Montreal police arrest 11 people for assault as university tuition protests resume

MONTREAL — Montreal police arrested 11 people at a university today as students staged more protests on the second day of classes.

A spokesman for the city’s police department says the protesters face charges of assaulting officers and security guards at Universite de Montreal.

The alleged incidents took place near the spot where masked protesters clashed with police and security agents yesterday.

Montreal police briefly detained 19 people yesterday at the university for violating provisions of the province’s controversial new protest law.

Bill 78 sets out stiff penalties for protesters who block schools or who fail to provide police with their demonstration itinerary eights hours in advance.

Dozens of demonstrators forced class cancellations yesterday as school resumed at Quebec universities.

At Universite du Quebec a Montreal, in particular, the crowds worked their way from one room to another, emptying classes in any faculty that had voted to keep striking. That led to confrontations with security, staff and those students who wanted to study.

In one incident, a grey-haired teacher physically shoved back a group of masked protesters and kept them from entering his class. Several other teachers simply cancelled courses amid the cacophony. In at least one case, a class was suspended when the students didn’t show up.

The numerous class cancellations marred the first day of school in those university faculties that were returning after having their winter semester aborted by an anti-tuition strike.

In an effort to quell the unrest in the spring, the Liberal government passed Bill 78 which paused the semester for those Quebec students, about one-third of them, who were on strike at the time.

The legislation also required demonstrators to show police their itinerary eight hours in advance, and it set out stiff penalties for protesters who block schools. Critics have slammed the legislation for infringing on the right to protest and call it unconstitutional. It faces several court challenges.

The legislation had been essentially ignored during Montreal’s nightly street demonstrations that lasted throughout the summer, with police opting to detain protesters under municipal bylaws.

But now with schools opening — and with one week left in a provincial election campaign — Montreal police have for the first time taken steps to charge people under the law.

“It is the first time that people have been detained under that law,” Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere said in an interview.

“These people have been released with no conditions. They received a paper mentioning they are under investigation with Law 12 (Bill 78).”

Lafreniere said police also arrested another person for assaulting an officer.

Riot police entered Universite de Montreal after dozens of people wearing masks staged protests inside the school. While the demonstrators also disrupted classes at UQAM, the administration there did not ask police to intervene.

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