LAURENT BASTIEN CORBEIL & HENRY GASS
The McGill Daily (McGill University)
MONTREAL (CUP) — Police clashed with protesters for the second time this week as negotiations broke down between provincial student associations and the Quebec government.
The breakdown came after Education Minister Line Beauchamp barred members of the Coalition de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) from participating in talks.
The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) left the negotiation table in solidarity with CLASSE.
More than 5,000 protesters gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin at around 8:30 p.m. on April 25 before marching through the streets of downtown Montreal.
The demonstration remained calm until protesters reached the intersection of Ste. Catherine and Guy. Demonstrators overturned garbage bins, smashed bank windows, and hurled rocks at police cars.
Riot police intervened at around 10:30 p.m. by detonating concussion grenades, throwing tear gas canisters, and charging the protesters at the intersection of Ste. Catherine and Metcalfe.
After regrouping on Sherbrooke, demonstrators marched down St. Denis and clashed for a second time with police on René Lévesque.
Beer bottles and rocks were thrown as demonstrators scattered before charging riot police.
The crowd dispersed at around 12:00 a.m.
Small altercations between police and demonstrators continued throughout the night.
Around 60 protestors were arrested at 1:30 a.m. on the corner of St. Dominique and des Pins after being kettled an hour and a half earlier.
According to the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), a total of 85 people were arrested.
Beauchamp accused CLASSE of breaking the “truce” she called for on April 23 as a condition for negotiations. Under the “truce,” CLASSE was told not to hold any demonstrations during a 48-hour negotiation period.
Students held a demonstration on the evening of April 24 that ended in a smashed HSBC window and several arrests.
“This demonstration was announced on the site of the student association called the CLASSE,” Beauchamp told reporters in a press conference the next day.
“We cannot pretend today that they have dissociated themselves. I consider therefore that the CLASSE has excluded itself from the negotiation table,” continued Beauchamp.
Three smoke bombs were also detonated on the morning of April 25, one each in the Lionel-Groulx and Henri-Bourassa metro stations, and one in the Complexe Desjardins.
Students’ Society of McGill University vice-president external Joël Pedneault said excluding CLASSE “is possibly the worst move [the government] could have done at this stage.”
“At least in Montreal, the vast majority of student activists and people who are involved in the strike are with CLASSE and support CLASSE, so it definitely won’t reduce the amount of conflict related to the strike,” said Pedneault.
CLASSE, considered the most radical of the major student associations by the government, denounced violence carried out during the 10-week-old student strike, but refused to condemn civil disobedience or acts of self-defense.
Nadeau-Dubois responded to Beauchamp’s offer of a truce on April 23 by neither accepting nor rejecting the offer.
“Spokespeople for CLASSE — of which I am one — don’t have the power to take a position on a truce, nor to constrain the 180,000 students on strike and order them to stop mobilizing,” Nadeau-Dubois said in a press conference on April 23.
“So the truce that she has asked for is de facto in effect,” he added.
Nadeau-Dubois has insisted that CLASSE had not planned any actions this week, and, while Tuesday’s demonstration was announced on the association’s website, CLASSE was not involved in its organization.
Pedneault said CLASSE “could have taken a clearer line” on the truce offer.
“They could have rejected outright the truce and said they’re still going to be at the negotiation table, or something to that effect,”
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Nadeau-Dubois said Beauchamp “doesn’t want to talk about the tuition hike.”
“This decision by Madame Beauchamp is obviously another strategy to sabotage the discussions,” he added.
— With files from Jordan Venton-Rublee
Photo: Alex Pritz/The McGill Daily