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VIDEO: Arcade Fire backs Quebec student strike on Saturday Night Live

On last night’s season finale of ‘Saturday Night Live’, Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire performed ‘The Last Time’ to an audience of millions. The Globe and Mail reports, “In New York, members of the Montreal-based rock band Arcade Fire wore the (student) movement’s iconic red squares during an appearance with The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live. Mr. Jagger wore a red shirt, but no red square.”

As the show was broadcast, the street protests continued for the 26th consecutive night in Montreal. CBC reports, “Thousands of protesters outraged by two laws passed Friday to tamp down civil unrest marched through downtown Montreal on Saturday night, many of them wearing now-illegal masks or hoods. Authorities declared the protest illegal about a half-hour after it began at 8:30 p.m. ET. Then, a little after 11 p.m., Montreal police ordered protesters to disperse and called in the provincial police force’s riot squad. The night ended with 69 arrests, police said.”

The Council of Canadians expresses its solidarity with the student strike – and its opposition to Bill 78. On Friday, the Montreal Gazette reported, “The Council of Canadians also denounced the bill, calling it undemocratic, unconstitutional and repressive. ‘Just days after a stinging indictment of the widespread repression that took place in Toronto during the G20 (summit), the Charest government in Quebec seems intent on outdoing the largest violation of civil liberties in Canadian history with its introduction of Bill 78,’ it wrote in a statement calling on its members and supporters to sign the petition against the legislation.”

The Council also intends to participate in the ‘100th Day of the Quebec Students’ Strike, of Contempt and of Resistance’ demonstration that will take place in Montreal on Tuesday, May 22, starting at 1 pm, at Place des Festivals, at the corner of President Kennedy and Saint-Urbain (Metro Place des Arts).

In late April, the Toronto Sun reported, “The (Earth Day) march (of more than 250,000 people on April 22), along with the massive demonstration in mid-March against tuition hikes and the almost-daily student protests across province, make it increasingly difficult to deny the contention among student leaders that the province is undergoing a ‘Quebec Spring’. The ‘Quebec Spring’ idea references the popular revolts over the past two years in countries in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Martin Lukacs writes in the Guardian UK, “The social unrest roiling Quebec is colour-coded red. One cannot miss the hundreds of thousands of people with cloth of the colour pinned to their coats and satchels; the stickers pasted on street poles and storefront mannequins; and the sheets fluttering from balconies and windows. The red squares – punning visually on a French expression to be squarely in the red, or in debt – are a gesture of solidarity with university and college students on a massive general strike against government tuition fee hikes. They have also become a symbol of the most powerful challenge to neoliberalism on the continent. …Their achievement has been to begin to clarify for a broad swath of society that a tuition hike is not a matter of isolated accounting, but the goal of a neoliberal austerity agenda the world over. Forcing students to pay more for education is part of a transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the rich – as with privatization and the state’s withdrawal from service-provision, tax breaks for corporations and deep cuts to social programs. …Little wonder students’ imagination was stirred by the past year of world rebellion. That inspiration has been distilled in the movement’s main slogan, ‘Printemps érable’, a clever play on words that literally means Maple Spring but sounds like Arab Spring. …Policing costs will soon exceed the value of the tuition increase. …The feeling taking root among students and others is that this is the chance to turn the tide of a generation. In the words of the French chant resounding daily in the streets, ‘On ne lâche pas’ – we’re not backing down.” For the full commentary, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/02/quebec-student-protest-canada.

To see the video of the Saturday Night Live concert – well worth seeing! – go to http://backofthebook.ca/2012/05/20/arcade-fire-wear-red-square-on-snl/6712/.