03/23/2015 11:10 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT

Quebec student strike launched with downtown protest

Thousands of Quebec students are gearing up for the first day of a series of protests against the province's austerity measures.

They hope the latest wave of demonstrations will be even larger than the ones held during the so-called Maple Spring of 2012.

So far at least 25 student associations from Université de Montréal, UQAM, Laval University, Concordia University, CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal and ​Université du Québec à Chicoutimi​ are taking part.

Many classes, including some at Concordia, were cancelled for today.

Associations representing another 100,000 students are scheduled to hold strike votes in the coming weeks.

Student activists are hoping their initiative will become part of a larger social movement.

"We don't want this to be just a student movement," Charlotte Gilbert, a member of the UQÀM Social Science faculty student association, said recently.

"We are calling on this to be a social movement that brings together militants from local unions, students, and collectives and community groups from across Quebec."

The striking students want Premier Philippe Couillard to back down on planned spending cuts and declare a moratorium on fossil fuel development.

Protesters were scheduled to gather at Phillips Square at 11:30 a.m. to kick off more than a week of daily protests.