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Activist Communiqué: Activists and police injured at Victoriaville protest

For the past three months of the student uprising in Quebec - the Maple Spring - students and the police have clashed in various locations around the province. Injuries are beginning to pile up.

On Wednesday March 7, 2012, more than a 1,000 students took to the streets in Montreal to protest rising tuition fees. During this demonstration, students marched to the Loto Quebec building on Sherbrooke Street West where they occupied the entrance.

At the attempted occupation, students clashed with Montreal police's riot squad and tear gas and flash grenades were used to disperse the crowd. The use of both crowd-control weapons was confirmed later in the day by Sgt. Ian Lafrenière. He also confirmed that several officers and demonstrators were injured over the course of the action.

Among those injured was Francis Grenier (20) following the explosion of a police stun grenade to the face -- specifically to the right eye. Grenier is a student at Cégep de Saint-Jérôme and was attending the peaceful demonstration when he was wounded by police. Despite surgery, Grenier lost use of his right eye.

Then on the weekend, in Victoriaville, Quebec, 5,000 protesters demonstrated as Jean Charest and Liberal party gathered for a General Council policy meeting. Topics included including the Plan Nord, shale gas exploration, and the impending tuition fee hike.

Premier Jean Charest's Liberals had made the decision to move the three-day general council meeting out of Montreal last week due to the weeks of student protests that have rocked the city.

The demonstrations began at 5:00 pm and demonstrators marched to the conference centre and Victorian hotel hosting the Quebec Liberal Party. Once the demonstration reached the conference centre, they took down the barricades and were then only a few feet from entering the building. One window was smashed.

To this, roughly 200 Sûreté du Québec officers in riot gear responded with the use of chemical weapons - CS gas - which filled the air outside and eventually made its way into the ventilation system inside the hotel.

For the next few hours, there were various clashes between demonstrators and police at the hotel's front enterance, the parking lot behind the hotel and on the lawns of the nearest houses. The air was filled with not only CS gas and their canisters but rubber bullets.

In return, the demonstrators responded with projectiles of their own. The police were able to push the crowd of demonstrators back towards the well fortified and defended Wal Mart where the demonstration had began.

As the Liberal policy meetings wrapped up inside the Victorian hotel and convention centre on Sunday, Charest maintained "no one would have predicted" that such a large gathering of students would descend upon Victoriaville to demonstration against his government.

Numerous injuries were reported on both sides. In all, nine people were taken to hospital, including three police officers, one who was beaten by the crowd with sticks and kicked.

St. Laurent CEGEP student, Maxence Valade (20) was struck in the head and subsequently fell into a coma, who also lost an eye, is being treated at a Trois Rivières hospital. After hours of tense uncertainly over his condition, the student who was fighting for his life was declared out of danger by his doctors. This does in no way minimalize his injuries.

Another man, being treated at the same hospital in Trois Rivières, suffered a serious but non-life-threatening head injury. He was admitted to the ER with fractures to his face and skull, along with a cerebral contusion.

Quebec provincial police made 109 arrests in connection with the demonstrations in Victoriaville - the twelfth week into the student strike - including the Sûreté du Québec turning student buses travelling back to Montreal after the action into Victoriaville jail cells.

"We saw violence against people and this is something that we strongly condemn," CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said. "The escalation of violence and confrontation doesn't help at all our negotiatons."


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