It seemed eerily similar to 2012 in downtown Montreal Tuesday afternoon, when over 1,000 students marched through the streets demanding free university tuition.

The protest came ten years to the day after the largest protest of the 2012 Maple Spring.

Montreal students went again on strike, this time donning red squares, with hopes of reigniting the movement.

“We want the government to make a change and provide us free tuition right away,” said Ludmila Herault, a 17-year-old student at CEGEP Bois-de-Boulogne.

On March 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands marched against the government of then-premier Jean Charest’s intention to raise university fees.

It was part of a student protest that stopped the city for months, and the hike was finally repealed.

At the moment, Herault was eight years old.

“I was in primary school, and my tuition was covered. “These days, I’m in college and going to university, and my tuition isn’t covered,” she explained.

Marie-Claude Barbeau Sylvestre was a master’s student when she took part in the demonstrations in 2012. She was a teacher in the 2022 version, supporting her pupils’ requests.

“It’s really good to see that there’s a heritage, but at the same time that students can take the topic in their own hands and bring their own voice and worries to it,” said the philosophy instructor at CEGEP Vieux Montreal.

The new demonstrators demand free college tuition, paid internships, and other benefits.

The protest was largely francophone, although there was a tiny group from Montreal’s English institutions, Concordia and McGill.

None of the student unions at English CEGEPs opted to strike.

“It’s about actually sort of proving that the student mobilisation is still alive and showing that, you know, we’re still able to assemble together in groups and are still (able) to make demands collectively in this way,” Concordia student Joshua Sallos explained.

Unlike in 2012, when students went on an indefinite strike, this one was only for a single day.

Over 50,000 students opted to protest by walking out of class.

“It’s meant to be a fundamental right, a basic right to learn,” said David Dessalines, a student at College Maisonneuve.

According to police, they were not alerted in advance of the students’ march through downtown Montreal.

“Everywhere, the working class and students’ living conditions are under attack, while the wealthiest become richer,” said Olivier Turbide, a student at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

On Thursday, another nocturnal demonstration is scheduled. In 2012, they frequently get out of hand.

On Friday, students will also march for the environment.

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