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Montreal: Tens of Thousands of Students Protest Against Austerity

Translated Wednesday 13 May 2015, by D. Phillips

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Montreal on Thursday (April 2, 2015) to protest against the austerity imposed by the government of the province of Quebec. Students were among them.

About 80,000 people, mainly students, but also university professors, members of major unions and families participated in the festive atmosphere during the demonstration. The protestors marched on downtown streets at the call from the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSE).

Thursday’s protest coincided with a “national strike day” at the universities and institutions for higher learning in Quebec followed by some 135,000 in the Francophone province. About 50,000 of these students were on strike since March 23 and denounced the “the worst budget cuts to education in 20 years”. Delegations from the major central unions such as CSN and FTQ, as well as the Ligue des droits et libertés (LDL) and FRAPRU participated in the demonstration. Busloads of students from various regions of Quebec also turned out.

As they carried a paper maché head of the Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, young protesters denounced the government’s “obsession" with achieving a balanced budget at all costs. Last week the government of Quebec presented a budged that drastically limited increases in spending for the health and education sectors. “The budget is an insult” declared Véronique Laflamme from the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU). “The government is shifting towards the privatization of public services and social programs.”

Prior to the demonstration, Philippe Couillard defended his government’s actions, deeming it urgent “to take back control of our public finances". His Minister of Public Security, Lise Thériault, appealed for calm to both demonstrators and police. Last week, a young female student sustained an injury to her mouth in Quebec when police fired a teargas canister during a demonstration. Again on Thursday, police wearing helmets, armed with batons and shields charged and launched canisters of teargas into groups of protesters in order to disperse the gathering.

The organizations called for more protests on May 1st in Montreal.

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