Thousands of Canadians continued an ongoing protest in downtown Montreal on Friday night against the Quebec government’s austerity programs for the city. The riot police declared the gathering illegal just one hour after protests began and bombarded the protesters with tear gas and stun grenades, according to media reports.
Police had earlier said they would allow the demonstrations despite protesters breaking a municipal law by not submitting an itinerary beforehand, CBC reported.
Earlier in the day, around 100 people had reportedly forced their way into the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) to protest the possible expulsion of nine students who were involved in disruptive activism on campus since 2012.
In an earlier gathering on Thursday, a student protester was struck in the face with a tear gas canister during clashes with the police. She has said that she intends to press charges against the police officer who shot her.
UQAM students were heavily involved in organizing Friday’s protest, which was part of a two-week set of demonstrations and strikes against the administration of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
"We don't want this to be just a student movement," Charlotte Gilbert, a member of the UQAM social science faculty student association, told CBC. "We are calling on this to be a social movement that brings together militants from local unions, students, and collectives and community groups from across Quebec."
Since coming to power last April, Couillard’s administration has brought major cuts to social services, including slashing school funding, ending a public daycare program, and calling on family doctors to take on more patients or face fines.
“Significant work has been accomplished,” Couillard said in December, according to The Star. “We’re more than half way there. The difficult but necessary decisions have been taken.”
The government’s new budget, which was tabled on Thursday, includes even more aggressive balancing in education, social services and health. It aims to target the region’s spiraling debt, which stood at $197 billion last March, making Quebec the most indebted province in the country.
The rally is being organized under the name Printemps 2015 (Spring 2015), which is inspired by a set of massive protests against student fee hikes in 2012, which were known as the Printemps Erable (Maple Spring).