A demonstration held to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the largest march of last year’s student strike ended quickly on Friday evening with police kettling. More than 200 protesters were issued tickets for $637.
The demonstration began at Place Émilie-Gamelin at 6:20 p.m. Protesters were blocked by police from marching east on Ste. Catherine, and so started to march east on Maisonneuve. The march was soon declared illegal under municipal by-law P-6, which requires protesters to give the route for large assemblies to police over 24 hours in advance.
Within minutes after the announcement, the police split the group of protesters and kettled two groups, each containing approximately fifty protesters. Others managed to evade capture by running through a mall, darting into stores, or running westwards on Maisonneuve.
Police escorted people from the kettles to a series of STM buses where they were detained, ticketed, and subsequently released.
The mass crackdown by the police is in stark contrast to last year’s protest, which saw over 200,000 students come out to demonstrate against tuition hikes imposed by the Liberal government. That demonstration saw no arrests, injuries, or violence.
This year, students have taken to the streets again to protest the Parti Québécois’ (PQ) new plan to index tuition to inflation. At the education summit on February 26, the PQ announced that they would increase tuition by 3 per cent annually.
Since then, there have been weekly demonstrations, which have all been quickly declared illegal, and have all ended in mass arrests.
The past few weeks have seen a rise in the number of controversial policing techniques. The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) now often immediately resorts to kettling, a tactic that sees mass amounts of demonstrators – and sometimes bystanders – detained for long periods of time.