers and sisters. Teachers soon joined, as well. The police unleashed brutal repression on them with a few students and professors left bloody from baton hits to the head. The demonstration of around 800 students then held a mass assembly and decided to march on the police lines and reclaim the university. They marched on the police, beating them back and they managed to reclaim the university for a short period of time before more police forces were called in and mass arrests commenced. Approximately 300 ended up arrested at UQO.

Quebec Students Endure Despite Police State Repression

Edit: No one answer my question, I don't think it's wise to speculate online.

Fleur
May 12 2012 16:29

Four students from University of Quebec at Montreal have been charged today, after being IDed by fellow classmate from cctv footage, having turned themselves in with their lawyers last night.
Various charges including Mischief ( that one covers a multitude of sins here, and was one of the things the G20 defendants were charged with,) carrying out a hoax relating to terrorism, which is a new one to me, conspiracy and one of them is up on an unauthorised weapon charge. They're due to be arraigned some time today. Other than that, I don't know who they are, but those charged do seem to be students. Obviously, not much other information, other than speculation and I don't really want to do that.

wojtek
May 12 2012 21:24
Quote:
The CARRÉ NOIR Manifesto

On co-option and infiltration

We are students. We are workers. We are the unemployed. We are angry. We are not co-opting a strike. We have been part of the movement from the beginning. We are one of the forms this movement has taken, a form as valid as any of the others. We are not extremists, we have a radical critique of this society of which we are a part. We do not infiltrate demonstrations, we help organize them, we bring them alive. We are not sabotaging the strike, we are one with it, we are helping organize it, we keep its heartbeat alive.

We are organized to fight against this violent and oppressive system. We believe that the violence of the system that attacks social classes and entire populations justifies violence that targets objects and the political agents that the cops are. We shroud ourselves in black to try to escape the repression of a system that has proven its intolerance of dissent (Toronto 2010, Montebello 2007, Québec 2001, every March 15th, March 7, 2012, etc.). Our black flags are a rejection of that fleur-de-lys adorned flag whose symbols—the king and the church—horrify us. The black bloc is not a group. It’s a tactic, a tactic that contrasts the docile obeying of laws and norms with civil disobedience and direct action.

On public opinion and the myth of unity

Radicals reject the “imagists” in this strike who demand pacifism. The public opinion that so influences the behaviour of these imagists is imaginary. Our battlefield is in the streets, in General Assemblies, in occupied offices, in liberated spaces, and not in the media. We denounce the illusion that things can be changed without disruption.

We reject the myth of unity that dominates the imaginations of our contemporaries and instead believe in solidarity—the interests of Quebecois are divergent and non-homogenous. Is the unity of any movement really something to strive for? Isn’t part of its strength that it is so diverse, that some are willing to take more risks than others as well as take the precautions necessary to do so?

On violence and non-violence

We believe there is a huge difference between the nature of violence that targets objects and that which targets human beings. At the risk of repeating ourselves, we attack objects. This is a political, symbolic action. In doing so, we expose ourselves to a much greater violence: getting beaten with batons, gassed, criminalized, and profiled by GAMMA—and now, facing internal repression. We believe that a person wearing armour, who is ready to violently attack others simply to follow an order, has temporarily become the exception to our principle on the use of violence against human beings.

When we look a little deeper into the pages of history, the importance vandalism has always had as a legitimate weapon used by social movements, suffragettes, unions, racialized minorities, indigenous peoples, etc. becomes evident. No social gain has ever been made without disruption. Although the real economy plays an ever-smaller role in the total “money made,” private property remains the foundation of the house of cards made of capitalism and neoliberalism, systems which are currently attacking both the accessibility of our education and our everyday lives. It’s this very foundation we attack through our actions.

March 16, 2012, Montréal.

ANARCHISTS AMONG MANY OTHERS!

Original source (French): CMAQ

Rouge Squad: The CARRÉ NOIR Manifesto (The Black Square Manifesto)

See also this interview on the role of anarchists in the Quebec student general strike.

wojtek
May 12 2012 22:05

A wall on the second floor of a social science pavilion at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal near the student cafe.

