Student group urges Quebecers to disobey new law
Published On Mon May 21 2012
Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes demonstrate in Montreal, Sunday night. The protest led to clashes with police and more than 300 arrests.Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Another protest took place on Monday night, this one after Quebec’s largest student group, called the CLASSE, called upon its fellow citizens to disobey the new law.
Police formed lines blocking several sites in the city’s central core, and a key commuter bridge, and quickly declared the protest illegal as marching students tried to get through.
They blocked a major shopping street, Rue Saint Denis, site of major confrontations since Friday, in which 450 people were arrested and a dozen were injured, including one seriously.
The police line led to a face-to-face standoff but there were no clashes this time.
The CLASSE took no responsibility for the weekend violence.
Spokespeople for the CLASSE blamed the government entirely for the social chaos gripping Montreal at night, saying it must immediately withdraw Bill 78.
The government should cancel the bill “before people get injured, before people die,” said spokesperson Gabriel Dubois-Nadeau.
The group is specifically calling for protesters to continue to gather in the streets as they did before the new law, which requires groups of more than 50 people to inform the police at least eight hours in advance of the protest’s time and route. It provides for heavy fines, up to $125,000 for student associations and $35,000 for its leaders if the protest doesn’t conform to those plans.
According to the CLASSE, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives people the right to protest freely without submitting to the constraints of Bill 78, which it expects will be struck down by the courts.
“To submit to this law is to accept it. To accept it is to sanction its contents,” co-spokesperson Jeanne Reynolds said.
The words also appear on a new web site launched to put faces to the individuals they are urging to defy the law. The site, arretezmoiquelquun.com, translates as “somebody arrest me” and is a not-so-subtle taunt at the authorities and the government.
Within a couple hours of its launch on Saturday, the site had over 500 pictures of people expressing the words, “I disobey.”
“If the government wants to attack the CLASSE, its elected representatives and its spokespeople, it will have to attack all those who will sign this online declaration available to all police forces,” said Nadeau-Dubois. “That will simply demonstrate the absurd and inapplicable character of this law.”
Since disobeying the law could lead to very stiff fines for the CLASSE, Nadeau-Dubois also made a formal plea to the public and various sympathetic organizations to donate money to pay for them.
The student strike movement — which is pressing for the government to drop planned tuition hikes — has continued its daily protests for more than three months.
The CLASSE is clearly not only aiming at students with its words and actions. It continues to bleed public support. A CROP poll published on Saturday and conducted at the time of the new law’s passage showed a large majority of Quebecers in favour of it.
“With this law, the government is attacking much more than the student associations,” the web site reads. “It’s attacking the even the possibility every woman and man should have to freely contest the decisions made in her or his name by the political powers.”
The CLASSE compared the new law to that used by authoritarian regimes.
Several other large cities, however, have stricter rules governing protests that that passed by the Quebec government.
In New York, for instance, large demonstrations in public streets require a police permit.
At the press conference given by the CLASSE Monday afternoon, the executive committee members were welcomed as rock stars by a crowd of about 200.
Nadeau-Dubois has become a celebrity in his own right. One woman hugged and kissed him and congratulated him on his work.
“I wanted to thank him for fighting for the society we have been creating and want to create here in Quebec, which is different from the rest of Canada,” said Hélène Jolicoeur, 59.
“Thank-you Gabriel Dubois-Nadeau, thank-you, thank-you, a hundred times thank-you,” she said. “He’s in the process of saving our society.”
The CLASSE invited people to join in a protest organized for Tuesday in Montreal’s entertainment district.
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.