from the Summit of the Americas (FTAA)Quebec April 21/ 2001
* General News Updates
Links to view photos one at a time
At Brutality Canada -
Back from the war zone
- A Report on the Quebec Summit protests by Helen Forsey
- Report on Cornwall Border Caravan Action to Akwesasne by Jenn Tsun
Musings on a hemispheric war
by Adam Strange, May.2001
* Column on Quebec, the FTAA, Oppression, Mike Harris, Capitalism and anti-Capitalsm
- read the full article
Declaration of the Forum on Human Rights
Second Peoples' Summit of the Americas
© Quebec City, Canada, April 16-21, 2001
- read the full document.
Here are links to some excellent web videos at the Toronto Video Activist Collective
- 2 Minutes of Violent Repression outside CMAQ
- Beach Balls, Dancing & Tear Gas
- Protestors throwing tear gas?
- The REAL Hooligans
- Couch Toss & Smoking Out the Summit
- Tooker Gomberg
Web Videos at NowToronto
|Other summit reports
* Thanks to
Will W and Big Rob in the advance car, to Rob S for a ride and laptop support
and to Kate, Jake and Demetrie for hanging out in Quebec City all night.
And of course we thank everyone who contributes to this page, and all of that great protest crowd that showed in Quebec.
Amnesty International calls for public enquiry into alleged police brutality the Summit of the Americas -May.23.2001
- read the full article
At Working for Change - Free trade fabrications - Molly Ivins - CREATORS SYNDICATE
Article on the bizarre media coverage of the Quebec Summit
- read the article
Citizens Want a Public Inquiry into Quebec Chemical Warfare - May.10.2001
A number of citizens including Tooker Gomberg, David Melville and Angela Bischoff attended a speakout and flyer handout at Toronto City Hall. They want an inquiry into the police brutality and chemical weapons attack on thousands of people at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas in late April.
Free Trade/Globalization – a simpler argument against it.
* I usually do write-ups covering what other people say on the issues. Their arguments are often complex so I've done a simple one in this letter to a friend.
- read the article.
Upcoming Protest Events and Related Strategy - Post Quebec FTAA
Sunday May 6.2001
Sunshine and the windy day brought about three Toronto meetings. People will be protesting to free Jaggi Singh and continuing their opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the State Violence and Kidnappings at the late April Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.
I was at the last meeting entitled Caught in the Chaos in Quebec with Tooker Gomberg. About forty people attended and spoke on their thoughts regarding Quebec City, the FTAA and Police Violence. During that time representatives from the other meetings announced their plans.
A messenger from Anti Racist Action announced that there will be a protest on behalf of those arrested and violently treated in Quebec. It takes place Tuesday May 22 at 4 pm at the Court House at Queen and Bay in Toronto. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
A number of suggestions and actions arose at Tooker's Meeting.
My own suggestion is to launch a Canada-wide graffiti action, having people everywhere do graffiti to Free Jaggi or Stop State Kidnappings or anything relevant to globalization and the FTAA. The idea here is everyone can participate and it costs very little, while getting the message out. This idea was well received though one man grimaced, apparently finding it to be a shocking idea.
Tooker wants to leaflet the city and plans to design and mass produce a leaflet on the police arrests and summit brutality issues. mailto:email@example.com
This idea went over well. Tooker is looking for printing help or organizations or unions with copiers to help produce copies.
Tooker's video coverage is on the web at
There are two large protests being organized
in the USA
Sept 28 - Oct 4 - Oppose the IMF - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank will be holding their Joint Annual General Meetings in Washington, DC from September 28 to October 4, 2001.
An organizing listserve for the coordination and networking among activists for the counter actions has been established. To subscribe, send a blank message to following address: DestroyIMFfirstname.lastname@example.org
Protest the World Economic Forum
(FTAA Meeting Oct. 7-9th, 2001.) CALL TO ACTION? The WEF is planning on
meeting in Miami, primarily to assess the progress of the FTAA negotiations.
The date they've decided on, tentatively, is Oct. 7-9th, 2001.
There is intent on mobilizing opposition on a large scale in south. For info. and updates: mailto:email@example.com
The rest of these actions were either approved of or are already underway.
Info on Quebec Court Actions
One person suggested that detailed info be collected and sent out on all court actions regarding Quebec Arrestees and so forth. And another person wants us to approach friendly lawyers and get legal actions started.
Ads in Corporate Media
A person suggested a putting a full page ad on the issue in the Toronto papers.
There is CD coming out by Canadian musicians to raise money for those arrested.
Petition to Free Jaggi Singh
Thousands have signed it and it is at http://rabble.ca/
Recommendation that a festival of some sort be staged before the next major protest action.
Actions on the FTAA Text
The text is still not fully available and more actions need to be staged on it.
Examine the Geneva Convention
and other human rights agreements as to what laws the Canadian Government broke.
Organize a Toronto Forum on the FTAA issues.
Phone your MP or City Councillor and so on.
FTAA Diary – distribute it to raise funds.
Print it out at
Education – a book should be done on the People's Summit.
