Bill 78: increased police violence in build-up to Tuesday’s demo
The protest planned tomorrow (May 22) by 140 community organizations, unions, and students groups, has taken on massive new significance in light of the Charest government’s authoritarian Bill 78, which was passed early Friday. The new legislation has led to more heated protests and increased police violence.
- QC Human Rights serves Charest a “slap in the face” over law 78
- Special Laws
- Enough is Enough: standing with the students vs Bill 78
When the Charest government voted in favour of the “extraordinary law” bill 78 early Friday, opposition politicians and media were quick to react to the parts of the legislation being downplayed by the Liberals. The original intention of Bill 78 was ostensibly to suspend classes until August in the 14 colleges and 11 universities where the student strike has been in effect since February. However, the text of the bill reveals much more sinister implications: demonstrating within 50 meters of an educational institution is now banned under the law. Furthermore, any protest which will gather more than 50 people is required to submit its itinerary to the police at least 8 hours in advance, with gigantic fines applicable for student associations which fail to comply – from $7,000 to individuals to $125,000 for associations.
Almost all media and numerous advocacy groups (including the French Canadian branch of Amnesty International and the Québec Bar Association) have roundly criticized the bill for curbing basic civil rights. Famous retired judge John Gomery said on CBC that “the legislation goes very far,” and predicted that “the police will use legislation to crack down.” In an irony not lost to pro-strike members of the LGBT community, the very night that the bill was being debated in the National Assembly, Fierté Montréal was honouring Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier in absentia at their Gala Les Bâtisseurs for his contribution to Québec’s anti-homophobia action plan and bureau, created last year (Fournier was in Québec City voting in the law, along with all 68 Liberal MNAs). The fact that the first pride marches, in New York as in Montréal, were in reaction to police repression of LGBT people will be part of the many contradictions the community will have to face as the summer is expected to be filled with more demonstrations against both Charest’s tuition hikes and use of state apparatus against the student movement. Now known as the loi matraque or “law of the police club”, bill 78 went into effect on Saturday, almost simultaneously to the Ville de Montréal’s by-law against wearing masks at demonstrations (a similar federal law, Bill C-309, is currently in the House of Commons).
The student organization La CLASSE is one of the major de facto targets of the new legislation. Representing over 154,000 post-secondary students in Québec, the Coalition has declared its intention to defy the measures laid out by Bill 78. Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir has come out in support of the CLASSE in calling for “peaceful civil disobedience,” and for Québeckers to create a “moral safety rope” around spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who some see as being targeted personally by the law’s unprecedented fines for, and restrictions on, inciting people to protest. The FEUQ student federation has made a video against the law (with music by out lesbian singer Ariane Moffatt) along with sister group the FECQ, who have created a petition site in support of a legal challenge against the bill.
Sunday night’s demonstrations saw over 300 protestors arrested, with numerous altercations with the police reported on social media and live-streamed by Concordia University’s CUTV.
Several incidents of police using excessive force have been documented since Bill 78 came into effect, such as the arbitrary use of pepper spray against a small group of students on St-Hubert and Ste-Catherine on Sunday night, and a police pepper-spray attack against patrons at the St-Bock tavern the same night.
Other groups and websites are reporting an increase in fines against non-violent demonstrators for failing to disperse, or even for speaking to police officers out of turn. Alarmingly, police are said to be targeting the media for “encouraging” demonstrators - CUTV’s camera was damaged by police on at least one occasion. The sense of police impunity has extended to police cars running into protestors, as shown in this video from Sunday night:
Tuesday’s massive planned demonstration to mark the 100th day of the strike is set to take place at 2pm at the Place des Festivals, métro Place-des-Arts. Numerous cooperatives, associations, and cultural organizations will be closed for the afternoon to allow members and employees to attend the demonstration and make their outrage at the new legislation known to the government. On Saturday evening, Être / 2Bmag publisher erstwhile student activist André Gagnon created a Facebook group “GLBT contre la hausse des frais de scolarité” to encourage members of the community to share pertinent articles, videos and images that ground the student cause as a queer political issue. Bill 78′s threats to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly have magnified the issue as far more than a problem of the price of tuition: it has now become about the price of basic democratic freedoms.
Solidarity demonstrations have been planned in Paris, New York City, and Washington, DC; maverick documentarian Michael Moore tweeted his support for the #ggi in English and French (grève générale illimitée) on Sunday night and Montréal demi-gods Arcade Fire appeared on Saturday Night Live wearing the emblematic red squares (with a red-shirted Mick Jagger), injecting the embattled student movement with more star-powered moral support.
On May 17, Ariane Moffatt released a remake of her own song with lyrics that place Charest’s “loi spéciale” (extraordinary law) in the context of global struggles against conservatism:
Banner Photo: Frederick Ymanette Flickr Sykooooooo!