MONTREAL - Quebec's student movement gained some high-profile supporters over the weekend in the fight against tuition fee increases as anger mounted against a new law aimed at curbing violent protests.
In a gesture that sent the online world into a frenzy, Montreal's Arcade Fire wore the movement's iconic red squares during an appearance with Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live.
Twitter erupted with questions about the meaning of the fashion statement, while student backers praised the move.
"Arcade Fire musicians wear red squares on live TV while singing with Mick Jagger," read one tweet. "Quebec student strike is going global!"
The star activist and filmmaker Michael Moore also gave his support to the students, featuring links about the issue prominently on his website.
"Their uprising is inspiring," he tweeted to over a million followers. "One of the most amazing mass protests of the year."
The international hacker collective Anonymous took an interest as well, releasing two videos denouncing the legislation and the planned tuition increases.
The group, which regularly hacks into government websites around the world, warned of future actions against the Quebec government.
"Resistance is futile," a computer-modulated voice stated in one video. "The hour of war has come."
The website for the Quebec Liberal party and the province's Education Ministry were down for portions of the weekend in an apparent cyber attack. Anonymous didn't claim responsibility.
The newfound support came during a weekend marked by clashes between protesters and police. The unrest reached a climax in a bonfire of plastic traffic cones and construction materials lit during a melee on a busy downtown street.
Meanwhile, police came under criticism over an altercation caught on video that shows patrons on a bar patio getting pepper sprayed.
Surveillance footage, played in a loop Sunday on one of Quebec's all-news stations, shows several people sprayed by riot police at close range. Customers are seen scrambling to get inside the bar as a police officer knocks over tables and chairs.
Another video from a local TV station shows the officers took action after one was hit by a flying chair. The chair was then flung back toward the patio.
The bar owner said police went too far and he's considering taking legal action.
"People were falling on each running inside to get away from the pepper spray, breaking things, and then people left by the back exit," said Martin Guimond, who runs the Saint Bock brasserie in the city's lively Latin Quarter. His waitress was initially going to call 911 after it happened.
"And then she said, 'But wait, it's the police that are doing this,'" Guimond recalled. "That's when you realize there's a total loss of security."
Police didn't return a request Sunday for comment about the incident, which occurred only steps from where the fires were earlier set.
Police were newly armed with Bill 78 for the weekend protests. The law passed last week lays out regulations governing demonstrations of over 50 people. It includes requiring organizers to give eight hours' notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they're being held.
The City of Montreal also adopted a new bylaw that threatens protesters who wear masks with heavy fines. But it failed to deter dozens of protesters from wearing masks Saturday on Sunday night, and police said they would use the new law with discretion.
The legislation was intended to restore order and put an end to three months of student protests, but it appears only to have given the movement momentum.
Demonstrations were held again Sunday, including a rowdy evening march for the 27th night in a row.
It remains unclear to what extent police will enforce the new law — or whether they even can.
Montreal police appeared to take a tougher stance on the weekend than previously seen during the nightly marches. The march was almost immediately declared illegal on Sunday because, police said, they weren't provided with a protest route and projectiles were thrown at police.
Police took swifter action Sunday than the previous night, using sound grenades in an effort to disperse the crowd about an hour after the march started.