Report on the Toronto anti-Capitalism conference by Dave Marshall
Sent via "Kelly Ann Kennedy" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After being at the Report Back From Quebec last Thursday and today at the anti-capitalism conference at Ryerson U., I know there are thousands of people still trying to deal, in different ways with trauma experienced on the streets of Quebec.
Also evident, I believe, is a certain trauma felt on a daily basis, in knowing of the devastation being wrought against people, animals, and nature through corporate globalization. We are witness to government policies that explicitly support biocide and genocide, and sometimes we feel helpless to prevent such violence. We are recent witnesses to what the nation-state of Canada is capable of in terms of violence against those who feel compelled to protest the trade driven systematic violence of ruthless global capitalism.
This afternoon, Ritch Whyman chaired a lively and informative discussion about environmental activist, Vandana Shiva. We discussed such issues as violent corporate policies that exploit women and indigenous people, poison soil, destroy biodiversity, steal seeds, and patent life as a commodity.
Transnational corporations are waging brutal warfare against virtually every culture and every ecosystem in order to make the world more uniformly mutilated, predictably American, controllable, exploitable, genetically modified, and profit-driven.
This session tied right in to the second session I attended: The Environment vs Corporate Power, featuring, Tooker Gomberg, Ken Wu, and Eric Lescarbeau.
Horrendous ecological atrocities
are taking place in British Columbia, as we learned from Ken Wu, and Eric
Lescarbeau. Worse atrocities are promised by soon-to-be-elected neo-fascist
liberal, Gordon Campell. Coastal Rainforest devastation will accelerate.
Atlantic Salmon have been unleashed out west and threaten to decimate Pacific
Salmon and western coastal ecosystems. Aboriginal groups have been pushed
to their limit.....
Many in the warm, packed lecture room were there to see Tooker Gomberg speak. He is able to connect with people, and help connect people closer to the natural world. He speaks about the positive actions each of us can take in living an ecologically responsible life. He speaks about how ecological choices are cheaper than ecologically destructive ones, and of ecological choices available to us today. We listen closely knowing he lives what he speaks of. Today he was able to connect with and share with us the trauma still felt –our souvenirs from Quebec. He was there with us, living teargas and breathing jail. He speaks of harnessing the enthusiasm, energy and commitment carried home with us from Quebec, and to put it to use here and now. He speaks of his concerns about excessive police violence and chemical warfare. He encourages us to raise our voices about the police-state brutality and chemical warfare we witnessed, and felt, and the wounds and the trauma that may not soon go away. He connects because he isn't full of shit like a usual political.
There's one other thing I need to get off my chest, for now. I believe we have a terrible problem in our society with censorship, namely; mainstream corporate media censorship of truth.
I believe an honest and open forum
such as I've become used to attending deserves to be covered by as many
"sources" as possible. To censor anyone, I believe, is to play the censor
game always to the advantage of an oppressive society. The stories coming
Quebec from independent sources - of heroism and generosity - are inspiring. We need this to continue. Corporations are intent on controlling every bit of radio space, every bit of air space, and every bit of cyber space. We need to take back space. Our space. We
need to fill more space with tales of bravery, creativity, and solidarity.
Thanks to a growing body of documented accounts from individual victims of violence in Quebec, the truth is coming out. Thanks to independent media sources such as websites, video documentaries, and some alternative newspapers and magazines, the truth is emerging, and outrage over what has happened grows.
Meanwhile, Jaggi Singh, kidnapped by the state, remains in jail, as punishment for speaking the truth.
I read a beautiful little booklet
tonight called 'A FTAA Diary.' It contains more touching and heart-wrenching
accounts of what was experienced in Quebec, with some great quotes, poems,
It is dedicated to "Jaggi Singh, Morgan Stewart, and everyone else who was abducted, gassed, or otherwise attacked and invaded."
Readers of the magazine are encouraged to: "rip out the staples, add your own stories, photocopy, and share this zine" download and distribute the pdf:
proceeds go to FTAA legal defence fund
Some of the Protest Victims in Quebec
* Missing in Action – Jaggi Singh – Victim of a state kidnapping by undercover police at the demo - he is still in Jail.
- Eric Lafferriere, 28, will never speak again. Two rubber bullets severed a nerve in his left arm and crushed his larynx last Saturday. Eric has undergone a tracheotomy and awaits further surgery.
- Francois Gingras, 23, was shot in the eye with a gas canister upon exiting his apartment near Rene-Levesque to buy cigarettes. He plans to take his case to civil court.
- The Quebec Legal Team confirms a report that one man's arm was broken by a tear gas canister fired from less than a meter away.
- The upholstery of James Partaik's car caught fire when a canister launched from behind the Rene Levesque barricade crashed through the window of his 86 Oldsmobile.
- A number of people were injured at the fence by tear gas canisters fired directly at the fence. They are lucky they weren't killed. One man shot directly by a tear gas rocket was 65 years old.
- Numerous people were injured by falls and thousands suffered from gas inhalation – especially during the Saturday night police attack which the corporate labeled a riot. Though it never was a riot. Dozens of people were hit by bean bags and rubber bullets. At the very least these ruin clothing, cause large bruises and burns to the skin and flesh
- Many other injuries are to be documented or
will remain undocumented.
