MONTREAL – Less than six minutes after it was scheduled to begin, the rally organized by one of Quebec’s more militant students’ federation, ASSE, was declared illegal by Montreal police.
By 2 p.m., several thousand protesters had already gathered at the starting point for the march at Place Emilie Gamelin in downtown Montreal.
The assembled crowd, wearing red squares and carrying placards, contained a mix of students, masked protesters and families.
Riot police surrounded the square and declared the rally illegal because protest organizers did not provide a march route, as required by the controversial Montreal municipal bylaw P6.
After an hour wait, the protesters set off, heading north up Berri Street and then west along Sherbrooke Avenue. After snaking its way through the downtown core, the march, which extended several city blocks, ended at Victoria Square, in front of Quebecor headquarters.
The protest was declared over by student federation ASSE at approximately 4:20 p.m., although several hundred protesters continued the march.
The federation confirmed that they believe the march was attended by over 10,000 protesters.
This figure was lower than the projected attendance of 50,000 students in what organizers were calling a “national protest against austerity measures and for a more egalitarian budget.”
“Austerity is a dangerous ideology,” the federation noted in a statement.
It said that students are concerned about Parti Quebecois government cuts to public services, education and health while hiking the cost of hydro electricity.
“There are alternatives. If businesses, banks and the wealthy contributed an equal share, it would be possible to fund high quality and fully accessible public services.”
Public transport and road closures due to the march created a few traffic snarls in the city’s downtown core.
Police confirmed two arrests, as protesters tweeted warnings to remove masks while participating in the rally.
Although the protest route was not supplied, there appeared to be good communication between march organizers and police.
At around 3:20 p.m., a 30-year-old woman was killed after being hit by a dump truck at the corner of Mackay and Ste. Catherine Streets.
Police asked protesters to avoid the area via social media and organizers responded to the tweet.
Almost exactly two years ago on March 22, 2012, the streets of Montreal were filled with hundreds and thousands of protesters in the largest student demonstration in the history of the province.
The protests, dubbed Quebec’s “Maple Spring,” were a significant factor in bringing down the provincial Liberal government, then led by former premier Jean Charest.
Review tweets from the protest here: