Police arrested 122 people overnight on Wednesday as student protests turned violent in Montreal. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for the 23rd straight night after Premier Jean Charest announced the suspension of the current semester until August, a move that many believe will prevent a negotiated settlement to the student strike, now in its 14th week.
The CBC, about 50 people at the head of the marching protest hurled objects at riot police and smashed windows. Police charged at the protesters, sprayed tear gas and threw flash bang grenades to break up the crowd. The CBC also reports police beating protesters with batons.
“We need to bring down the pressure where strikes are still on. We need to bring back social peace,” Charest said when announcing the suspension of classes, which will affect 14 colleges and 11 universities, which are currently closed down due to the strike, the Globe and Mail reported. Legislation to officially suspend the current semester could be introduced as early as Thursday, according to the Canadian Press.
Charest also made it clear that his Liberal government will not back down from the proposed 75 per cent hike in tuition, spread out over five to seven years, and promised tougher police presence at schools in August to ensure students will be able to return to class, if they so choose.
Student leaders reacted to the announcement angrily. “The bill that the government is proposing to table is an anti-union law, it is authoritarian, repressive and breaks the students’ right to strike,” CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, whose group represents a majority of striking students, was quoted as saying by the Globe. “This is a government that prefers to hit on its youth, ridicule its youth rather than listen to them.”
Student organizers are planning a large street demonstration in Montreal on Tuesday.