Quote:
“Force étudiante critique.” The group has characterized as too moderate the work of more mainstream student federations, including one called CLASSE, which has itself been criticized for its calls for civil disobedience and its refusals to denounce violence.

Members of this group, some wearing masks and hoodies, loudly disrupted a recent press conference given by the other associations.

Graffiti lines the hallways around the second-floor café at the university, and the majority of it is highly political.

The anti-capitalist messages and anarchy symbols have multiplied since the student protest began, several students said.

“Revolt!” one says, atop the anarchist “A” symbol. Another message states: “On the one hand we want to live communism, on the other we want to spread anarchy.”

The Université du Québec à Montréal has always been considered the Quebec institution with the highest concentration of leftist and ultra-leftist students and faculty."

Montreal subway sabotage accused face terror-hoax related charges

Force étudiante critique have a website here.

wojtek
May 12 2012 22:55

UK print media roundup:

The Guardian managed its second article on May 2nd. Similarly, 'Aunty Beeb' on May 7th - in the strike's 12th week. Meanwhile, the Metro dedicated its first 113 words on the strike or rather the metro disruption yesterday:

Quote:
Smoke bombs cripple Montreal subway system

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 13

LENGTH: 113 words

SMOKE bombs set off at multiple points in Montreal's subway system during the morning rush hour yesterday briefly cut off services bombs were tossed onto the tracks at three stations along the transit network that connects numerous neighbourhoods in Canada's second largest city, sending clouds of smoke billowing through stations at key transfer points, said police. They are searching for at least four suspects.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest condemned the attack. 'It's inexplicable, he said. 'There's no reason to commit acts of intimidation and violence.' Subway services have been interrupted in recent weeks as the city deals with student protests over planned tuition increases.

wojtek
May 14 2012 01:44

Quebec students reject union-promoted sellout of their fight for accessible education

Meet Canada’s Ruling Oligarchy: Parasites-a-Plenty!

Mask ban bill penalty doubled to 10 years

Warning for any tourists courtesy of M'sieur Zen:

Quote:
Notice to tourists: in Quebec, the political occupation of public space is liable to corporal punishment ranging from simple shots of sticks to the amputation of eyes or the fracturing of skulls #SPVM #republiquedebananes #1984 In addition, certain techniques of punishment of the masses are used by various toxic gases. Use the greatest caution in the expression of your views.
wojtek
May 14 2012 01:45

Two post from News from the 2012 Quebec student general strike:

Quote:
It keeps getting worse...this student lost his eye after Quebec police shot him with a plastic bullet. Another was shot in the head and was in a coma for a night. We came this close to seeing a protester killed in our streets. Yet, the media talks about broken windows.

Quote:
New projection of We Are Art on the offices of the Surete du Quebec (Provincial Police). In response to the manifestation of Victoriaville Friday, May 5, 2012 at the Congress of the Quebec Liberal Party. 400 injured people as emergency services present, with very serious injuries, some of which have been hit by plastic bullets of the SQ. Many blame the police and misuse of weapons of repression as irritating gases and so-called "less lethal weapons". Our Prime Minister, Jean Charest, has praised the work of the SQ, calling it "remarkable" "given the circumstances" ...

I've added this 2005 interview with Nicolas Phebus of the Collectif Anarchiste La Nuit (NEFAC-Quebec City) to the library:

The Strike of the General Assembly: An Interview with Nicolas Phebus

wojtek
May 14 2012 02:30
Quote:
There's a NCAFC Demo in London on the 16th May in solidarity:

Demo: Support the Quebec students' movement - no to police violence!

SOLIDARITAIRE!

^Bump

Elsewhere, Force étudiante critique have called for a vigil of solidarity with those arrested in connection with the Montreal Metro disruption case as part of the ongoing battle. It will be held today (Monday, May 14) at 11:30 at the Palais de Justice in Rue Saint-Antoine, Quebec.