* Quebec witnessess needed
The quebec legal collective is looking to speak to people who experienced police brutality/ill health due to noxious chemicals during the anti-ftaa protests there. please respond to this request if you have evidence to share. Call them at: (418) 622-5261.
Tooker's Back from Quebec Jail –April.27.2001
* Notes and photos by Gary Morton
- Tooker Gomberg (on the right) and well up ahead of the main body of cyclists at today's critical mass. It's Graeme Bacque's birthday (he's on the left.)
- Photo of the Critical Mass bike ride Toronto.
Tooker and Angela came out to help take over the streets with tonight's critical mass bike ride … and I talked with him later about his arrest at the Quebec Summit. Tooker says people shouldn't fear arrest as it is really part of the whole experience. He is also looking forward to heading back to fight the case in a judge and jury trial.
Though he didn't say it, the Canadian Government can't really come out of this looking good. Quebec papers say our government fired 5000 teargas rockets at us, yet we are expected to believe that Tooker and Angela are villains. Witnesses say they did nothing other than hang around on the bicycles.
Police in Quebec stole Tooker's bike and he had to file a special request for recovery of a tape taken from his camera. Apparently police there do not like his determination in trying to investigate these matters.
Tooker is also wrestling with a humungous video file that he is trying to get on the NowToronto web site. Looks like he may need technical help on this one.
Dancing with Teargas in our
Eyes by Gary
Report and Digital Photos by Gary Morton- CitizensontheWeb.com
- Carrying the flag in Teargas
- Skullmasked marchers
- It's a gas
- Gassed out
- All wet
- Gas hill
- Water and Smoke
- Column of Cops
- Drum Marchers
- Front Line
- Man who was hit by gas rocket
- A couple gals
- Fence Cops
- Joyous marchers
- Black Bloc - Scan from Quebec Newspaper
Dancing with Teargas in our Eyes
by Gary Morton Apr.21.2001
I headed into the Quebec OQP-2001
March with seven people from Tao Toronto (tao.ca). The Plains of Abraham
were sunny at noon with a crowd building till about 1.30. In spite of all
the hype about how protesters should dress, the people showed as a mixed
crowd … casual and eclectic with costumed and alternative elements.
The drumming and dancing began there and continued as the march poured out into the streets. Then we reached Rene-Levesque Blvd and confusion took over. A split developed with the main parade heading straight through to link up with a union parade, and anarchists with the other half heading for the wall and the riot police.
Having lost my friends in the mob I ended up at the fence, getting embroiled in a long encounter with the police. Shooting photos led to my being gassed badly about 10 times.
This battle raged all day long and into the night. It was still underway when we left at ten p.m. Perhaps you’ve heard of the new world order bombing Iraq and Yugoslavia into submission … this time their aim was to bomb protesters and a large portion of downtown Quebec into submission.
They opened fire on us with tear gas rockets and water cannons and the thoom and thud of the fire echoed across the city hour after hour. Riot cops sent exploding canisters into streets, fields, down steep alleys … everywhere … choking those up front and even ordinary citizens and residents in the downhill streets.
There weren’t any brave groups of cops dashing out to make arrests. When they came out to charge and try to pincer us it was always with huge marching columns of riot guys that boomed out more tear gas rockets.
Like in Iraq, they were afraid to risk a man, but had no problem with bombing everyone in town. Protesters ran through the smoke with endless energy tossing the canisters back at police. The crowd drummed and pounded on everything … metal flag poles, guard rails, snare and other drums … sending out an eerie din of war that reached its peak in the night below the underpass … where a huge crowd danced wildly as the battle continued at the top of the steep ravine. In the spotlights riot cops and protesters clashed, huge curtains of gas floated and canisters came right down the ravine side and exploded, leaving some people overcome while others continued to dance furiously in the night and firelight with tears in their eyes.
In the afternoon I ran from scene to scene. Incredible stuff was happening everywhere. Arriving at one spot I saw a guy run up and grab the fence, only to have a gas canister fired into the chain links explode in his face to send him flying to the pavement. Medics dragged him up an embankment and I watched them treat his bleeding face and arms. A few minutes later they were gone and I lobbed rocks and a beer bottle down on the riot cops then ran off down an alley with tear gas canisters exploding at my heels.
In a different area I met up with anarchists in heavy gear going up a narrow street and watched as they set a building inside the fence on fire with Molotovs. At times people ran in panic on many of the streets as gas firing riot cops charged. Protesters fought their way back to the start point of the conflict. Tremendous waves of gas hit us there and the huge police columns came back out and caused a panicked run to the downhill streets. When the cop columns halted cheerleaders faced them at the front, creating the odd scene of smoke and riot cops preparing to rush girls dancing in tartan skirts.
Protest drummers knocked out a steady beat, a Quebec City resident blasted Pink Floyd’s – All in All You're Just Another Brick in the Wall from his balcony, and when it ended we were running downhill through exploding gas.
