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Montreal Gov't Negotiating with Occupy-Style Protesters After Months of Street Rampages

Occupy Wall Street-aligned movement has "led to more than 2,500 arrests."

(The Blaze/AP)-- Quebec students and the provincial government return to talks Tuesday in an attempt to put an end to a sometimes violent months-long dispute over tuition hikes that has led to more than 2,500 arrests.

No comments were issued at the end of more than six hours of talks Monday evening. Riot police were deployed as about 200 protesters stood in front of the building where the talks were held. Other students banged pots and marched through downtown streets in what has become a nightly scene.

Students have called for a tuition freeze, but the government has ruled out that possibility. Students also object to an emergency law put in place to limit protests. Among the controversial provisions of the law is a requirement that police be informed eight hours before a protest and told the route of any demonstration that includes 50 or more people. Critics called that an affront to civil rights.

The French-speaking province's average undergraduate tuition - $2,519 a year - is the lowest in Canada, and the proposed hike- $254 per year over seven years - is tiny by U.S. standards. But opponents consider the raise an affront to the philosophy of the 1960s reforms dubbed the Quiet Revolution that set Quebec apart from the rest of Canada.

Analysts have said Quebecers don't compare their tuition rates to those in the U.S. or English-speaking Canada, but to those in European countries, where higher education is free.

More than 2,500 students have been arrested since the demonstrations began weeks ago.

Student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said if the government refused to budge on the two issues, his group would reconsider participating in negotiations.

Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said she was showing up at the meeting "open" to discussions but didn't know how long the talks would last.

Lawyers wearing their black robes held their own march in Montreal against the new emergency law. Genevieve Dufour, one of the protesters, told French-language TV network Radio-Canada that the new law would have an enormous impact on the justice system.

"It raises a lot of questions on the legitimacy of laws," she said. "When the lawyers come out and challenge the laws it has an enormous impact."

Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who has vowed to shake up the debt-ridden province's finances since he was elected nearly a decade ago, has refused to cave in.

Charest's government passed emergency legislation on May 18 restricting protests and closing striking campuses until August.

The law requires that police be informed eight hours before a protest begins, including details on the route of any demonstration of 50 or more people. It also prohibits demonstrations within 50 meters (165 feet) of a college and declares that anyone who incites or helps another person break the new protest regulations can be fined.

Amnesty International says the law breaches Canada's international human rights obligations and called for it to be rescinded by Quebec's legislature.

The Montreal student protests have been compared to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and there is often solidarity expressed between the Quebecer strikers and the Occupiers. In fact, just last night in downtown New York City, a small student strike marched through the night shouting "from Montreal to NYC, every night til victory."

After thousands of arrests and over a month of nightly protests, the Montreal student movement may be on the verge of achieving its goals. And thousands of other Occupy Wall Street-affiliated protestors in America will be watching -- and learning -- from the entire ordeal.

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