The Shirt Off My Back!! Canadian Students Strip In Protest Of Tuition Raises
Hundreds of protestors – many of them naked – flooded Montreal city centre last night to demonstrate against planned tuition fee rises.
They were attempting to disrupt the celebrations surrounding this weekend’s Montreal Grand Prix by crashing a Formula One party for F1 officials and teams.
Thousands of men and women stripped to protest planned tuition hikes and embarrass the hosts of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
Protesters told reporters they were naked for a number of reasons:to show the government they have been transparent in their demands to freeze tuition fees, to garner more media attention to their cause, and to discourage police from handling them roughly.
But despite the students baring all, riot police still used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to break up the crowds, eventually arresting nearly 40 people. Still, blazing sirens, revving engines and hovering helicopters did nothing to dampen the protesters’ mood – the crowds dispersed only when it started to rain on their parade.
Montreal police spokesperson Ian Lafreniere said most people were arrested because police had reason to believe they were preparing to commit crimes and damage property.
Since February, hundreds of protesters have been arrested and clashes have erupted sporadically as more than 165,000 students have refused to attend class and tens of thousands have taken part in nightly demonstrations.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest, whose popularity has plummeted over the crisis, had earlier expressed anger at the direct threats against the Grand Prix.
“When we attack the Grand Prix, it’s not the Quebec government that people are assaulting, it’s all Quebecers,”Charest said.
The protests and media attention have already put a dent in the global sporting event, which usually generates nearly $100 million in revenue for the city, but has lagged on ticket sales this year.
The protest turned ugly when police confronted the protestors with stun grenades and truncheons, and used pepper spray to disperse the crowds.
Around 300 Canadian protestors marched through Montreal’s streets in the latest protest, which is aimed at a 1,778 Canadian dollars (£1,113) per year increase in student fees, as well as a controversial new law that requires protestors to give police eight hours warning before demonstrations.
The demonstrations have been repeated over the past week, but last night’s saw a much stronger police presence as protestors tried to cause havoc in downtown areas where F1 bosses and tourists were gearing up for the weekend’s racing.
Pepper spray and a stun grenade were used on demonstrators attempting to crash a street party, and police were seen chasing others through the streets bearing truncheons.
At least 20 people were arrested during the march. A police spokesman said protestors had thrown things at police, including a molotov cocktail.
Officers also detained a large group of protestors for around an hour, just 100 metres from the glamorous F1 gala party near the city’s riverside.
Around 300,000 people are due to attend the weekend’s Grand Prix, including many wealthy tourists who have flown in for the event.
The race is one of the biggest events in Canada’s social calendar.
Anti-capitalist group CLAC have threatened more disruption over the weekend, promising to target Crescent Street, traditionally the most popular area of town during proceedings.
A statement on CLAC’s website said: ‘Nightly protests will disrupt this crass elite at play in [the west part of] downtown every night.’
And from the street….