Disruptions, riot police as Quebec universities reopen

MONTREAL — The calm of summer is being shattered with the return to school of Quebec universities, where some classes are being disrupted as students disobey the back-to-school law.

Chaotic scenes, which are reminiscent of those seen across the province in the spring, have suddenly flared up this morning after a relatively quiet summer.

Masked protesters at the Universite de Montreal warned a news photographer that he had better not try taking pictures of them: “Be careful,” she told him. “They’re going to take care of you.”

The provincial emergency law, known as Bill 78, sets stiff fines for people who block classrooms.

The vast majority of Quebec’s students have voted to end their strikes, and the student unrest has hardly been an issue in the current provincial election campaign.

But today’s events, as universities reopen, are a flashback to events that captured international attention last spring.

The return to junior college had occurred with tranquility in recent days but today’s reopening of universities saw showdowns at the Universite de Montreal and the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

At the U of M there is a showdown between security and a few dozen protesters, mostly wearing masks. Lines of guards are protecting a hallway to allow classes to continue. The protesters, meanwhile, are holding votes amongst themselves about whether to charge the line of guards. Riot police have arrived in the hallway to clear the area.

At UQAM, small groups of masked protesters, armed with lists, are seeking out classrooms in faculties where students voted to remain on strike. They are interrupting the classes by shouting and shutting off the lights. Some of the classes are being cancelled.

In one psychology class at UQAM, a masked protester attempted to convince another student of the democratic legitimacy of their actions.

“We’re only disrupting classes in departments that voted to strike,” he said.

The student simply turned her back on the protester. The striking students continued to bang on desks and blew an air horn until the professor raised his hands in frustration and cancelled the class.

Several striking students carried a flyer that listed the departments that voted to continue their strike.

On the back of the flyer there are spots for taking down names, the programs and email addresses of students who defy picket lines.

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