Quebec’s ‘truncheon law’ rebounds as student strike spreads

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/24/quebec-truncheon-law-rebounds-student-strike

A draconian law to quell demonstrations has only galvanised public support for young Quebecois protesting tuition fee hikes


guardian.co.uk, Thursday 24 May 2012

At a tiny church tucked away in a working-class neighbourhood in Montreal’s east end, Quebec’s new outlaws gathered on Sunday for a day of deliberations. Aged mostly between 18 and 22, their membership in a progressive student union has made them a target of government scorn and scrutiny. And they have been branded a menace to society because of their weapons: ideas of social justice and equal opportunity in education, alongside the ability to persuade hundreds of thousands to join them in the streets.

Under a draconian law passed by the Quebec government on Friday, their very meeting could be considered a criminal act. Law 78 – unprecedented in recent Canadian history – is the latest, most desperate manoeuvre of a provincial government that is afraid it has lost control over a conflict that began as a student strike against tuition hikes but has since spread into a protest movement with wide-ranging social and environmental demands.

Labelled a “truncheon law” by its critics, it imposes severe restrictions on the right to protest. Any group of 50 or more protesters must submit plans to police eight hours ahead of time; they can be denied the right to proceed. Picket lines at universities and colleges are forbidden, and illegal protests are punishable by fines from $5,000 to $125,000 for individuals and unions – as well as by the seizure of union dues and the dissolution of their associations.

In other words, the government has decided to smash the student movement by force.

The government quickly launched a public relations offensive to defend itself. Full-page ads in local newspapers ran with the headline: “For the sake of democracy and citizenship.” Quebec’s minister of public security, Robert Dutil, prattled about the many countries that have passed similar laws:

“Other societies with rights and freedoms to protect have found it reasonable to impose certain constraints – first of all to protect protesters, and also to protect the public.”

Such language is designed to make violence sound benevolent and infamy honourable. But it did nothing to mask reality for those who have flooded the streets since the weekend and encountered police emboldened by the new legislation. Riot squads beat and tear-gassed people indiscriminately, targeted journalists, pepper-sprayed bystanders in restaurants, and mass-arrested hundreds, including more than 500 Wednesday night – bringing the tally from the last three months of protest to a record Canadian high of more than 2,500. The endless night-time drone of helicopters has become the serenade song of a police state.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/24/quebec-truncheon-law-rebounds-student-strike

Posted in Activism, Anti-Globalization, Civil Rights, Class War, Education, Globalization, Police Abuse, Police State. Comments Off on Quebec’s ‘truncheon law’ rebounds as student strike spreads

Global Protests Against Draconian Education Cuts, Tuition Hikes

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/168049/global-protests-against-draconian-education-cuts-tuition-hikes

Allison Kilkenny
on May 24, 2012

Austerity protests have become part of the new global landscape, a reality underscored by a wave of recent protests in Philadelphia and Quebec.

More than 1,000 people rallied Wednesday to protest the Philadelphia District’s plans to “transform schools,” a pleasant euphemism generally meaning school closures and mass layoffs. The Philly district plans to possibly lay off 2,700 blue-collar workers, including every member of SEIU B2BJ Local 1201, the city school union representing bus assistants, cleaners, mechanics and other workers.

Philly.com reports that all these workers have received pink slips and could be let go by the end of the year.

Eleven men and three women were arrested during Wednesday’s protest, including B2BJ president George Ricchezza, union health and welfare administrator Dennis Biondo and retired teachers Lisa Haver and Ronald Whitehorne, among others. They were later released and are to be arraigned in June.

The individuals were arrested for “clogging traffic,” according to a local CBS affiliate.

Earlier in the month, the school system announced that it expects to close forty public schools next year and sixty-four by 2017, shocking figures that received little national attention, prompting Black Agenda Report’s Bruce A. Dixon to publish an article titled, “Why Isn’t Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News?

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/168049/global-protests-against-draconian-education-cuts-tuition-hikes

Posted in Class War, Education, Environment, Equal Treatment, Globalization, Hard Times. Comments Off on Global Protests Against Draconian Education Cuts, Tuition Hikes

Freeing the University: Education Occupation on May Day

From In These Times:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/uprising/entry/13128/freeing_the_university_education_occupation_on_may_day/

By Michelle Chen
Monday Apr 30, 2012

Pop quiz: what’s the value of an American education? To some, it’s a booming industry that preys on debt-crippled students. But to the educators, youth and workers who keep the system running, school increasingly seems like it’s just not worth the struggle. This May Day, working people everywhere–and students who are working to build a future for themselves–are converging in New York City to rethink education and test those ideas in the real world.

Everyone understands that merit and hard work should pay off somehow in the economy. But the narrowing and commercialization of education at every level, from preschool to postdoc, has drained people’s academic aspirations and bank accounts.

On May 1, following the massive 1T Day rally against the “student debt bubble,” the Free University of New York City will bring together various Occupy-inspired grassroots education experiments. Combined with other May Day-related Occupy demonstrations, the program of workshops and talks aims to put theories of “horizontal pedagogy” into practice by inviting regular folks to learn about and question the systems surrounding them: the economy, politics, and school itself.

The planned program, centered in Madison Square Park, will include:

over forty workshops, classes, and collective experiences during the five hour educational experiment. Attendees will be introduced to movements such as Take Back the Land, which has been occupying foreclosed housing; radical student organizing within the City University of New York (CUNY); and indigenous environmentalism. Other workshops focus on creating new ways of living, from permaculture to open access academic publishing, from nonviolent communication to immigration relief for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/uprising/entry/13128/freeing_the_university_education_occupation_on_may_day/

Posted in Class War, Classism, Education, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Freeing the University: Education Occupation on May Day