Thousands of unhappy students and opponents of the Charestgovernment are expected to unite at a mass rally this afternoon ina park at the base of Mount Royal near McGill University for ademonstration organized by hardline student association CLASSE. Organizers are billing it as the first opportunity since talks collapsed Thursday for a large number of supporters to gather in one spot to voicetheir displeasure with the lack of progress in ending a crisis thathas gripped Quebec for nearly four months, and with Bill 78, theprovince's new emergency law that limits protests. Matthew Larose, a 32-year-old construction foreman, says he'llprobably be going to the big demonstration like he has seven of thenighttime marches. He's against both tuition increases and Law 78. |
"If they can do it in Quebec, they can do it everywhere else. Itsets a bad precedent for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly,freedom of everything...and it's disgraceful," he said Fridayduring the 39th night of nightly protests in Montreal. The protest remained peaceful with only two arrests for what policesaid were bylaw infractions. Unrest over Bill 78 Premier Jean Charest's Liberal government passed Bill 78 last monthin hopes of calming student protests, which have at times turnedviolent. Student leaders can face stiff fines under the new law forsupporting illegal demonstrations, and Charest said Friday that itis up to student leaders to establish the parameters of theirprotests.
The government initially tried to exclude the rally's studentorganizers from negotiations over its aggressive approach. Now ithas pounced on CLASSE for invoking the possibility of using theimpending Grand Prix race as a platform for the student cause . CLASSE spokesman, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, said the group would usethe event as a forum to raise its grievances with the province butwould not prevent people from going to the race. Grand Prix concerns At Thursday night's demonstration in Montreal, members of ananti-capitalist group handed out pamphlets calling on demonstratorsto make their presence known during Grand Prix weekend. Charest has accused student groups of "hurting Quebecers" if theydisrupt the international car race, which brings millions ofdollars to the province each year.
He said students, who have spent months striking against a proposedtuition hike, should leave Grand Prix fans alone given thefinancial importance of the race. Business leaders have weighed in, expressing fears that fewertourists will come to Montreal this year after seeing footage ofnightly marches and hundreds of arrests that have been made duringthe demonstrations. Citizens also question whether the nightly police operations willend up costing more than would be realized from the proposed highertuition fees. Charest said it's fine to protest against himself and hisgovernment, but the protesters are ultimately hurting the peoplefrom whom they're seeking support.
"I think they have to examine their consciences when it comes totheir acts," he said Friday while visiting a suburb west ofMontreal.
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