Montreal Protesters Set Fires, Rally Against Controversial New Quebec Law

CP  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/20/2012 2:55 am

A plan to restore order in Montreal appeared to erupt in smoke late Saturday, with a fiery blockades blazing on busy downtown streets.

Groups of protesters built pyres from plastic traffic cones, setting them ablaze, and in at least one case added a barricade made of construction materials.

Police charged protesters and repeatedly warned that they would be incarcerated throughout the weekend unless they dispersed.

Late Saturday night they had reported more than 30 arrests.

Some bystanders accused the police of using excessive force on a crowd whose members were mostly peaceful.

Meanwhile, the protest has spread beyond borders.

In New York, members of the Montreal-based rock band “Arcade Fire” wore the movement’s iconic red squares during an appearance on Saturday Night Live. A day earlier, players in Quebec’s film industry were sporting them at the Cannes Film Festival.

The scenes unfolded on Quebec’s first full day under emergency legislation designed to end months of unrest.

Just one day after becoming law, protesters were already finding creative ways around the controversial legislation.

In an attempt to avoid hefty fines, one prominent student group took down its web page Saturday that listed all upcoming protests. Another anonymous web page with listings quickly popped up in its place — with a note discouraging people from attending.

The disclaimer is meant to evade new rules applying to protest organizers, who must provide an itinerary for demonstrations and could be held responsible for any violence.

The website also accepts submissions for future protests and suggests using a software that blocks a sender’s digital trail.

In another online manoeuvre, the website for the Quebec Liberal Party and the province’s Education Ministry were down for most of Saturday in an apparent cyber attack.

While no one claimed responsibility, the hacker group Anonymous has taken an interest. The group wrote on Twitter that Bill 78 “must die” and later issued a video denouncing the law.

Meanwhile, Montreal police were trying to figure out how to use the legislation without heightening tensions during the city’s nightly marches through the city.

Spokesman Ian Lafreniere said the force was still considering its options.

“I’ve got a lot of people working on it now,” Mr. Lafreniere said in an interview. “We don’t want to cause a commotion, we want to prevent one.”

Mr. Lafreniere said decisions would not be at headquarters, not by individual officers on street.

He said police would likely set up a website or e-mail address where organizers could submit planned protest routes.

Bill 78 lays out strict regulations governing demonstrations of over 50 people, including having to give eight hours’ notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they are being held.

Failure to comply could bring stiff penalties for the organizers, but the law could be difficult to enforce.

A late night protest has started in the same downtown square at 8:30 p.m. every night for nearly a month. There’s no clear organizer for the march, and the route is determined by the marchers on a street by street basis.

Still, the law says that student associations who don’t encourage their members to comply with the law could face punishment. Fines range between $7,000 and $35,000 for student leaders and between $25,000 and $125,000 for student unions or student federations.

Bill 78 isn’t the only new legislation available to police.

The City of Montreal adopted a new bylaw Friday giving stiff fines to protesters wearing masks. Mr. Lafreniere said the legislation, which came into effect Saturday, gives police “another tool” when dealing with the demonstrations.

After facing heavy criticism from legal experts and civil liberties groups, the Quebec government took steps Saturday to defend controversial legislation by taking out full page ads in the local newspapers.

The headline read, “For the sake of democracy and citizenship.”

An opinion poll released Saturday suggested the majority of Quebecers supported the new measures. The survey was taken, however, before the specifics of the legislation were known.

Earlier on HuffPost:

Quick Poll

Do you support these new measures?

VOTE




Loading Slideshow...
  • Student Protests

  • Student Protests

    Protesters watch a fire during a demonstration in Montreal, Saturday, May 19, 2012. A plan to restore order in Montreal appeared to erupt in smoke late Saturday, with a fiery blockades blazing on busy downtown streets.(AP Photo/Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)

  • Student Protests

    Protesters start a fire during a demonstration in Montreal, Saturday, May 19, 2012. A plan to restore order in Montreal appeared to erupt in smoke late Saturday, with a fiery blockades blazing on busy downtown streets.(AP Photo/Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)

  • Student Protests

    Protesters start a fire during a demonstration in Montreal, Saturday, May 19, 2012. A plan to restore order in Montreal appeared to erupt in smoke late Saturday, with a fiery blockades blazing on busy downtown streets.(AP Photo/Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)



Loading Slideshow...
  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images

  • Rogerio Barbosa -- AFP/Getty Images



FOLLOW CANADA POLITICS

Filed by Jacqueline Delange  |