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Night of Protest in Montreal after 'Emergency Law'

Police continue to attempt crackdown on 'one of the most amazing mass protests of the year'

Common Dreams staff

Student protesters demonstrate in Montreal, Sunday, May 20, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes

A massive street protest broke out in Montreal for the second night in a row on Sunday, after Quebec Premier Jean Charest pushed through and passed a new 'emergency law' -- an extreme measure aimed at ending a 14 week old student uprising and strike against steep hikes in tuition.

Over 300 people were arrested and over 20 injured overnight after officials immediately denounced the demonstration as illegal because organizers had not given police advance warning as required by the new laws.

Among other rules, the contested 'emergency law' will halt the current spring semester, pushing up summer vacation, and will restart classes in August. The law attempts to render the 14 week old strike useless, framed as an effort to 'restore calm'. The law also institutes severe penalties for anyone who tries to picket or prevent students from entering classrooms.

Shortly after protests broke out, riot police used tear gas and sound grenades on the students.

Police have come under criticism for excessive use of force; many reports have surfaced about an altercation caught on video Saturday night that shows patrons on a bar patio being aggressively pepper sprayed during the protest.

“People were falling on each other 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, reports National Post/Canada.

The students' fight has garnered international attention and does not show signs of stopping.

“Their uprising is inspiring,” tweeted activist filmmaker Michael Moore. “One of the most amazing mass protests of the year.”

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Canada Press: Video shows Montreal police pepper spraying bar patrons

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Agence France-Presse: More than 300 arrested in Quebec student protests

More than 300 people were arrested and 10 injured in a night of clashes between Montreal police and protesters over university tuition hikes, authorities said Monday.

A man in his 40s suffered a serious head injury while being arrested by police who charged protesters after coming under attack, a police spokesman told the daily La Presse.

Four police also were lightly injured during the night of clashes, which ended with the arrests of 305 people, most of whom were later released.

The authorities had declared the protest "illegal" minutes after it began because organizers had not given police advance warning as required by a tough new "special law" enacted Friday.

Student protests have raged here since mid-February over a plan by provincial Premier Jean Charest to raise tuition fees at Quebec universities by 82 percent to rein in a budget deficit.

The conflict escalated Sunday with the passage of the special law putting restrictions on demonstrations and suspending classes at strike-bound universities until mid-August.

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National Press/Canada: Hundreds arrested in Quebec as protesters defy emergency law

As the scenes of unrest played out in the city the movement also gained some celebrity support.

Montreal’s Arcade Fire wore the movement’s iconic red squares during an appearance with Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live. 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 global 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 in Quebec.

“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, however, did not claim responsibility.

The newfound support came during a weekend marked by violence and vandalism. The unrest reached a climax with a blaze of plastic traffic cones and construction materials lit Saturday during a melee on a busy downtown street.

Meanwhile, police came under criticism on Sunday over an altercation caught on video that shows patrons on a bar patio getting pepper sprayed.

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