Montreal chief defends police after 226 protest arrests

More than 200 people were arrested and four are facing criminal charges after Thursday night's protest in Montreal against alleged police brutality.

Police Chief Marc Parent said 36 people were nabbed in isolated arrests, while 190 were detained in a mass arrest at a street corner near the downtown core.

Four people, three adults and one youth, were still in custody Friday morning facing assault, breach of probation and weapons charges.

Parent said seven officers were slightly injured, as were two civilians.

The chief defended police behaviour during the protest as professional.

"I'm sure you realize that wearing a uniform for a long evening and dealing with demonstrators is a demanding job," he said.

"It's demanding physically and it requires focus and concentration.… I think that under the circumstances, police officers did a very professional job and were able to manage the event as best as possible."

Police presence common at annual rally

The chief said keeping the protest orderly was difficult because demonstrators split into smaller groups and were challenging to contain.

The protesters tossed projectiles at police, vandalized some stores and smashed two police cruisers, including one that was flipped over on its roof.

The anti-police brutality rally, held each March, draws a significant police response, and usually results in scores of arrests and property damage.

Police action has been under increased scrutiny lately with the rise in the number of mass protests staged in Montreal over the proposed tuition hikes.

Parent said he sympathizes with students who are trying to stage peaceful demonstrations and being overshadowed by the disruptive acts of the minority.

He said it's important that organizers work with police to ensure order and safety.

"We felt we needed to get across the message that those things need to be properly managed," he said.

More student protests are planned in Montreal over the next few days.

With files from Canadian Press