Formula 1 fans attending a Grand Prix cocktail reception in Montreal certainly got more than they bargained for, as riot police clashed with semi-naked students in the city streets, arresting 39 people.
Thousands of men and women stripped to protest planned tuition hikes and embarrass the hosts of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
Protesters told reporters they were naked for a number of reasons:to show the government they have been transparent in their demands to freeze tuition fees, to garner more media attention to their cause, and to discourage police from handling them roughly.
But despite the students baring all, riot police still used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to break up the crowds, eventually arresting nearly 40 people. Still, blazing sirens, revving engines and hovering helicopters did nothing to dampen the protesters’ mood – the crowds dispersed only when it started to rain on their parade.
Montreal police spokesperson Ian Lafreniere said most people were arrested because police had reason to believe they were preparing to commit crimes and damage property.
Since February, hundreds of protesters have been arrested and clashes have erupted sporadically as more than 165,000 students have refused to attend class and tens of thousands have taken part in nightly demonstrations.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest, whose popularity has plummeted over the crisis, had earlier expressed anger at the direct threats against the Grand Prix.
“When we attack the Grand Prix, it’s not the Quebec government that people are assaulting, it’s all Quebecers,” Charest said.
The protests and media attention have already put a dent in the global sporting event, which usually generates nearly $100 million in revenue for the city, but has lagged on ticket sales this year.