NEWS

Montreal to ban masks at protests

05/07/2012 05:04 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay says the city will introduce new rules which would forbid protesters from wearing masks.

The rules will be part of a new city bylaw which will be voted on at city hall next month.

In addition to a ban on masks at certain types of protests, the rules would force march organizers to share their route with police beforehard or risk having their demonstration declared illegal. In addition, fines for breaking protest rules would increase under the bylaw.

Tremblay said his goal is to make protests safer and to prevent violence.

The announcement comes a day after a Conservative MP unveiled a bill that would give police the power to arrest anyone hiding their identity during a riot or unlawful assembly.

Masks and covered faces have been a common sight at recent protests in Montreal, including at many of the recent demonstrations against the province's planned tuition hike.

But some say a law banning masks does nothing but target those who are not committing violence.

"If someone is burning a car, if someone is smashing a window, and they're wearing a mask, the mask could be an aggravating factor, but the police already have plenty of authority to arrest and prosecute that person," said Jacob Levy, a professor of political theory at McGill University.

Police conduct targeted

While the city is targeting the conduct of protesters, one Quebec student group is targeting the conduct of police during a violent protest last Friday.

The CLASSE student group said it's considering filing a complaint against police after six protesters and three police officers were injured in clashes during a violent demonstration outside the provincial Liberal Party's general council meeting on Friday in Victoriaville, Que.

Two demonstrators were severely injured and are still in hospital. One has lost complete use of his eye, while the other is suffering from a head injury.

Officials at the hospital in Trois Rivières, Que., said their condition, however, has improved since Sunday.

CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said there was no need for excessive police force, and his group is investigating the incident.

"We have people working full time on trying to talk to everyone who was injured and we are looking at what the police were supposed to do," said Nadeau-Dubois.

"(There) are no excuses to target people in the head with rubber bullets in a democratic society."

CLASSE is calling on witnesses to come forward with photos or videos of the protest.

Students staged a protest in Montreal Monday afternoon to denounce police violence. At least seven protests are planned throughout the province on Monday.

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