• Canadian Grand Prix

Arrests mar pre-race gala event

ESPN Staff
June 8, 2012 « Schumacher confident he can challenge for victory | Free coverage in the UK could be a thing of the past »
Police arrest a protester outside the gala event © Press Association

Police arrested twenty protesters outside a gala event in Montreal ahead of this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

Student activists had been warning that the race would be the focus of their protests over government grant increases. But it was clear that the authorities had adopted a more hardline stance and riot police moved in to round up the demonstrators before they could get too close to the venue. Journalists were told that they risked arrest if they remained in the vicinity.

When asked if he had a message for the demonstrators, a shaven-headed Jacques Villeneuve said: "It's time for people to wake up and stop loafing about. It's lasted long enough. They spoke, we heard, and now it's time to go back to school."

"Some of the students are not happy about certain things," said Mark Webber. "I'm not saying it's a minority but, sometimes, when there's a little bit of tension other people may lose out, like some fans who wanted to come and see the track today so that's really unfortunate. I'm sure the weekend will go well."

"We want to see all the fans, all the young people, the students," Felipe Massa added. "We want to see them here with us, enjoying the sport."

Bernie Ecclestone, who was heckled as he arrived, said he hoped there would not be any incidents at the circuit. "It would be terrible if somebody got killed like that, you know, running across the track."

Concerns over the weekend itself grew as an anarchist fringe group hijacked the student protests and urged its members to block entrances to the Gilles Villeneuve circuit.

© Press Association