Thousands of protesters returned to the streets across Quebec late on Thursday in defiance of a new law regulating demonstrations and despite the arrest of about 1,000 protesters this week.
The latest protests came after the Canadian province’s government invited student groups to talks in a bid to end more than three months of demonstrations over a proposed university tuition hike.
In Montreal, thousands of residents hit the streets at 8pm on Thursday, banging pots and pans and chanting against Law 78, a measure passed last week requiring activists to notify police ahead of demonstrations.
The students were joined by retirees as well as families with children, all marching in a festive atmosphere. “[Quebec Premier Jean] Charest, you are the pot and we are the spoon!” one banner read.
At least three separate processions were under way, with protesters chanting: “The special law, we will win,” despite an appeal from Montreal’s mayor for residents to remain at home and bang pots on their balconies.
Demonstrator Katie Nelson, 19, who traveled across the country from her home in the Alberta province to support the protests, said she did not fear arrest or the fines, which start at C$600 (US$585).
“Being fined for protesting and demonstrating is silly. I am not afraid of being arrested for fighting for democracy,” she said, adding that she expects Law 78 to be ruled unconstitutional.
A similar demonstration attended by some 500 people was held in the provincial capital Quebec City, and other demonstrations were reported elsewhere in the province.
As with previous demonstrations, police declared the protests illegal, but said they would not seek to disperse them unless there was violence.
The provincial government had earlier on Thursday invited the student groups to a new round of talks.