A student demonstrates against the increasing of tuition fees, in Quebec City March 1, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
MONTREAL - Hundreds of mask-wearing students rushed a Montreal university campus in an attempt to stop classes, even as Quebec prepared to legislate an end to the three-month student strike and similar acts of violence and disruption.
The students who bullied their way into law classes Wednesday at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM) scrawled graffiti on the walls of campus buildings and occupied classrooms that had been forced to open after a judge granted law students the right to resume their studies.
"They were at least a hundred of them and they wore masks," one student told QMI Agency. "They screamed at us to leave the class, but we stayed. It was scary. They were threatening and violent, there were altercations."
At least one journalist had a media pass ripped from their neck, according to eyewitnesses.
Newly minted education minister Michelle Courchesne sounded a grim tone in Quebec City Wednesday morning as she gave reporters a brief recap of a meeting the previous night with student leaders.
"There is no more room for compromise on their part," said Courchesne, whose frustrated predecessor, Line Beauchamp, quit on Monday.
"I sensed a hardening of their position, that is very clear in my mind.
"I must make a report (to cabinet) and then the government will make decisions."
The special law is aimed at allowing 14 community colleges to reopen their doors despite blockades by mask-wearing strikers. The schools have been shut since the general strike began on Feb. 14.
The law would resemble a sort of "general injunction," buoyed by stiff fines, that would make it illegal to block access to schools.
The Liberals adopted the hard line once it became clear that schools and police forces were refusing to honour injunctions obtained by students who wanted to continue their semesters.
A number of community colleges, fearing confrontations and vandalism by protesters, defied the injunctions at the risk of being charged with contempt of court.
Police forces repeatedly refused to escort students past picket lines, and some professors were refusing to do their jobs in solidarity with strikers.
Most post-secondary institutions have remained open during the strike, though demonstrations and sit-ins have disrupted classes intermittently across the province.
At issue is a seven-year, $1,800 tuition hike that student groups have refused to accept.
More than 1,000 people have been arrested across the province for blocking bridges, schools and government buildings.
Montreal has seen protests every single day of the strike and several of the rallies have ended in violent rampages.
The government and police forces have blamed Black Bloc anarchists for attacking police officers and civilians.