In the lower streets and downtown groups of protesters were everywhere in circles – sitting, standing, crowding roadways. Yet the only violence came with the police. I saw small fires, almost no property damage … wrath was reserved for the police and the wall, and each time the riot cops came the protesters showed the courage that the police didn’t have. People took tremendous risks grabbing the bombs, running in to throw anything they could at the cops, preventing them from getting a soft crowd they could surround and arrest.
One guy had a whole column of cops crush him. It continues in the night. Soon the cops will goose step to the bottom to claim arrests and victory.
And it will be democracy again – where bombs rule, and the new world order is victorious.
You can only dance with teargas in your eyes.
Fuck the FTAA!
Here are a few more photos
* These are from Rob Stauffert "email@example.com"
citizensontheweb's technical expert
- The Darkness
- Raise a Fist
- Run for it
- The Gas Walk
- Wall of Gas
- Union March
- Girl in Gas
* these were sent out on the net by William Josef
All photos have been compressed for the Internet. Contact Josef for originals.
- Dangerous Radical Protesters
- More Dangerous Radicals
- Smoking in the Park
- More gas
- Don't let the smoke get to ya
- More gas flyin at us
- Tear gas just landed
- Arrest at Le Grande Theatre
Photo at from Vermont Indy Media
Here are a few photos taken by Jake Wright <firstname.lastname@example.org> and passed along by Tommy-No:
Tommy-No:Usury's FTAA Report is at http://www.cyberclass.net/ftaareport.htm
Liberated in Quebec City
By Angela Bischoff
"Honest Mom, I was just standing there on the street." "Well you're lucky you're not here right now or I'd give you a lickin'."
She didn't get that I'd just spent the most radicalising week of my life. Truly, I'd never felt so alive.
How could she have known through the corporate media filter what I'd witnessed with my own eyes for two days straight: thousands of peaceful protestors shot, beaten, jailed and gassed with poisons -- including her beloved daughter -- by her own "democratic" government.
I was standing alongside my bike on Rene Levesque Boulevard blending into the crowd as a wave of protestors came running for their lives. I stood stunned, like a deer in headlights, and before I could blink a throng of riot cops encircled us, batons swinging. Big monstrous testosterone pumped, raging henchmen beat us to the ground, ripped off my gas mask and helmet, wrenching my chin in the process, and bound together my wrists behind my back with plastic ties.
I could hear my partner screaming out, demanding to be released, and I could see at least three cops sitting on top of him. As I sent a beam of love his way, proud of his defiance and meditating for his safety, my cop miraculously marched me over to stand alongside my man, to witness the assault. In the process we abandoned my bike and bag (which was promptly stolen).
I was then shoved off to behind the police line where the next round of cops awaited the command from above to attack. As I waited for my mug shot to be taken, I watched the darkness close in on the peaceful protestors. The poison gas assault continued, luminescent in the night sky.
The courage of the protesters buoyed my spirits, their numbers swelling and receding with every onslaught, seemingly infinite in number. One young man walked right up to a cop near me and offered him a gift -- it was refused. Others approached the riot cops standing at attention and tried to initiate conversation. Bebo (her jail name) shouted incessantly "you do not have a right to detain me. I am being illegally arrested" while four robo cops dressed in full riot regalia took pictures of each other with a little camera to show their families, I suppose. I wondered if they were smiling for the camera behind their helmet and gasmasks.
They kept us on the school bus all night long, hands tied behind our backs, no water, no food, and no heat, freezing in our t-shirts. We weren't allowed to sit two to a seat. Women were at the back of the bus, men at the front. One francophone was mouthing off at a cop and was removed from us, never to be seen again. One anxious young woman had an asthma attack and was removed from the bus and seen by medics.
We schemed some jail solidarity tactics, but only six agreed to participate. Others blamed us for inciting the bad treatment from the cops. One cried out "I'm not even an activist. I came with my boyfriend for a vacation."
At seven the next morning I was taken from the bus, stripped and "decontaminated" in the shower to wash off the toxic gas from my skin. Given a grey sweatsuit and slippers, I was escorted to my cell. Three of us middle class women slept like sardines on the single, narrow cot as a homeless teen sat on the cold cement floor. The stale, white flour processed cheese sandwiches stacked up throughout the day as we all fasted, as much out of necessity as out of conviction. Instinctively we knew our bodies needed to detoxify from the poisons we had been subjected to.
Continuously, until I was released without charge late that night, we chanted "so so so, solidarite", sang french nationalist songs, ommmmed in harmony, and banged rhythmically on the doors. The acoustics were mystical, reverberating throughout the cement jail block. We were all incensed. But we were also alive and we wanted the world to hear us.
We shared our stories. I told of my horror when near the epicentre of the battle, a middle aged fellow ran toward me, stopping to flush out his gassed eyes with water. As he regained his sight, he suddenly collapsed beside me, his forehead gushing with blood. He had just been shot in the head. Miraculously a medic appeared. As I gazed in horror toward the battlefront, I noticed my bike flag defiantly blowing in the haze -- Not For Sale and a glorious earth emblazoned on it. That's when I noticed a hole right through the centre, just the size of the rubber bullet that had taken my comrade down.
While some jailbirds chattered and sang, others decorated their cells with orange rinds, while still others decorated their hair with threads from the mattress. Tony flooded his cell by overflowing his sink. His water protest worked -- he got to see the human rights representative in the jail and was soon released.
