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Massive Arrests Follow Student Protests In Canada

Montreal police and protesters face off on Wednesday during a demonstration against student tuition hikes.
Andre Tremblay
AFP/Getty Images
Montreal police and protesters face off on Wednesday during a demonstration against student tuition hikes.

Protests in Montreal and Quebec resulted in the arrest of almost 700 people overnight.

The Toronto Star reports that the demonstrators protested tuition fee increases and they've been ongoing for about three months. But, yesterday, police rounded up hundreds of protesters — 518 in Montreal alone.

The Star reports:

"Riot squad officers had been marching on the sidewalk beside the front of the protest all evening. An order to disperse was given when it arrived at Sherbrooke Street because police had been pelted by projectiles and other criminal acts had been committed, Montreal police spokesman Daniel Lacoursiere said. The group had also apparently resisted going in a direction ordered by police."

The Montreal Gazette reports that last night's protest was the 30th consecutive march and it started with about "3,000 people walking, chanting and feeling united."

The Gazette reports that the protests went from peaceful to chaotic as police used a tactic known as "kettling" to surround the demonstrators and limit their exits.

The Guardian explains that while the protests have been centered on tuition increases — reported by the AFP to amount to an 82 percent increase over five years — they have morphed into gatherings in opposition of Bill 78, which was hurried through by legislators in Quebec in response to the nightly protests.

"The bill imposes severe restrictions on protests, making it illegal for protesters to gather without having given police eight hours' notice and securing a permit," The Guardian notes.

This morning, the Gazette reports, Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said the government and students are ready to talk to reach "'a definitive agreement' that will end Quebec's social crisis and get students back to school after a boycott of classes that's in its 102nd day."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.