At least 518 protesters were arrested in Montreal after police performed a classic kettling operation, but a new announcement from Quebec Premier Jean Charest indicates that the 102-day-old protest may be on the verge of victory.
In addition to the arrests in Montreal, at least 170 other were arrested in Quebec City and Sherbrooke, according to RT.
Those numbers make last night’s action the largest-ever mass arrest in the nation’s history.
We begin with a video from Pierre Chauvin of The Link, the student newspaper of Concordia University, shot before last night’s arrests in Montreal.
Next a report on the arrests by Allen McInnis of the Montreal Gazette:
It was a peaceful river of humanity for more than three hours, with about 3,000 people walking, chanting and feeling united on the 30th consecutive night of the student protests in Montreal.
Then, in a heartbeat, Wednesday night’s big march turned ugly.
Just before midnight police surrounded a large group of protesters at Sherbrooke and St. Denis Sts. to make a mass arrest, Montreal police Constable Daniel Fortier said. Police said on Thursday morning the arrests totaled 518, making it the largest number of people arrested in a single night so far in the weeks-long student protest.
It also surpassed the 497 arrests made under the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970.
506 of those arrested were caught in the kettle, including 30 minors. They were each fined $634 for illegal assembly, while the penalty for the minors is $118. The remaining 12 were isolated arrests, including four for criminal acts and eight for city bylaw infractions, police said.
The protest of the Casseroles
Students, who are protesting an 83 percent tuition hike, have adopted a unique style, banging pots and pans as they march through the city.
Here’s a video shot in one Montreal neighborhood of the beginning of last night’s demonstration from vlogger GNOMEchomsky:
Dario Ayala of the Montreal Gazette offers some context:
Bang, bang, bang – ping!
A phenomenon is sweeping Montreal and other cities that gives new meaning to the term Bloc Pot – no, nothing to do with Quebec’s marijuana party.
The stink that’s being raised is a block party, every night at 8 o’clock in places as varied as Verdun and Villeray, Sherbrooke and Quebec City.
It’s called “Nos casseroles contre la loi spéciale!”
And it makes loud use of pots and pans.
In neighbourhoods in and outside the metropolis, at the strike of 8, students and teachers, parents and kids, renters and homeowners, go outside and start banging saucepans and skillets, pieplates and pots.
The target of the protest is the Charest government’s emergency Bill 78, which regiments public demonstrations as a response to the province-wide student strike, now in its fourth month.
In the contest of wills, Charest blinks first
The draconian provisions of the special law rammed through the provincial legislature was passed in hopes the $125,000 fines imposed on student organizations and unions backing the strike would force a capitulation. The legislation also imposes $7,000 fines on individuals who fall within its provisions.
But that’s clearly not working.
So Charest may be grabbing at Plan B.
From CBC News:
In the midst of an expanding social crisis, Premier Jean Charest is replacing his most senior aide and bringing back a right-hand man with a reputation for steady competence.
Daniel Gagnier is being brought back after three years away from politics and is returning to his old position as chief of staff. He replaces Luc Bastien.
Gagnier is apparently being given a mandate to kick-start negotiations with student groups and seek a resolution to the unrest plaguing the province, before tourists flock to Montreal for festival season.