Two guards came to my cell well after dark and said "you are liberated". They gave me back my toxic clothes and escorted me to the highway, and said "you're free to go". I said "where shall I go?" They pointed down the highway claiming there was a bus stop somewhere. I asked them for bus fare as my wallet had been abandoned by the police at the scene of the hostage taking, but they refused. Frozen, as my coat was also abandoned, and close to tears, I asked in desperation if there were any protesters. They directed me to the parking lot. As I approached the camp and realized I was among friends who cared about my welfare, I collapsed in a withering pile of sobs.
The Jail Solidarity Camp was to be my home for the next three days and nights as I awaited the release of my husband. Those three days healed my body, and my soul; they were the closest to utopia I had ever been.
The Solidarity camp spontaneously burst into existence on the second day of the police assaults. As busloads of political prisoners began flowing to the Quebec Detention Centre, dozens gathered on the jail site to protest the brutal detention, and to greet and support the hostages as they were released.
Volunteer legal support arrived. A stove appeared, along with chefs and a cornucopia of vegan food. Sleeping bags, sweaters, tents, and tarps provided warmth. Radical cheerleaders and drums made it loud and clear to the prisoners inside that allies were outside awaiting their release.
The riot cops stood at attention, but the campers used the megaphone to tell them jokes. We imagined them giggling behind their shields and armour.
The camp had regular circle meetings with everyone present, translated into french and english. All decisions were made by consensus. We even wrote a press release by committee.
Two security guards approached us and asked to speak with our leader. We offered them all of us or none. Thus began our collective negotiations with the jail security, which continued daily until the shut down of the camp on the sixth day, after 456 of the 463 hostages had been released.
We built a bridge over the creek to the wooded area where the latrine was dug. We dug two compost pits near the kitchen tent -- the cops were especially intrigued by this. The sleeping tarp protected more than 30 prostrate snorers from the wind and rain. The winnebago housed the volunteer legal collective (paid for by the Green Party) and was used to charge batteries and cell phones.
Civil disobedience training sessions happened regularly after we were tipped off by a reporter that we would be raided. The raid never happened, but we were prepared with a get-away bicycle complete with quarters for the payphone, special warning alarm, media liaison, and a plan of defence that included locking our arms and legs together in a circle.
On Monday morning, five busloads of political prisoners were released between 2 and 5 a.m. Jail security had conveniently lost many inmates' clothing, boots, and money. The air was close to freezing,
Rather than giving the prisoners the option of being welcomed to our camp, they were whisked out and abandoned on the highway at a bus stop when public transit wasn't running. We promptly sent out cars to follow the buses, but jail security would give us wrong directions, and tell our drivers that if they left they wouldn't be allowed back. Nevertheless, our drivers rescued a good many wandering souls that cold, dark morning as they tried to hitch hike, frozen and frightened.
That afternoon our lawyers held a press conference at the camp. During the press event, another busload of released prisoners was being whisked off. All the campers ran for the bus waving and shouting at those inside to join the camp. A few media at the press conference rushed in to document the ruckus.
The bus stopped briefly at the exit of the lot because of the heavy police presence. As the campers shouted "Let them go, let them go", those on the bus chanted "Let us go, let us go". In the heat of the moment one of our campers dove in front of the bus and grabbed onto the chassis beneath. Four cops wrestled with his legs, (two on either leg). The chanting continued louder.
Sensing the chaos, the bus driver opened the door freeing the hostages just as the four cops pried off the death-defying activist. This same guy had just that morning been released from jail, and was wearing a bandanna to hide his identity. With cameras in tow, we all returned to the camp triumphant, and free.
After my partner was released on bail at last, we headed back to the city to try to reclaim our missing belongings. As I walked freely though the old City of Quebec that just five days earlier had been a war zone, I could smell the tear gas in the air and see the remnants of the protesters (ie. graffiti) as well as the fascist state (the fence). I felt jittery, defensive, and emotional as I slowly meandered through the streets, reliving the horror.
I made my way back to Laval University (where thousands of us had slept on massive gymnasium floors) to reclaim our abandoned sleeping gear etc. Much of it had disappeared.
Disappointed and exhausted, I washed my face. My skin burned like fire from the tear gas remaining in the air of Quebec City. I sobbed as I remembered it all, the pain and the euphoria. My life had changed.
For those who are interested in donating to the legal defense fund of
those wrongfully arrested and imprisoned in Quebec City, please send a
cheque, made out to CASA, and indicate on it "fonds de defense" to: Le
Maquis, C.P. 48026, 110 Boul. Rene Levesque, Quebec, PQ, Canada G1R 2R5
From: dannysavard <email@example.com>
I went to Quebec City to learn.
A crash course in history and the humanities, with a minor in geography.
Of the issues I was informed, on the moment I was speculating.
Stakes in your own Woodstock were up for grabs. A place in history and a chance to lift the curse.
It was the summer of 1985 when a blowing Joan Baez put the kibosh on a generation's potential by proclaiming " this is your Woodstock." Live Aid, a noble cause but nonetheless a made for TV rock concert. Eager to have my own Woodstock, I bought it, at least while the TV was on. Then reality sideswiped sentiment.
