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Montreal student protest attracts 150,000

MONTREAL, May 23 (UPI) -- Some 150,000 people jammed Montreal's downtown core from east to west for a 100th day to protest Quebec tuition hikes and other policies, organizers said.

The protest Tuesday was not a march, but rather a long line of jammed streets with boundaries announced in advance by police. People began assembling in the afternoon, but at 9:30 p.m., police declared the demonstration illegal, the QMI Agency said.

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An hour and a half later, someone set off fireworks in the crowd and officers began forcibly moving people from the streets, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said.

At least two police officers received minor injuries and 100 people were arrested, the reports said.

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One protester received minor injuries when he was struck by a car driven by a suspected impaired driver, the reports said.

The protests began Feb. 14 when the Liberal provincial government announced tuition increases spanning three years. Since then Premier Jean Charest agreed to a compromise expanding the fees over seven years. Regardless, Quebec would still have the lowest tuitions of any province.

As a result of the ongoing violence, the province passed an emergency bill suspending all community college and university winter semesters. It also banned wearing masks at gatherings and demanded organizers to give police eight hours notice of planned marches and routes.

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Now, students and other groups are alleging government misspending and corruption as being responsible for tuition hikes.

Longtime Montreal resident and freelance writer Martin Stone told UPI by telephone he was following the protests closely, but didn't care to venture into Tuesday's demonstration.

"I'd like to see education and other essential services made affordable to ordinary citizens," he said. "It could be a long, hot summer."

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