Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Montreal Students Protest – Creative VS Stale Thinking in the Battle for Student Rights

Yesterday I was watching Russia Today news channel when I saw an interesting report about the Montreal Students Protest. The report was about the perseverance of protestors who have been demonstrating for more than 100 days against the announced hike in the tuition fees at the state universities, despite the constant clashes with the police, pepper spray and over 2,500 arrests (so far). What struck me most about this incident was the apparent difference in thinking between the students and the state officials which is having effect on the course of the events taking place in Quebec, and maybe soon in other Canadian provinces. While students have been flexible and creative in their thinking, the state displayed rigid, non-creative thinking attitude that seems to be backfiring on it.

Marching route of the Montreal protestors (Source: Business Insider)
The Montreal students uprise started in the beginning of this February after the announcement of the plan to increase Quebec university fees by 75% over the next five years. The first student demonstrators were forcibly dispersed by riot police, and on 23 February the police used excessive force - batons and tear gas to disperse the growing crowd. Soon after, the arrests followed and even one member of the press suffered detention.   

Oppression as manifestation of weak and unimaginative mind
In response to the students’ reaction the state officials turned to law in order to curb the protests. The reaction was so utterly traditional, unimaginative and reflective of slow and stale mind - so typical of governments. On 18 May the state passed an emergency law known as Bill 78 which restricts freedom of assembly, protest, or picketing on or near university grounds, and anywhere in Quebec without prior police approval. It restricts public gatherings larger than 50 people, provides fines for protest leaders endorsing unsanctioned events and forbids covering of faces on demos. The law also places restrictions upon education employees right to strike.   

Resistance requires creativity
This utterly stupid reaction of the National Assembly of Quebec and the continued brutal actions of the police have inspired the students to become even more determined and creative in their struggle. They launched Please Arrest Me! web site ( Arrêtez-moi quelqu’un! ) in which they openly protest against the Bill 78 holding the signs saying: I disobey. Furhermore, when asked by the  police officers to submit the map of the route of the following protest, the students provided the map with the route that nicely illustrated their attitude towards the Montreal police. On their daily marches through the streets of Montreal the protestors are waving flags of Quebec and banners denouncing the latest national emergency laws, they are banging pots and pans or playing instruments and whistling, some of them are marching on bicycles, rollerblades, and skateboards, some are wearing Halloween costumes and some no clothes at all!  

Arrêtez-moi quelqu’uren! website

Will creativity win the game?

The war is still vaging but it seems that the studdents are winning the latest battles. Ontario students have pledged to take to the streets in solidarity with their protesting fellows in Montreal and other cities of Quebec. French-speaking students in Quebec are now supported by English-speaking students and international students  The outraged public is giving support to the protestors - there are more and more proffesors, family members, public servants, different activists, people from all walks of life who are joining the youth of Montreal in ther protest. The student uprising managed to mobilize masses thanks to its emotional and joyful approach to the actual act of public disobeyance.

If the students want to win this battle they should go on with this strategy of making the protest honest and creative – this is the best way to win the favours and support of the broad public. They should maintain their enthusiasm and use humor whenever they find the opportunity to do so. Humour empowers people, it gives them hope and at the same time it pisses the other side off. Arrêtez-moi quelqu’uren! website is a good example of this strategy. However, we have to keep in mind that political battles are fought and won on the ground, in the real world, not in the cyberspace. The students should stay united and maintain non-violent discipline because the moment these demonstrations turn into violence, all their arguments will be lost and the other side will get the excuse to use force to stifle their resistance. 



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Key words for this blog post:
Creative thinking, Montreal Students Protest, Bill 78, non-violent struggle, public disobeyance...

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