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Divisions in Quebec's protest movement have erupted into public view.

There were masked demonstrators disrupting a news conference today held by the province's more moderate student groups.

The two student groups holding the news conference were trying to release a series of counter-proposals to the government, aimed at resolving an intense dispute over tuition.

Because that seven-point proposal plan includes a tuition freeze — something the Charest government has already called a non-starter — it's hard to imagine the government accepting it, anyway.

But according to the small group that crashed the news conference, even those proposals went too far. The masked protesters repeatedly heckled the student leaders and at one point forced an interruption of the news conference.

The third main student federation, the most hardline one — called the C.L.A.S.S.E. — will be tabling its own proposals later this week.

There's no evidence today's hecklers are formally affiliated with any official student group. The masked demonstrators refused to reveal their identities.

But there have been heated disputes at recent demonstration marches in Montreal, over how radical to get and over whether to allow a so-called "diversity" of protest tactics, like vandalism.

Window-smashers and other vandals have been booed, shoved aside and heckled by more peaceful demonstrators who believe the key to success for their cause is remaining calm and winning public sympathy — which they say is undermined by the association with vandalism.

The proposals released Tuesday by the two student federations call for:

  • A committee to monitor management of universities
  • A limit, to three per cent, of university expenses that are peripheral to education
  • An analysis of arrangements between businesses and universities, when it comes to patents
  • A two-year moratorium on university funding increases
  • A five-year moratorium on construction of new campuses
  • An estates-general, or roving consultations, on education
  • A freeze on tuition at 2012 level