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Concordia accommodates supporters, but marches clash with police

Photo: Andrej Ivanov/The Concordian

MONTREAL (CUP) — What seemed to be a relatively peaceful protest ended abruptly when riot police engaged protesting students by deploying pepper spray, tear gas, and stun grenades to break up a March 27 demonstration in Montreal.

Protestors met with riot police at Dominion Square during Friday’s march after the protest was deemed illegal, an hour after it started.

Riot police were sent in to split up and disperse the thousands of protestors that gathered. Police officers later kettled in three small groups of protestors around Sainte Catherine Street and got them to disperse.

According to the Montreal Gazette, one arrest has been confirmed for assault of an officer.

March 23 was the first day of student anti-austerity strikes in Montreal, with five Concordia University faculties boycotting their classes and having their act partially validated by the university’s decision to cancel classes.

Undergraduate classes for the fine arts, philosophy, geography, women’s studies, and community and public affairs were cancelled by the school, which billed the move as a “day of dialogue.” Graduate students in philosophy were also part of the strike.

The university administration said the first strike would be the only one officially sanctioned.

Read more: Protest ends with riot police intervention
Read more: Concordia students boycott classes

A previous altercation happened when a march stopped in the middle of an intersection, with a group of people taunting officers with police tape. The scuffle ended as quickly as it started, with police officers pepper-spraying the crowd and the protestors pushing into them, but finally stepping back.

The protest started peacefully at Parc Émilie-Gamelin, where students gathered to start the second night of protests against austerity measures. Many crowded around the entrance of a metro station, chatting and playing music. As protestors gathered to start the march, the protest was deemed legal, as long as the direction of traffic was obeyed. The crowd met the police announcement with jeering and curses.

Protestors marched, chanting and singing through the streets of Montreal. One of those chants included a French translation of “We stole nothing! You steal lives!” The chant, directed at police, is a new twist on the protestors’ previous chant. It mirrors the motto of the public syndicates’ protest against cuts in their retirement funds.

The march snaked through the streets, winding across Montreal’s downtown core, sometimes following the direction of traffic, and other times walking amongst the cars. At times, drivers were honking and cheering in support.

Montreal has seen many protests in the last week with many more scheduled, including a major march on April 2. Larger province-wide public protests are ramping up for April and May, and student organizations will have plenty of time to either continue with additional strikes or join the movement.

How this will affect the successful completion of the semester for certain faculties is unknown.