A mass protest in Montreal against austerity measures ended with tear gas, rubber bullets, and six arrests Thursday as the mostly student-led demonstrations defied measures calling the protest "illegal."
Tens of thousands of students and their supporters filled the streets for the first time since the "Maple Spring" protests of 2012 in opposition to rising tuition costs swept Quebec.
The protest on Thursday came in opposition to the 2014 provincial budget, which critics say inflicts painful austerity.
Montreal police declared the protest illegal before it began, claiming organizers did not seek approval for the route of the protest march.
Police eventually employed tear gas, pepper spray, projectile launchers, batons and shields against the growing crowds that flooded the streets of the city, CBC News reports.
Student group Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), one of the driving forces behind the 2012 protest movement, led Thursday's demonstrations. Those organizers also expressed anger over the ruling party, Parti Quebecois, who came into power with the support of the student movement, only to split with the demands of the students once they held power. CTV News reports:
[premier Pauline Marois] and the PQ had supported student protests in 2012 and she had even marched in a demonstration, banging a pot. PQ members also wore the red square symbol of the student movement during the protests.
However, many students were dissatisfied with Marois' solution of lowering the proposed tuition fee increases instead of cancelling them altogether [...]
The protesters blame the PQ for increasing the cost of public services, education and electricity.
About 60,000 students went on strike Thursday, ASSÉ spokesperson Justin Arcand told the crowd.
In a few days Quebecers are heading to the polls, but the majority of those protesting say they have been left without a solid choice.
"For students carrying placards demanding more social housing, lower electricity costs, less surveillance, no pipelines or oil exploration, and an end to cuts in social services, all three leaders were one and the same," the Montreal Gazette reports.
"They are all right wing and they all want to privatize," a law student at Université de Montréal told the Montreal Gazette. "And they all want to make the poor pay more, instead of the rich."
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