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Red square movement marks five months of protest

Thousands of people flooded the streets of downtown Montreal on Friday June 22 to protest the tuition increase and the actions of the government as the movement heads into its fifth month.

In keeping with the tradition of holding large protests on the 22 of each month (read more about the March and May demos), organizers planned simultaneous demonstrations Friday afternoon in both Quebec City and Montreal. The protest ended around 5:30 p.m. with one arrest made by the Montreal Police. In compliance with Bill 78, an itinerary was provided beforehand.

Protesters gathered at Place du Canada in the blistering heat before marching west on René-Lévesque around 2 p.m. Student leaders stood on top of a trailer, rallying support against the planned tuition increase, the controversial Bill 78, and encouraging those gathered to mobilize against the provincial government by campaigning.

The demonstration was largely festive and peaceful as it moved through the streets of the downtown core despite the message of social discontent. Concordia University student Gabrielle Turcotte told The Concordian that she attended the protest in hopes of inspiring change for the future.

“I would like to see a government that understands that protesters care about others and the future of the province more than themselves,” explained Turcotte.

Turcotte added that although she’s disappointed to see the protests becoming smaller, one could argue it’s out of frustration and exhaustion as the Quebec student movement is hitting the fifth month mark.

The number of people participating in nightly demonstrations has dwindled noticeably following violent clashes between protesters and the Montreal police during the Formula One Grand Prix weekend.

“There has been far too much self-serving in politics, in journalism, in promotion, and in people’s attitudes in our lives,” Turcotte said. “It needs to change.”

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Bill 78: Controversial and historic legislation passes

The Charest government adopted the controversial legislation Bill 78, in an effort to put an end to the tuition crisis Friday afternoon.

Bill 78 was tabled Thursday night and voted into law 68 for, 48 against. The bill aimed at calming the student conflict was finalized and accepted after undergoing amendments. In hopes of restoring order to Quebec after 14 weeks of protest, the law is set to expire in July 2013.

The new law imposes strict regulations for demonstrations and limits the number of participants, when, and how long individuals can protest. Hefty fines are to be imposed for students and organizations that violate provisions of the law. Furthermore, the emergency legislation also suspends the rest of the semester at post-secondary institutions affected by the strike.

An individual who blocks access to a CEGEP or university could face a fine anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Student leaders could be charged up to $35,000 while student associations and federations could face a penalty of $125,000.

Demonstrations are now restricted to 50 people and an itinerary must be given to the police eight hours in advance of the action. This changed from the original proposal, in which the provincial government wanted to limit the protests to groups of less than 10 people. Protesters must also inform the police about the length of the protest beforehand.

Around the same time yesterday, Montreal’s city council passed a bylaw prohibiting the wearing of masks during public demonstrations.

Student leaders, the Charest Liberals’ opposition, and various civil rights associations have openly criticized the controversial legislation and the ethics behind it.

Following the adoption of Bill 78, the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec’s President Martine Desjardins said that the situation is “not over until it is over.”

Members of the Parti Quebecois voted against the emergency legislation, still sporting the red squares associated with the student movement. Leader Pauline Marois denounced the provincial government for an “abusive” law, calling it “one of the darkest days in Quebec democracy.”

Despite the strict limitations imposed by the law, thousands took to the streets of Montreal last night in protest where Molotov cocktails were reportedly thrown at police.

Read Bill 78 in it’s entirety in English (via CBC news) or French (via La Presse)

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