MONTREAL - Quebec's largest student federation said Monday that it will not abide by the government's emergency law, less than 24 hours after 300 people were arrested in Montreal.
Spokespeople for the federation, called LA CLASSE, said their first official act of civil disobedience will be to refuse to give police the itinerary for the massive protest they've scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
CLASSE made the announcement at a news conference in Montreal Monday afternoon.
Quebec's emergency law bans spontaneous protests of more than 50 people and imposes heavy financial penalties on anyone caught preventing students from attending classes.
Critics say the law unduly limits charter rights, while the government says those rights have limits and the law is needed to quell the civil unrest that has rocked the province for weeks.
CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois called for protests all summer long. He said lawyers for student groups have banded together to take the government to court to have the law declared unconstitutional.
Nadeau-Dubois asked "Quebec civil society" to donate money to his group to help pay for legal costs as well as the fines the CLASSE might received for disobeying the emergency law.
Nadeau-Dubois maintained that the call for civil disobedience doesn't mean a call for criminality.
"It is not a call for violence or vandalism," he said. "We have never called for that."
Nonetheless, the two night protests in Montreal since the law was enacted have degenerated into near riots.
Police said more than 300 people were arrested Sunday night as 4,000 people marched through the streets of Montreal. Protesters denounced the provincial government's plan to raise tuition, but their anger on Sunday night was more pointed towards the emergency law.
Police spokesman Ian Lafreniere told QMI Agency Monday that police were surprised by the high number of arrests.
"I don't think we have seen this many arrests at one time (since the protest began)," he said.
Lafreniere added that Montreal police have made close to 2,000 arrests during more than 250 protests since the student strike began 99 days ago.
Lafreniere said the majority of those arrested were given tickets for illegal assembly and released.
Lafreniere added that Montreal police have not yet needed to use their new powers under the emergency law.
"The Criminal Code has been enough," he said.
However, the emergency law could soon apply if CLASSE makes good on its promise to hold strike votes when classes are scheduled to restart in August.
Quebec's emergency law suspended all classes that were interrupted by the strike until August.
Nadeau-Dubois said all "necessary means" will be taken to enforce strike mandates when school resumes, a threat that if acted upon, could cost the federations millions of dollars in fines.
Article 26, section 2 of the emergency law says that a student federation could be fined up to $125,000 a day if it prevents students from attending classes.
Nadeau-Dubois said he expects tens of thousands of people in the streets on Tuesday in Montreal to mark the 100th day of the student strike, the longest in Canadian history.