My Woodstock was in a suburban living room, subject to disruption beyond their control. I'd pass and take my chances elsewhere.
The amazing thing about Woodstock wasn't the music or the half million people, but that a half million people were having their Woodstocks together.
The world needs these moments. We all need these moments. We call them Woodstocks because it's a convenient reference when defining a moment.
I really needed a moment.
So sixteen years later my inner conscience finally met my higher conscience. A persuasive pair.
In Quebec City some of us were having our Woodstocks together. People met people who shared a common goal, if not a common means.
Truth, our vehicle for change.
Quebec City was best navigated not on soles of foolish pride but on the shoulders of humble souls. Humbled to learn individually we don't have all the answers, but inspired that collectively we seek them. For some Quebec City was a renewal, for others a beginning. A dialogue was started, and no matter whom or how some try to marginalize it, there was movement.
Or perhaps a movement resumed after gazing too long at its' reflection. The tear gas might have helped.
The tenets of this movement have been loosely defined with rhetoric. Make love not war and power to the people gave way to food not bombs and people over profits.
Words always compelled and empowered. The future is to unite under one slogan, one tenet. A basis for the education of every child, a universal curriculum.
One for all, and all for one.
It sounds camp and naïve but how can you argue the alternative.
The alternative didn't work in Quebec City. Fraction led to friction, which led to burning.
We need to learn we are no greater than the next man yet greater with him. Mankind has been unwilling to endorse one's power to affect change. Sure, some say one can make a difference, but that concession comes with a caveat that for this to occur others must allow it. Furthermore for that one to be heard they must possess a gift or privilege.
Mankind has a tradition of elevating and honoring those with a gift or privilege, yet not the common man. We expect so little of him therefore we bestow so little upon him. The time has come to celebrate the common man. Empower and inspire him.
Quebec City had common men and women to celebrate. Some I simply observed, others I had the privilege to meet.
In the Saturday forenoon at the tension-winding perimeter I asked a young RCMP officer for directions. His accent only confirmed what his nerves gave away. He wasn't from around here. He was in a bad place at a bad time. I offered "good luck" and through the chain link fence he conceded a smile and a " thank-you". Quebec City pitted us against nameless, faceless police; one thought enough to reveal himself. On a day when many of his peers refused to compromise, he refused to compromise himself.
Allison Williams I first met while retreating from a cloud of tear gas. I outran both the gas and her. Her excuse was a cane in each hand and close to eighty years of selfless living. A young man tried to calm the effects of the tear gas attacking her but no avail; eventually he drifted off. Anonymous. His day was over, Allison's was beginning.
Names were irrelevant in Quebec City. The desire to meet and talk required only a simple "where you from". If conversations lasted, names were offered, of course e-mails were exchanged and friendships were started. What was relevant in Quebec City was colour. If you protested under red or black you expected violence. If peace and love were your thing, green or yellow were your colours.
An hour or so after I first ran by Allison, our paths crossed again. We both must have agreed the tear gas was an inhospitable host and the anarchist, Black Bloc, unwanted allies. We walked away from the chaos of Boulevard Rene Levesque.
A block away seemed like a world away.
Against a backdrop of waddling nuns close to a hundred protesters were staking their claim to a patch of road. Defended with only flowers in hand, and flowery words, their only offence was two raised fingers.
The calm broke when police realized they'd been flanked. On the left with Allison Williams front and center, sat the doves, and closing in on the right, the Raging Grannies. Their hair an unnatural blue, their colors unmistakably green. If this was a bake-off the police were screwed. As it turns out this was war.
Anxiety must lead to colour blindness, like panic led to tear gas.
Tear gas is violent. Tear gas attacks, eyes, mouth, skin and mind.
I would never be more scared then I was at that moment. I wanted to cry. You cry when you feel helpless.
If the police were capable of this, against these people, what hope was there when this city turned dark and the real rage explodes.
Scared as I was I was also inspired. Allison Williams sucked up more then her fair share of gas and for an encore shamefully hogged a couple more quarts of the ole'CS. Unbelievable.
Quebec City was turning into a disturbing study in contrast.
Young punks, old warriors. Green - peace, black - violence. The smell of tear gas and pepper spray clashed with the aroma of petula and pot.
Empty bottles of water used to wash away the sting, empty bottles of beer to wash away the senses.
But even at its' worst Quebec City drew people together.
In the relative calm of a side street I met Parker. By his own admission the token hippie at the Boston Globe back in the sixties. As an activist his credentials were beyond reproach. Parker cut his teeth in the violent streets of Chicago and the backwoods of the segregated south. And how about this for a Woodstock. Days before Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream with the world; he tried it out on some folks at a tiny church outside Montgomery, Alabama. Parker was there. There was enough enlightenment in that church to put a shine on Parker for a lifetime.
The time before dark I spent on re-education. One hour after defending his thesis on public discourse, Jason left Toronto to test his theories in Quebec City. Christ, he was bright. He taught me you could give your principles a black eye; you just can't compromise them.
