|Montreal riot police take action after protesters tossed at least one Molotov cocktail during a march against Quebec's emergency law to end the protests over tuition fees, May 18, 2012. (Joel Lemay/QMI Agency)
Montreal riot police moved in on student protesters Friday night after at least one Molotov cocktail was tossed at authorities.
The protesters - estimated at nearly 8,000 at the start of the march - gathered initially for a peaceful demonstration against Montreal’s law prohibiting the wearing of masks and Quebec’s special law aimed at stopping growing social unrest over the province's tuition talks.
For the first time since the beginning of the student marches, the route of the march was handed over to police. But minutes after the start of the event, which began around 9 p.m. local time, protesters began to stray from the route.
Shortly after, Montreal police arrested one person for allegedly assaulting an officer.
Police cracked down on protesters after projectiles and at least one Molotov cocktail were thrown at them near St-Laurent and Rene-Levesque Boulevards.
Around 10 p.m., police declared the protest illegal.
Police fired rubber bullets, noise bombs and tear gas into the crowd.
While some demonstrators decided to leave the march that continued, several others joined the movement.
Among the activists, were some 50 people wearing masks. Some protesters wore gas masks and others were dressed in black.
Montreal’s law prohibiting the wearing of masks during a demonstration comes into force on Saturday.
The law was passed after months of students protests, in which many rioters have been wearing masks while throwing projectiles at police, smashing storefronts and causing other acts of vandalism.
Quebec’s special law would increase police powers to crack down on protests and fine student groups heftily if they block schools.
The special law passed 68 to 48 in the legislature late on Friday afternoon, with the governing Liberals and the centre-right CAQ supporting it. The Parti Quebecois opposed the law, with party leader Pauline Marois saying it was “one of the darkest days in Quebec democracy.”