Quebec protests gain high profile support

May 21, 2012, 5:20 AM

MONTREAL (AP) – Quebec’s student protest movement gained some high-profile supporters in the fight against tuition fee increases over the weekend as anger mounted and demonstrations continued against a new law aimed at curbing the three months of demonstrations. Montreal police arrested more than 180 people on Sunday night.

Quebec’s provincial government passed an emergency law Friday restricting protests, including a requirement that police be informed eight hours before and told the route of any demonstration that includes 50 or more people. Demonstrations were held again Sunday, including a rowdy evening march, for the 27th night in a row.

The new law has only served to fuel the student movement.

The nightly demonstration was quickly declared illegal by police after it started at around 8:30 p.m. after objects were thrown at police, said Sgt. Ian Lafreniere early Monday.

A first group of protesters was cornered and 110 people were arrested. As the demonstration continued, more arrests were made after demonstrators climbed on police and civilian vehicles, causing damage, he said.

The previous night’s protest also ended with dozens of arrests as police clashed with protesters.

Student groups have panned the law and said they would challenge it in court and continue demonstrations.

A major demonstration is scheduled Tuesday to mark the 100th day of protest. Montreal police said more than 200 demonstrations have taken place since the student movement began in February. More than 300 arrests have been made in the last week.

The movement also gained celebrity support. Montreal indie rockers 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.

Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore also gave his support to the students, featuring links about the issue on his website.

The conflict has caused considerable social upheaval in the French-speaking province known for having more contentious protests than elsewhere in Canada.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest has refused to roll back the tuition hikes of $254 per year over seven years. Quebec has the lowest tuition rates in Canada, but even after such an 80 percent increase, it would remain among the lowest in the country.

While the new legislation aimed at stopping the protests is unpopular among students and rights groups, a poll published the day after legislation was passed showed two-thirds of Quebecers supported it.

The U.S. consulate in Montreal last month warned visitors and U.S. expatriates to be wary of demonstrations.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Quebec protests gain high profile support