400 arrested in Quebec at demo against ban on mass protests

May 24, 2012

Canadian students rally against Bill 78, which forces demonstrators to seek police permission for marches

Getty Images

POLICE arrested 400 people in Montreal in the early hours of the morning during an illegal protest to contest Bill 78, a law banning spontaneous mass demonstrations throughout Quebec, reports AFP.

More than a quarter of a million people took part in protests in downtown Montreal, claim student organisers, CLASSE, which called the demonstrations the "biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history". The Montreal Gazette estimated attendance at closer to 100,000.

The march, which began as two separate demonstrations on Tuesday at 2pm, grew to a large-scale protest within 90 minutes. Some demonstrators threw rocks at police, according to AFP. Police said the march would have been allowed to continue if it had not turned violent later on in the evening.

One protester Magdalena Olszanowski, said she was arrested, handcuffed and left on a bus in a makeshift holding cell for six hours. She explained on Twitter that she had begged the police to let her urinate as she felt sick, but the officers "snickered" and said "Too bad". She said she was forced to relieve herself on the bus.

The 'emergency bill', passed on Friday by Quebec state legislators in response to four months of student protests against rising tuition fees, requires anyone planning a demonstration which will attract more than 50 people to give police eight hours' notice and a precise intinerary before their march.

"We want to make the point that there are tens of thousands of citizens who are against this law who think that protesting without asking for a permit is a fundamental right," CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told Canadian broadcasters CBC.

Human rights professor Louis-Philippe Lampron called the anti-protest bill "draconian" while others said it was a breach of the constitutional right to assemble.

Anyone found breaking Bill 78, faces a $5,000 fine, while repeat offenders could see their penalties doubled. Organisations risk fines of $125,000 for breaking the law.

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