Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Students Stage New Protests after Tuition Talks Fail: Quebec Students Stage Protest over Tuition

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Students Stage New Protests after Tuition Talks Fail: Quebec Students Stage Protest over Tuition

Article excerpt

MONTREAL - For three days, there was the faintest sign of potential that Quebec's student unrest might find an imminent and peaceful resolution.

Any such hope was dashed Wednesday as talks broke off between the provincial government and Quebec's main student groups.

Their three-day attempt at negotiation was always a long shot: the sides were an ideological chasm apart, with the government refusing to back down on tuition hikes and student groups demanding exactly that, and perhaps more.

So the discussion ended as it began -- with riotous scenes in the streets of downtown Montreal, numerous smashed windows, scuffles between police and protesters, and no solution in sight.

The unravelling began with an uproarious protest in Montreal late Tuesday that saw five arrests, an injured police officer and the window of a bank smashed.

There were more disruptions Wednesday morning.

A pair of smoke bombs tossed in the Montreal subway system slowed down service, while there were several protests in the city. One of them saw student demonstrators team up with laid-off workers to block the street outside an Air Canada shareholders' meeting.

Those events were taking place despite the so-called "truce" declared by the Quebec government and student leaders.

The sides had been meeting in Quebec City, hoping to hammer out some sort of compromise on the contentious issue of tuition hikes.

Given that the groups had agreed to stop organizing any disruptive actions during the talks, the latest events prompted questions about whether the student leaders actually control the movement they've spearheaded.

Education Minister Line Beauchamp said the fact that those protests were announced on the website of the most hardline student group -- nicknamed the C.L.A.S.S.E. -- made it clear they were not to be trusted at the negotiating table.

She said student groups were supposed to abide by the ultimatum she had issued earlier this week: Rein in the rowdy protests, or be excluded from talks.

"You can't play both sides," Beauchamp said.

"I regret that this C.L.A.S.S.E. has chosen its camp."

She booted the hardline group out of the negotiations. Within minutes, the two other student groups at the table voiced their solidarity with the C.L.A.S.S.E. and announced they were also walking away.

Minutes later, there were protesters spilling into the streets of Montreal and Quebec City. By day's end, thousands were marching in Montreal, denouncing the Charest government and demanding general elections.

A few members of the crowd masked themselves. Some fired paintballs. Cars were vandalized. Windows were smashed at several banks and other businesses. Police responded by pepper-spraying protesters and media in their path -- a response some protesters called excessive.

Even a downtown police station was attacked by protesters. A Twitter post from police read, "The windows of (station) 21 . …

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