Amir Khadir Arrested: Quebec Politician Arrested At Student Protest Inspired By Gandhi, Dr. King

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AMIR KHADIR ARREST
Amir Khadir was ticketed $494 for blocking a road and violating a highway-safety code. | CP

QUEBEC - A member of the Quebec legislature, arrested and fined at a student protest, says his actions are inspired by the work of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Amir Khadir was detained Tuesday night and ticketed $494 for blocking a road and violating a highway-safety code.

The sole elected member of the tiny left-wing Quebec solidaire, Khadir is in some ways taking after his teenage daughter — who was also detained at a recent protest.

His other sources of inspiration are more famous.

Khadir says his protest against tuition hikes, and against the province's special law limiting protests, is modelled on historic acts of civil disobedience.

"I'm doing what Martin Luther King would have done — what Gandhi would have done," Khadir told reporters Wednesday in Quebec City. He said he wasn't comparing himself to the legendary Indian and American civil-rights leaders, but said he considered them his "models."

"For a people, for a parliamentarian, it is an honour to stand up — and not to accept injustice."

Khadir will contest the fine.

He said it's inconceivable that people are being handcuffed and ticketed for marching illegally, while members of the provincial government are accused of having Mafia ties. A corruption inquiry has just begun in the scandal-weary province.

Khadir was caught in a police dragnet Tuesday night as student protesters were surrounded and detained in the provincial capital. He stayed calm during his detention but said he was surprised at the manner in which protesters were held by police.

He was among dozens of people rounded up in Quebec City during a nighttime march against tuition fee increases and a new provincial law putting limits on demonstrations.

Marie-Eve Painchaud, a Quebec City police spokeswoman, said the arrests were carried out under the provincial highway code because the demonstrators were blocking traffic.

"They went in a different direction than expected," she said of the march, which was mainly peaceful.

Khadir, who has attended several of the demonstrations, stood quietly as riot-equipped police waited to escort him to a nearby city bus where the detained protestors were being held. The politician, who was dressed in a jacket and tie, then sat calmly on the bus with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Christian Dubois, Khadir's media spokesman, was able to speak to Khadir while he was detained on the bus, waiting to receive a ticket with his fine before being released.

"He said he was shocked that people were handcuffed," Dubois said. "He said people didn't need to be handcuffed for a traffic violation."

Dubois said Khadir had just left the legislature on his bicycle when he heard the demonstrators banging pots and pans and decided to join them. He was scooped up shortly afterward. The police had declared the march illegal moments before and said they issued several warnings to disperse.

Khadir isn't the only member of his family to be arrested during the student demonstrations.

His daughter was nabbed by police as she and a group of protesters tried to block a key commuter bridge in Montreal last month.

Francoise David, who is co-leader of Quebec solidaire with Khadir, said in a telephone interview she is proud of Khadir's social activism and decried the police action.

She said she has participated in student demonstrations in several cities, including Montreal, in the same way and not had any problems. David said police in those circumstances had the wisdom to let the marches continue as long as they were peaceful.

"Why did the Quebec City police decide it was necessary to interrupt a peaceful march and give tickets, as I understand it, for violating the highway code?" she asked. "It's completely ridiculous. They have better things to do."

David pointed out it's normal for people to express their dissatisfaction and they should be allowed to do it as long as they're peaceful. She said she hoped Khadir's arrest and that of a student negotiator a few weeks ago as he left a negotiating session with the government would give police pause for thought.

"I hope there will be some reflection in certain police forces because this type of arrest is truly arbitrary and completely useless."

On Wednesday night, marches in Montreal and Quebec City appeared to go much more smoothly.

In Montreal, hundreds of marchers took to the street for the 44th night in a row, in what police immediately declared an illegal march but let it continue.

Peaceful protesters snaked around Montreal streets clanging pots and pans and briefly holding a sit-in at a busy intersection in the city's Plateau district.

Protests in solidarity were also held in Chicago and New York, where protesters reported a number of arrests, some caught live on video.

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