Cops keep Grand Prix protesters at bay

Several police officers were present to control demonstrators around the Grand Prix in Montreal,...

Several police officers were present to control demonstrators around the Grand Prix in Montreal, June 9, 2012. (JOEL LEMAY / QMI AGENCY)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

MONTREAL - Hundreds of police kept guard across the city Sunday to ensure that the Canadian Grand Prix was not disrupted by activists and other supporters of the student movement.

They succeeded in their goal: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix and the race was without the violent clashes between police and protesters that occurred the previous night in downtown Montreal.

Police said they arrested more than 40 people on Sunday and kicked out at least 40 others from the race site.

Police also searched bags at subway stations across the city and prevented many people from taking the system to the race track.

Montreal police spokeswoman Anie Lemieux told QMI Agency that all of those prevented from accessing the site exhibited suspicious behaviour or were violating municipal bylaws or other laws.

Police arrested 34 people outside the subway station leading to the F1 circuit and detained them for the duration of the race.

Several people who were denied entry into a downtown subway station told QMI Agency that the police were discriminating against those who looked like students or who were wearing a red square, the symbol of the movement against tuition fee increases.

"We went into the metro and the police searched our bags, they found nothing," one woman outside a downtown station said. "Police asked us to leave and escorted us out of the metro."

Another man who was refused entry to the race site told QMI Agency that Montreal is "more and more an occupied city. And the province is turning into a police state."

Alain Simoneau of the Montreal police denied the force discriminated against anyone.

He said police recognized people trying to enter the race site who took part in protests that were declared illegal, or "who exhibited violent behaviour at other protests."

He said among the 34 people arrested and detained at the race site, some were found carrying ski masks, beer and knives.

"It's in the public interest for the police to prevent a crime," Simoneau said.

However, police said 32 of the 34 arrested at the race site will be released without charge. Two could face criminal charges, police said.

At least six other people were arrested Sunday for various offences relating to the Grand Prix protests.

Police also had to deal with a bomb threat early Sunday. The threat was a hoax and police south of Montreal arrested a 50-year-old man with the alleged threat. Police said he could be charged.

Security was heightened across all Grand Prix venues Sunday as Saturday night was the scene of violent clashes between protesters and police in the city's core. Even tourists got caught up in the violence.

Police arrested 28 people on Saturday, 14 of whom will be charged with Criminal Code offences, including armed assault, Lemieux said.

Protesters damaged several Montreal police vehicles and at least one store window was smashed. Police said no major injuries reported.

Police said some of the protesters arrested were found with rocks, fireworks and other incendiary devices.

A few hundred protesters made their way to the two street festivals in downtown Montreal and started clashing with police around 10 p.m. Saturday. Protesters have been marching through downtown Montreal nightly to protest hikes in university tuition and the controversial emergency law that was passed in May.

Police guarding the street festival on the city's famed Crescent Street were targets of a rain of projectiles from some protesters. The clashes lasted hours.

Several tourists told QMI Agency that police hit them with shields and batons. However, many other onlookers and revellers seemed to enjoy the night's mayhem.

As protesters confronted police, people took videos and photos with their cellphones while others posed for the camera in front of protesters being arrested.


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