Concordia students clash with police, isolated violence occurs

Students clashed with police in Montréal Nov. 3 and 4 during demonstrations protesting provincial cuts to education funding. Sparked by cuts of $1.9 billion over six years, members of the Québec chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students, a national lobby group, called for student strikes and protests. Along with the budget cuts, concerns were also raised over ancillary fees, differential fees and the loans and bursaries program.

A three-day student strike was held in the beginning of Nov., corresponding with a protest march on Nov. 3. An estimated 3,000 students, mainly from Concordia University with a large component from McGill University, marched through downtown Montréal. The protest was marred by a confrontation with the police.

"There was an incident," said Concordia Students’ Union Vice-president External Mistie Mullarky. "Five policemen… figured they could effectively hold back 3,000 students from going to a main street, which was incredibly stupid. [After a warning], students just pushed past them and they ended up getting pushed aside."

After the police attempted to detain one student, a small fight between students and police occurred. Mullarky reported that one student suffered a broken wrist. As well, two officers were hurt in the incident–one received lacerations to the face and the other hurt her hip. A police car was also damaged. No one was arrested at the time, and the protest continued downtown with no further incidents.

The student strike continued on Nov. 4, with demonstrations at the Concordia campus. During the protest, students were informed by police that they were too loud and disturbing other students. According to Mullarky, two members of the Concordia Students’ Union, VP Communications Tom Keefer and General Manager Rick Stom, were arrested after refusing to comply with the police.

"They were using megaphones and that was why they were arrested, effectively," said Mullarky. "We were given permission [to use megaphones] by the university and by University Security. The police had no right to come on university property to arrest students or an employee."

After the arrests, students attempted to surround the police van that held the SU members. The police, using batons, dispersed the crowd. One student reportedly received a broken knee cap. The police assert they were within their rights to arrest the students.

"The fact that Concordia University may have given permission [to use megaphones] does not override a municipal bylaw for disturbing the peace," said Media Relations Officer for the Montréal City Police Jean-Pierre Levis. "The bylaw always has power over any permission that the school may give."

Dean of Students for Concordia Donald Boisvert was supportive of the student protests and agreed with many of their concerns.
"We cooperated with the SU in terms of getting this thing under way and we were happy with the way it was administered," said Boisvert. "The university found it rather discouraging that the police behaved the way they did."

Mullarky indicated the Concordia Students’ Union plans to sue the Montréal City Police over the arrest of their members and will engage in more student protests in the future.

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