MONTREAL - The clanging pots of student unrest that have rattled Montreal and Quebec City for several nights are coming noisily to life in other parts of the province.
People took up the percussive protest Thursday night in several towns and cities including Sorel, Longueuil, Chambly, Repentigny, Trois-Rivieres and even in Abitibi — several hundred kilometres away from the hot spot of Montreal.
They were still loudest in Montreal, where a chorus of metallic clanks rang out in neighbourhoods around the city, spilling into the main demonstrations and sounding like aluminum symphonies.
The pots-and-pans protest has its roots in Chile, where people have used it for years as an effective, peaceful tool to express civil disobedience. The noisy cacerolazo tradition actually predates the Pinochet regime in Chile, but has endured there and spread to other countries as a method of showing popular defiance.
Thursday's protest in Montreal was immediately declared illegal by police, who said it violated a municipal bylaw because they hadn't been informed of the route. They allowed it to continue as long as it remained peaceful.
Although there was a massive police presence throughout the evening with the roar of a provincial police helicopter competing with the banging of the pots, there was little if any tension reported between demonstrators and police.
People tapped the pots as they walked, the sounds mingling with shouts and chants. Others leaned out of car windows to bang their pans and one protester smacked a pot right in front of one police officer who looked on indifferently.
Usually the nightly street demonstrations, which have gone on for a month, have a couple of vigorous drummers to speed them along their route. At the very least, someone clangs a cow bell.
But in the last few days, the pots and pans protest — dubbed the casseroles by observers — have acted like an alarm clock for the regular evening march, sounding at 8 p.m. on the nose in advance of the march's start.
While thousands, including children, their parents, students and the elderly, packed the streets in support, the Twitterverse exploded with reactions and observations.
"Spotted a man in an Armani suit banging a pot," tweeted Christina Stimpson on one of Thursday's participants. "Feel the love people."
Another man rolled a small barbecue through the streets of Montreal, banging the lid.
The joviality was a far cry from late Wednesday when police decided to shut down a largely peaceful evening march after they said projectiles were thrown and criminal acts were committed.
Squads of Montreal and Quebec provincial police encircled demonstrators on a downtown street, not allowing them to get away. More than 500 people were arrested and face charges under municipal bylaws and the Criminal Code.
In a bid to end the long boiling student dispute before tourist season kicks into high gear, Premier Jean Charest is bringing in a seasoned political operative to kickstart negotiations to end the dispute.
Daniel Gagnier is taking over as Charest's chief of staff, the same job he held between 2007 and 2009 when the premier was most popular.
He'll have his work cut out for him considering the blistering criticism Charest has faced for his handling of the dispute over a decision to increase post-secondary tuition fees.
One of the popular chants Thursday night was "Charest, get out! We will find a job for you in the North," a reference to the premier's recent crack about student protesters being able to find work in northern Quebec as part of his ambitious economic development plan.
Twitter was equally unforgiving.
"Hey Charest: there is no shame in resigning, it's rather a shame being Jean Charest," said a tweet posted by PM Savard.
But others were just hopeful they wouldn't have to put up with the rancour being directed at the premier.
"Hope the protests don't end up on my street tonight," said a Twitter posting by Adam Black.