As the sun began to set behind the city skyline so to did the hopes that the night would pass by peacefully. Tear gas at night seemed more sinister. Sporadic fires lead a path to a larger, foreboding one. Thousands of protesters danced around the fire to the beat from stone abusing metal. As a melody it lacked, but the incessant clanging kept the people's focus, if not rhythm.
Any piece of wood not bolted down became fodder for the fire. The protesters stoked the fire and in return the fire stoked them. Real Lord of the Flies stuff. I now understand the power of a mob. It lies within, perpetuating itself.
Under the cover of darkness and with strength in numbers, black and red banners of anarchy took to new ground. Buoyed by hollow victories on the high ground, they turned to the streets of lowertown. The main artery running through, Boulevard Charest Est., was unwittingly turned into a gauntlet, daring unsuspecting motorists to navigate its' broken glass and raging fires. The helicopters that hovered all day long were absent in the overcast night. The only noticeable police were four cruisers, who, judging by their distance, had no appetite for destruction.
Quebec City was burning. Nobody seemed to care.
Two blocks down from Charest Est., recessed from the sidewalk, I found an oasis from all this shit, Chez Urbaine. The guilt from deserting the "war" seemed to ease as I eased into a pint. Chez Urbaine was quaint and could easily pass for a pub back home. What gave it away was the wine on tap and the women pouring, and of course the absence of English. At least till Ciaran walked in. Ciaran has just graduated from photography at Humber College in Toronto. He was treating himself with a trip into history. I noticed him for two reasons. One was for his assault on broken French with broken English. The other was when he asked for change, to tip. Not many people ask for change to tip, especially in a strange land. There was potential.
We spent the next hour or so meeting each other and sharing our thoughts. We also just laughed, mostly at ourselves. Ciaran was up for history. We both were. We had confirmed what the other had suspected. A moment. A movement.
I left Ciaran shortly after we left the Chez Urbaine. He seemed intent on stirring it up to the right, I went to the left, content to observe history rather than engage it. I was tired of the gas.
By now those four cruisers were becoming braver and silhouettes of riot police appeared in the dusk. It seemed things were going to heat up, maybe in a way we'd never figure. There was enough of the unknowns to send us cautiously down a side street I'll call Fate. Where there should have been more buildings there was nothing. And behind nothing there was something.
In all her glory stood before us L'Eglise St. Roch. The church of the rock.
In the time it took to debate the subject of locks on churches, a shadow slipped through the doors. I just kinda walked in.
As I got up from a genuflect I was met by an angel. She led me down to a basement sanctuary, and then bid me adieu. I dined on egg salad sandwich cut in incongruent pieces and Del Monte juices. Comfort was offered with coffee and tea, and cookies that reminded you of grannies.
I was on my 17th piece of egg salad sandwich when in slinked Richie Cunnigham. Ryan from Hamilton turned out to be more Opie than Richie. But in a good way. I listened to him for twenty minutes or so, regaling me with talk of casualties on all sides. Ryan is the future of the movement - our children's future. Right now he just needs a little seasoning. Quebec City wasn't his moment to shine, but you just know his is not far off.
Others had their moment.
I soaked up enough glare from St. Roche to last my lifetime.
But what did I learn? I learned the who and how of change.
Through evolution powered by a dramatically new education. Our future is our children's future. If we compromise theirs we limit ours. Bloodlines over bottom lines.
Corporate CEO's are not hatched nor are despots and death cops. They are born, nurtured and then taught. Somewhere though, their education forgot their humanity. Any fight to win the chance to re-educate our next generations is a fight worth winning. A universal education based on a profound respect for a world of contrast, and a child's ability to succeed on his strengths. We need to teach are children better. Our teachers should be our best and brightest.
Children threw a lion's share of the stones in Quebec City. Somehow they missed the lesson on respect. For those who say kids will be kids I say to you have more faith. Children can learn anything we teach them. They are our best hope for a new thinking. Our best hope to shine.
With the who, and the how answered, all that is left is the where, when and what.
Sunhine travels at the speed of light, it'll take a while to catch up to.
Time we have.
Our time is borrowed against our nieces and nephews'.
There is a theory that history is cyclical. Just a series of revolutions, round and round like a ship without a rudder. I no longer prescribe to that theory. Revolutions come and go. Today's radicals are tomorrow's reactionaries. Evolution is constant. Evolving to the point where we can carry out the movement needed to set us on course.
I hope my children can meet Ciaran's children, congratulations if they do, and experience this movement together. I hope they have time to laugh as well.
One last, all for all, one for all.
Free for all.
A mass moment shared by six billion people in movement.
One more Woodstock.
And we all shine on.
Anarchist - Summit Protest Report
From: "Greg Bonser" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Photo - Black Bloc - Scan from Quebec Newspaper
I was in Quebec City over the weekend. Here's what I saw (please read if you wish to counteract any misinformation that was provided from the media).
I guess that I would have been considered to be a member of the Black Bloc, as I was part of the first group that tore down the fence on Rene Lesveque Blvd. It came down real quick. The cops just stood back and watched as we toppled about 50 meters of fence within 5-10 minutes of reaching the barricade.
