MONTREAL — Events got out of hand at a tuition protest in Victoriaville at around 6:45 p.m. Friday as demonstrators stormed past barriers, tossing rocks and other projectiles while police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Four SQ police officers were hurt, two seriously, and seven demonstrators were also injured in the clashes. The extent of the protesters’ injuries were not immediately known. One person was brought to hospital suffering a head injury. At least two police vehicles were vandalized.
The protesters had been transported in about 30 buses to make their voices heard at the Quebec Liberal Party annual convention, taking place this weekend.
The demonstrators dismantled the barriers, which had been placed far from the convention centre and advanced towards the hotel, tossing projectiles in the form of billiard balls, chunks of cement and rocks.
Police helicopters hovered low atop a cloud of tear gas, as visibility was diminished. Many on the ground, including CTV Montreal reporter Laura Casella were caught in the crossfire and choked by the gaseous fumes (see video at right).
Police representative Jean Finet later confirmed that rubber bullets and other impact weapons had been employed in an effort to push the more aggressive demonstrators back.
The scuffles lasted about two hours and included an exchange in which a police officer was attacked and beaten by some of the estimated 2,500 demonstrators after a police car advanced towards the crowd, presumably to help the other officer. A police official later reported that the officer did not suffer serious injuries.
Protesters were eventually forced to withdraw but tensions remained high after the initial skirmish
Some demonstrators who had hoped to protest peacefully reportedly fought with other of their more aggressive brethren over the direction that the protest had taken.
The situation eventually calmed down after rain started falling and many of the aggressive troublemakers were rounded up.
Eventually people were allowed in and out of the hotel after several hours of all doors being locked.
Provincial police were not immediately able to supply details concerning arrests but busloads of rounded-up demonstrators were apparently being brought for police processing late Friday.
According to several text entries on Twitter, some buses transporting protesters out of Victoriaville after the protests Friday were stopped by police attempting to round up more suspects.