Fleur
May 14 2012 13:15

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/05/14/college-rosemont-open-student-strike.html

Student have been fairly busy this morning. There was also a downtown protest, starting at 7am. There was also a march last night, for the 20th consecutive night, although only a couple of hundred yesterday.
There's going to be a session at the Montreal city municipal council to push through by-laws against wearing masks at protests ( on top of the federal one which is on the table at national level) and also making it compulsory to log protests in advance with the police.
BTW everything in relation to the student strike is under the remit of provincial law. Quebec handles education entirely and the police involved are the SQ (provincial police) and the SPVM (Montreal.) Even if the federal govt. in Ottawa were inclined to, they would have no jurisdiction to intervene. The Quebec consulate in London is in Pall Mall. I seem to remember that it is in a nice strolling distance from Grosvenor Square.

Fleur
May 14 2012 22:03

Defendants in metro smoke bombing bail hearing put back until May 23.

Education minister resigned.

wojtek
May 15 2012 22:34

Quebec government defends police assault on striking students, plans further repression

Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

Riot cops open school, staff shuts it downStudents protesting against tuition hikes battle with Quebec Provincial Police at the Lionel Groulx college Tuesday, May 15, 2012 in Ste. Therese, Quebec.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

BOOM! YOU JUST GOT FACED!

wojtek
May 19 2012 10:55

Police arrest 122 as student protests turn violent in Montreal

Montreal protesters shut down classes at university: Protesters screamed 'scab!' at students in classrooms

Striking Québec students enter UQAM campus in protest against court injunctions on the morning of Wednesday May 16, 2012.

Edit: added video footage smile

Fleur
May 16 2012 19:30

There's been a lot of chatter over the last 24 hrs that Quebec is working on some special legislation to force the students back to college and/or force the colleges open where students have got injunctions to go back. I don't know exactly how that would work. Striking workers have been legislated back to work before, under sanctions of really stringent fines if they don't comply but I'm not sure how you could force a student back. Certainly it would involve giving the police more powers to enforce the injunctions, as if the tear gas, rubber bullet and other assorted weaponry isn't enough.

wojtek
May 17 2012 06:02
Quote:
Quebec tonight: 8,000 in the street in Montreal, thousands more in the streets in Quebec City, Gatineau and elsewhere. Police surrounding the national assembly. Government announced the suspension of the semester.

News from the 2012 Quebec student general strike

Charest suspends classes in response to student strikes

Berri-UQAM metro station closed, crowd told to disperse

wojtek
May 18 2012 12:14

The teachers union reports that in many cases where police enforced the injunctions, teachers ended up with just one or two students in the classroom. "There was even a volleyball class with just one student".

Quebec Government to "Lock-Out" Striking Students: If picket lines not removed, Liberals will suspend classes across the province

wojtek
May 18 2012 12:07
Quote:
"I am 67 and at first I thought that students were exaggerating ... no more, a special law is not the solution! Last night my wife and I went to join the kids in the streets. A policeman treated my wife like an old hag, so I approached him to say what I think and he pepper sprayed me. It was a Black Bloc who came to help me and put liquid in my eyes that eased my pain.

Before I was afraid of young masked Black Bloc ... Not anymore. Now I'm scared of young masked SPVM."

And

"At our last assembly, someone proposed to disrupt the Grand Prix. The proposal was rejected because it was considered too radical for the time being ...

I bet that this proposal will come back on the table and will be adopted in force at the next Assembly. I who voted against it then will vote for it now."

http://www2.lactualite.com/jean-francois-lisee/du-courrier-en-attendant-la-loi-speciale/12938/

Fleur
May 18 2012 12:37

Quebec legislature currently sitting, special law to be enacted later today. All protests of more than 9 people will be illegal unless logged and OK'ed by the police 8 hours in advance. Huge fines. $1000 -$5000 for an individual ( first offence, doubling thereafter) $7000- $35000 for student leader, $25000-$125000 for student organisation. Student protesters not allowed within 50 meters of college building.
Meanwhile, Montreal legislature pushing through law today criminalising wearing of masks during protest and also requiring demonstrations to be logged and approved in advance by the police. Thousands out on streets last night, no arrests, as far as I am able to tell.
Also woke up to the news that the cops who shot and killed a homeless man for the crime of rifling through rubbish, killing another man as well in the incident, will face no charges. So much for liberal, progressive Quebec.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/357492-quebec-education-special-law.html

Haven't picked my way all the way through it yet, but above link is the the law currently being debated. (Very unlikely that it won't pass.)

Fleur
May 18 2012 14:39