100 days of social unrest

Thousands marched through downtown May 22 in protest. Photo by writer.

Following a massive demonstration which took place yesterday, newly appointed Education Minister Michelle Courchesne announced this afternoon that she is willing to meet for negotiations with all three major student organizations.

The Fédération étudiante collègiale du Québec and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec have thus far refused to go to the table without the third, and most radical group, the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicate étudiante. After 100 days of protesting, Courchesne has stated she is willing to sit down with all of the representatives.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of downtown Montreal on Tuesday, unified against the tuition increase and Bill 78.

The massive protest started from Place des Arts, gathering thousands of demonstrators from all walks of life in the sweltering heat. The protest kicked off with a press conference and passionate speeches from student leaders.

Although the exact number of protesters is not confirmed, the CLASSE estimates that approximately 250,000 people marched through the streets May 22.

The march divided into three groups, one following CLASSE’s banner, another following the planned route and a third diverging completely from the other two protests. A sea of red stalled traffic for hours as the different demonstrations made their way through the downtown core.

Although several sanctions of Bill 78 were violated such as deviating from the initial itinerary and having more than 50 individuals present, no arrests were made. Montreal Police declared the third protest illegal at approximately 4:45 p.m. because of three broken windows. Those demonstrators quickly returned to the main protest.

It was not just students this time that opted to take to the streets to express their frustration with the tuition increase and the controversial emergency legislation. Clowns without borders, teacher associations, members of the National Assembly, parents, grandparents and citizens of all kinds marched in solidarity with students in one of the largest protests in Canadian history.

The movement went international Tuesday, as smaller events were held in different cities worldwide. Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, New York City, and Paris, France held similar protests in a symbolic gesture with the student protesters in Quebec.

Concordia Student Union’s VP external elect Simon-Pierre Lauzon attended the protest to support the fight against the tuition increase and Bill 78 and hopes to encourage others to do the same.

“I was there to satisfy what I think is the duty of every citizen,” Lauzon told The Concordian. “Which is to actively fight for the society that we want.”

People from all walks of life participated in the massive demonstration. Photo by writer.

Lauzon remains unsure of what will happen next, but has strong opinions about the movement’s conclusion.

“I cannot predict the movement anymore as it has consistently impressed me, especially after the passage of law 78,” explained Lauzon. “But I can tell you how it will not end: it will not end with the government forcing us into submission with brute force, and it will not end with an offer from the government that does not touch tuition increase.”

Also present at the demonstration was Vanier College student and Mob Squad leader, Anthony Kantara, who was pleased to see the number of individuals in the streets.

“I hope Charest got the message it’s time for him to go,” he said.

Kantara feels that Bill 78 was one of the main forces that encouraged thousands to protest in solidarity. He believes that the newly adopted legislation is one of the “most useless laws that exist.”

“My fundamental rights and freedoms are more important to me than a ‘special law’ created by a corrupt government,” added Kantara. “Unfortunately, it puts the police force in an awkward position. Thus, the results we’ve seen in the streets over the weekend.”

Kantara is referring to the nightly protests that became more violent than ever and resulted in hundreds of arrests over the weekend due to the adoption of Bill 78 last Friday. Bill 78 has been called into question regarding how the police are supposed to govern protests and enforce the limitations outlined by the special legislation.

The planned protest dispersed in the early evening but people met once more at Place Emilie-Gamelin for the 29th nightly protest. At 8 p.m. in downtown Montreal citizens emerged, clanging pots and pans in protest. It resulted in over 100 arrests.

With files from Marilla Steuter-Martin.

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