Members of hacktivist collective Anonymous have claimed responsibility for taking down government websites in Quebec over the weekend to protest a draconian new emergency law that would severely limit street protests.
The digital attack follows three months of on-the-ground protests–including one where more than 300,000 took to the streets of Montreal–that have targeted tuition hikes at provincial colleges.
After the government passed the emergency law early Friday, which aims to quell student strikes and protests, several government websites, along with that of the ruling Liberal party, were taken offline.
The sites, which included the National Assembly of Quebec, stayed down most of Saturday.
Anonymous claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a tweet that the action had been taken to protest Bill 78.
A spokeswoman for the province’s education minister said the site’s downtime was routine. Certain sections are taken offline every weekend to prevent repeated attacks on the government’s systems.
The Quebec Liberal Party confirmed its site was hacked over the weekend, though the party has been similarly attacked a number of times over the last few weeks.
The emergency law introduced a number of measures aimed at stopping spontaneous protests.
This includes making illegal any protest within 50 meters of educational institutions. Protesters must now give police at least eight hours’ notice of planned demonstrations of more than 50 people.
The bill also suspended classes at 25 post-secondary institutions affected by the strikes for the rest of the semester.
Student groups plan to challenge the law in court, while a petition against Bill 78 received more than 150,000 signatures by Saturday.
The Quebec government planned to increase tuition fees by 75 percent (or $1625) over the next five years. This was later changed to an increase of 82 percent over seven years.
Protests and strikes against the tuition fee hikes have become commonplace in Quebec over the last few months, with Sunday bringing the 27th consecutive nightly protest in Montreal. The demonstrations have been marred with violence and clashes between police and protesters. This weekend alone, there were 369 arrests and a number of injuries sustained.
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