Sunday, June 10, 2012
Heavy police presence for F1 race
MONTREAL -- Police in Montreal clamped down Sunday on any attempt by protesters to disrupt the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix race.
Police spokeswoman Anie Lemieux said about 30 people have been arrested at the subway stop near the race track as a preventive measure.
Some protesters had wanted to fill the subway with their supporters to make it difficult for fans to get to the race but the main downtown hub was filled with police officers in yellow jackets instead, checking any commuter with a back pack and red square, the symbol used by student protesters who have been demonstrating for more than three months against university and college tuition hikes.
Officers patrolled the corridor leading to the line traveling to the race venue, and were on every train car as well.
Thousands of tourists in Montreal over the last few days for the F-1 Grand Prix race have witnessed protests as students demonstrating against the planned tuition hikes paraded in their underwear, beat drums and pots and occasionally clashed with police near areas especially designated for street parties. But Montreal police backed by their provincial counterparts made their presence felt on the streets and in the subway system below to make sure any planned disruptions of one of Canada's most lucrative tourist events did not take place.
Students have called for a tuition freeze, but the government has ruled that out as a possibility. Students also object to an emergency law put in place to limit protests. As soon as talks with the government broke down recently, one student group, soon joined by an anti-capitalist group known for its disruptive protests, said they planned events to make their presence felt during the F-1 event.
Security was no less tight near two street parties going on during race day on Sunday, as police wearing helmets watched a group of a few dozen protesters go back and forth, sometimes stopping to chant slogans.
"Welcome to Montreal!" they chanted sarcastically to an amused crowd of tourists sitting down on one of Crescent St.'s many patios to watch the race or a Euro soccer game broadcast on television and snapping pictures. Banging drums and pots, the group walked down the street chanting "Whose streets, our streets!" Police also arrested five people there after one confrontation.
The street parties have been a popular target of protesters. Some faceoffs with the officers guarding the events have led to rocks and bottles being thrown at police who have responded with pepper spray and arrests. On Saturday night, police in riot gear blocked off streets in an attempt to keep the students away from Formula One revelers, who felt a faint sting of pepper spray as they sat on restaurant patios and watched the protests go by.