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150 arrested at annual Montreal police protest

Mixture of students, activists march during 15th annual demonstration.

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Activists overturn a police cruiser during demonstrations in Montreal on Thursday. About 150 were arrested in the 15th annual anti-police brutality march. (CBC/Screengrab)

Montreal police arrested 150 protesters Thursday as the city’s annual anti-police brutality march again turned violent.

Police were especially concerned about this year’s march – the 15th annual – because of recent clashes with students demonstrating against tuition hikes, Postmedia News reported.

There were reports of injuries by both police and activists as the scene in downtown Montreal became a surreal picture of peaceful protest and angry rioting.

Protesters hurled garbage cans and rocks at police before tipping a cruiser for the TV cameras. Riot police responded with tear gas, flash grenades, batons and pepper spray.

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One man said he tried to stop young people from throwing stones only to be hit by a tear gas canister.

The canister burnt his hair, but his ski goggles likely saved his eyesight.

He told Postmedia: “I was being peaceful and this is what they do to me?”

Scott Weinstein, a nurse, said he’s been to several of the demonstrations, and has never seen police react with such force.

“I’ve never been in a demonstration ever where police threw explosives into the crowd,” Weinstein said, according to Postmedia. “It’s a terrible path to take because these people will lose their eyes.”

The organizers of the rally – Collective Opposed to Police Brutality – said it plans similar demonstrations in Dallas, Paris, Brussels, Toronto and Vancouver, CBC reported.

Police declared the Montreal protest illegal because COPB didn’t provide its itinerary.

“The route of the demonstration has not been provided and there exists no provision that obliges anyone to ask for a permit to demonstrate,” a statement from the group read.

As many as 5,000 people joined in the rally, CTV News said.

They splintered into smaller groups, with some smashing windows and others locking arms in front of police.

This year’s arrests – while they may still climb – is actually about half of 2011’s total. CTV said police detained 258 people last year. The largest number of arrests came in 2004, when police took 370 into custody.

Police planned a press conference early Friday to discuss the events.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/canada/120316/150-arrested-at-annual-montreal-police-protest