At least 25 people were arrested late on Saturday after hundreds took to Montreal’s streets, protesting against plans to raise tuition fees — as well as against Canada’s hosting of the Formula One Grand Prix.
The march began peacefully, with some of the 500 protesters banging pots and pans and some wearing carnival masks.
However, when the marchers neared Crescent Street and its Formula One stands, they were blocked by police who used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
A correspondent saw a young man dressed in black handcuffed by police and subjected to a body search.
The press service of the Montreal police said the arrests were targeted and more could be expected during the night.
Three police cars with broken windows and covered with graffiti were seen in the streets.
Earlier in the day, three protesters were arrested outside Grand Prix events.
A man and a woman who, according to police, carried “pyrotechnical devices,” were seized at Parc Jean-Drapeau, while another person was arrested near a downtown subway station with a can of spray paint.
Students see the Grand Prix race, which took place yesterday, as an “elitist event.” However, they also want to take advantage of the media presence and international visitors to publicize their fight against proposed tuition hikes.
However, CLASSE, the student union considered to be the most radical, reiterated on Saturday that it had no intention of disrupting the Grand Prix. Union spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois noted though that the organization was not able to control the behavior of all the groups affiliated with it.
In a speech at the Festival of Solidarity in Montreal, Nadeau-Duibois also called on labor unions to band together with students to breathe new life into the protest movement.
Earlier in the day, about 200 demonstrators — mainly women’s rights groups, but also anti-corporate protesters — marched against the Grand Prix.
Marchers hit the streets behind a huge banner condemning prostitution and stopping near several hotels where they said prostitution was common.
“In my opinion, prostitution is still a paid rape,” said Laurence Fortin, a graduate student and sociology researcher.
Protesters last week also demonstrated against a special law passed by the Quebec government restricting the right to protest. Special Law 78 requires organizers to give police at least eight hours advance warning of protest marches, with hefty fines imposed for failing to do so.
Students have rejected a government offer to reduce the tuition hike by C$35 (US$34) per year, which would bring the total increase to C$1,533 over seven years instead of C$1,778.
Student leaders vowed to target the Grand Prix when talks broke down late last month after students rejected a government offer to reduce the planned tuition hike.
Since February, hundreds of protesters have been arrested and clashes have erupted sporadically as more than 165,000 students have refused to attend class and tens of thousands have taken part in nightly demonstrations.