Quebec Student Protests Switch Gears For Summer With Pillow Fights And Pamphlets

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Quebec student protesters are coming up with new ways of getting their message out as they try to keep up the momentum during the summer months. (Shutterstock) | Shutterstock

MONTREAL - With barbecues and beachfronts beckoning, Quebec students fighting tuition increases are turning to election-style campaign tactics and more creative forms of protest to sustain support for their cause during the summer months.

Student leaders readily admit demonstrations will probably be smaller over the summer due to all the potential distractions, especially given that many students take on full-time jobs and others head back to their hometowns.

That's already been the case at the nightly protest marches in Montreal, which have been ending earlier and seen lower turnouts in recent days.

The challenge, student leaders say, will be to keep up the momentum for what promises to be a tumultuous fall in Quebec.

Martine Desjardins, the president of one student group, says her members are planning an information blitz to explain to Quebecers why they're against the province's planned tuition increase.

Students will be going door-to-door and handing out pamphlets at festivals as part of the campaign, she said.

"We will be reaching out at public events," she said in an interview. "It will be an information campaign, but there will still be lots of protests."

On Sunday, only about two dozen student protesters took part in a pillow fight at Montreal park in support of their cause.

There were countless more people scattered throughout the park on a sunny afternoon — sunbathing, practicing yoga and sharing picnic lunches.

One of the organizers said there would have been more protesters a month ago.

"It's certain that the movement risks to going into hibernation in July and August, but that doesn't mean the movement is dead or people don't care about it," said Marjolaine Poirier, a student at Universite de Montreal.

The protest movement, which has featured everything from clanging pots and pans to nudity, has already gained a reputation for creativity and flair. More unusual events like the pillow fight could help keep the protests fresh — and in the public eye.

The pillow fight ended with the smashing of a pinata of Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Inside were brown envelopes containing chocolate prizes, along with sheets of paper describing corruption allegations against the Charest government.

Student leaders have accused Charest of using the student conflict as a way to distract Quebecers from those allegations. Opinion polls suggest most Quebecers side with Charest on the student issue, though many would like an election to help put an end to the dispute.

Following a weekend meeting for her student group, Desjardins said Sunday that student protesters would be ready to fight against Charest when he finally calls an election.

She also didn't rule out the possibility the student strike would continue when classes resume in the fall, after a summer of sustained protest.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesman for another student group, outlined similar tactics for the summer.

He said his group, CLASSE, is organizing major protests — one next week and one in July — to rally support. Members will also be handing out material at festivals in Montreal and around the province.

"We will try to take advantage of all public events and be there to mobilize the population," he said.

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