Thousands of Canadian students march in sixth mass demonstration against austerity measures
August 22, 2012
Thousands gathered in Place du Canada for the sixth mass demonstration to protest against university tuition fee hikes Wednesday afternoon, blowing whistles, drumming and calling for a more just Quebec.
While numbers were far short of the hundreds of thousands seen last spring, student leaders said it was the largest protest ever organized during an electoral campaign and a sign of the renewal of the protest movement.
“We already have far more than seen in the summer protests held on the 22nd of each month (which drew about 10,000 people,” said Jeremie Bedard-Wien, spokesman for CLASSE. “The mobilization is starting up again.”
As of 2:45 p.m., marchers were still assembling and preparing to take to the streets. Along with students, 100,000 of whom voted for a strike day Wednesday as most opted for a return to class last week, several unions and members of a coalition protesting against the privatization of public services and user fees for things like health care were also in attendance.
Student associations FEUQ and FECQ called for youth to vote en masse to oust the Liberal government that instituted the fee hikes. CLASSE, however, said the political debates have shown their demands are not being recognized, and said the fight would continue no matter who was elected.
By 3:30, the protest was starting to resemble marches of the spring, with tens of thousands clogging University St. From René Lévesque to Sherbrooke and then heading east.
Many held placards reading “I’m voting for (blank), with words like ” education” “change,”” tomorrow” and “us.” None said Charest, although many read “anyone but Charest.” There were also a few PQs and Quebec Solidaires.
CLASSE had been calling for the biggest march in history of Quebec, which was asking a lot given the election campaign that has put the issue somewhat in limbo pending its outcome.
But as CLASSE and the other student federations were hoping, Wednesday’s march proved the issues have not died down for many.
Protest perrennial Anarchopanda came out, and a few people clutched stuffed pandas, one of the student movement’s unofficial mascots.
All was peaceful, and noisy as of 3:45.
Montreal leading the way for other mass student demonstrations!