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6 Apr, 2013 08:28

Over 270 detained in Montreal over freedom of assembly rally

At least 279 protesters have been detained and fined in central Montreal during a rally against police tactics and the controversial bylaw that puts limitations on peaceful demonstrations.

Protesters began gathering at Place Émilie-Gamelin on Friday evening and shortly afterwards police officers announced, via loudspeakers, that the demonstration was illegal.  

Montreal police said three people were arrested for assault, while the rest were detained for illegal assembly, according to CBC News. No one was injured during the event.

Ethan Cox, Quebec correspondent for Rabble.ca, who was at the Friday protest, told RT that police just corralled the crowd on all sides, not allowing anyone to leave and then gave a CA$637-ticket to everyone who was caught up in proceedings.

The protest was organized by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (the CLAC) to contest the controversial bylaw that critics say encroaches on the right to peaceful assembly.

The demonstration sought to “assert our opposition to bylaw P-6” in a year “marked by an escalation of police repression against political protesters in Montreal,” the CLAC said in a statement issued before the protest.

Bylaw P-6 requires groups to provide police with an itinerary of their demonstration beforehand, otherwise police can declare the gathering illegal. The law also prohibits the wearing of masks at gatherings.

Cox stressed that there was no provocation, no violence or any damage from the protesters' side. “The state of affairs in Montreal right now is that for all intents and purposes peaceful protest is illegal,” he said.

What we are talking about is here is our constitutional right to peaceful assembly which is being encroached upon.”

In early March some 250 protesters were arrested in Montreal for violating P-6, as they gathered for an annual march against alleged police brutality.

The P-6 bylaw was adopted following the surge in mass protests in Montreal in 2012. The city saw numerous massive student demonstrations last year as thousands protested tuition hikes. Some of the protests turned violent.

Cox emphasized that people in Quebec are ready to challenge the bylaw but at the same time there is an atmosphere of fear.

“We’ve lived in a country where we’ve always taken for granted the right to  protest, the right to express our opinion. So there is an attitude that people want to go out, they want to challenge the bylaw - they know that what’s happening is not right. But at the same time they are afraid – CA$637 is a significant ticket. On the second offence it can go over a thousand dollars.”