Following Premier Jean Charest’s proposal on Thursday of a law to force striking students back to class, the nightly student demonstration saw thousands of protesters and ended with police kettling around 40 demonstrators, including five members of the student press, at Maisonneuve and Peel.
The law calls for the suspension of schoolwork in CEGEPs and university faculties that are affected by the strike. The semester would resume on August 15 and finish at the end of September. According to La Presse, heavy fines would be imposed on students blocking access to classes.
Thousands of students gathered at parc Emilie-Gamelin at around 11:00 p.m. and marched peacefully through the downtown area. But after firecrackers were set off, bank windows smashed, and allegations by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) of an assault within the crowd, the demonstration was declared illegal. Several “targeted” arrests were made before the group at Maisonneuve was surrounded by officers.
Plastic bullets were fired at protesters on at least two occasions.
Two journalists from The Daily and three from Concordia newspaper the Link were among those kettled and were told they would be charged with participating in an illegal assembly, and that the SPVM would not recognize their press credentials because they were not members of the “organized press,” namely the Fédération professionelle des journalistes du Québec (FPJQ).
Journalists being held tweeted their location to the SPVM’s account, which responded and informed the students that calls were being made regarding their situation. Four buses arrived on the scene to transport arrested demonstrators at about 2 a.m. Shortly afterwards, the five student journalists were released. The SPVM reported that 122 arrests were made.
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