Correction appended March 28
After almost two hours, a student blockade of the Port of Montreal was broken up by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM). According to the CBC, the police used pepper spray and sound grenades to disperse the students. The students continued marching through the nearby streets where they joined a second demonstration that was scheduled to begin this afternoon at Place Émelie-Gamelin.
The protest began with almost 600 students gathering in front of the Cégep de Maisonneuve. The action was organized by the Société générale des étudiantes et étudiants du Collège de Maisonneuve as part of the ongoing week of economic disruptions in protest of the upcoming tuition hikes.
The students began marching east away from the Cégep at 10 a.m. The students then turned onto Pie-IX and marched down to the Port of Montreal entrance at the intersection with Notre-Dame.
The students blockaded the port peacefully for over an hour, chanting and talking with workers in the Lantic Sugar factory on the corner of the intersection. Police presence was minimal, with a few squad cars closing access to the intersection blocks away and directing traffic.
As with every other action this week, details were kept secret from the majority of the protestors. The Coalition Large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) has been coordinating the week of actions, and McGill students have been designating a “risk level” for every action in terms of the possibility of violence or confrontation with police or other security forces. This morning’s blockade was at a yellow risk level.
Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, a Concordia Political Science and School of Community and Public Affairs student, said he had no idea what the action was supposed to be when he came, “but when I got here I thought that it was a very well-chosen action.”
“A lot of political actors or economic actors have interests in this Port. They’ll definitely be asking the government to make this stop,” he added. “I hope there are other blockades planned for the future. It’s definitely an efficient action that we’re doing today.”
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, CLASSE spokesperson, said the recent outburst of student action has put added pressure on the provincial government.
“Yesterday [Quebec Premier] Jean Charest spoke about the question of loans and bursaries. Obviously it’s not enough to make us go back to class, but it does nevertheless prove that the government is slowly weakening its position,” said Nadeau-Dubois.
Richard Choquette was blockaded inside the Port this morning driving a Lantic Sugar tanker. He said the blockade was “not a problem.”
“I called the company I’m supposed to deliver it to, and they understand I can’t get through and it’s OK,” he said in French.
Choquette added that, when he was a student, he had protested for Quebec sovereignty.
“It’s true that in those times we had less money when we were student,” he said. “Today’s students are going to become the taxpayers of tomorrow.”
– with files from Erin Hudson
In an earlier version of this article, it stated that CLASSE has been assigning risk levels for each action. The Daily regrets the error.