Then, people began to throw rocks & paving
stones, and rush the police with parts of the fence & other debris.
In an attempt to calm things down, some of the protesters formed a line
in front of the police, and faced the crowd, with their arms raised above
their heads, giving the peace symbol. I walked towards them, giving
the police the peace symbol. I got about 5 feet away from them, and
was shot in the chest with a tear gas canister. I turned my back
to them, and tried to urge the crowd to be peaceful. The cops then
proceeded to shoot us peaceful protesters in the back with tear gas.
the front of the march for a while to clear my eyes and throat.
The cops had advanced when I went back up, and
were shooting more tear gas into the retreating crowd. For a while,
the cops held their ground, while some of us danced and played any percussion
instruments we could find.
Others continued to throw rocks at the officers. They were wearing full riot gear, and the rocks (most of which did not even reach them) could not have hurt them. Then they gassed us some more.
They forced a group of us to retreat into
an apartment complex to the side of the barricade. It was a senior
citizens complex. Between two of the buildings, a group of protesters
sat down giving the peace sign to a group of cops who were facing us.
A few people tried to explain (in English & French) that this was a
seniors complex and that we were peacefully trying to express ourselves.
One resident leaned out the window and shouted to the protesters in French,
many of them cheered so I guess it was a compliment.
Then they gassed us and the seniors.
As the day went on, gas was repeatedly shot at
the peaceful protesters.
Luckily the wind was at our backs, and most of the gas just blew back at the cops.
At about 4pm, the cops began to force us back along Rene Lesveque. I was about 15-20 m away from the cops a few blocks away from the barricade and I was dancing amongst a group of drummers. Then I was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet. (I read an interesting fact about the rubber bullets from a police spokes-person on the ride home; they are only used sparingly, and as a last resort before arrest for protesters who come very close to police & are endangering them. Sounds kind of like me.)
That all happened on Friday.
On Saturday, the police weren't just standing back. Anyone who approached the perimeter was gassed. Including a group of us flashing the peace symbol, sitting down.
I saw parts of the fence being dismantled, but only near a cemetery, where the police stood behind a second fence.
Over all, Saturday had a much more festive feel. There were large groups of marching drummers and dancers; they were gassed.
I spent most of the day at a place where a number
of roads converge with highway ramps. A number of people were throwing
rocks & Molotov cocktails.
They were gassed, along with a group who sat in a circle 5-10m away from the fence giving the peace sign to the cops & demonstrators. When the cops found out that the gas wasn't going to disperse them, they shot them with a water cannon, rubber bullets bean bag bullets and more tear gas. They got up and danced.
Most of the roads leading to the barricade at that point were full of people. A group climbed up into the overhead street signs & began drumming on it with rocks & sticks. Soon every street sign, guard rail & lamp post became drums & more people began to dance. More tear gas was shot. Not many people towards the front were bothered by the gas - you seem to build up a tolerance as the day goes by. So the cops began to shoot the canisters further back into the crowd. Not many people there were ready for the gas, and a minor stampede began. Many of the canisters missed their mark and fell into the streets below, where children and families were protesting in the 'green zone'. Anyone in the city of Quebec now knows what it's like to be gassed.
More rubber bullets and bean bag bullets were shot at protesters clearly endangering the safety of the police from over 20 m away (sarcasm). Random shots were fired into the area a number of times.
I left the area at about 9:30 pm when more cops began to fill the intersection.
That's a highlight of what I saw first hand. I've got some souvenirs (rubber bullets and bean bag bullets) that I'll bring to the APC if anyone wants to see them.
Second hand info:
Raphael Therrin was arrested on Friday. No one knows why and as of 11:30am on Sunday, he was still in jail & no one that I spoke to from Peterborough had heard from him.
Tooker & Angela were arrested on Saturday night while riding their bikes in the city. They were still in jail at about 4pm Sunday.
People who were gathered outside the jail in solidarity
were gassed and threatened by riot cops on Sunday. A number of
people who were being released from jail came out crying and shooken up.
From Seattle to Quebec City-FTAA
Chaitanya K Kalevar
"Chai Kalevar" <email@example.com>
- Stroll through the gas
- Sit-in 2
- Salami Banner
- Earth Banner
- Some are Guilty
- Screwed by America
Yes, it did not start in Seattle and yes, it will not end in Quebec City. Most certainly, it surfaced to global attention in Seattle. Don’t tell me it did not, I was there!
Seattle was a breeze. It kept the element of surprise on the side of the demonstrators. The police did not know what to expect. The police and the demonstrators were on every street with the Seattle residents and workers in downtown Seattle. It was an experience! Each street was working on its own set of rules and was negotiating a civic society compromise. On many streets the compromises were heavy handed, as the police overreacted with their macho authority. The presence of the Seattle residents and workers as observers kept the dialogue civil and the police confused. They were not sure how to treat a crowd of protesters not far from the delegates and civilians in harms way!
In Washington, it was clear that the Seattle police do not have the experience of the Washington blues. Washington police were polite and professional compared to the Seattle ones. Seattle is not known for protests, Washington is! After all, Washington may be the most protested capital, the capital of the only democratic, but veto wielding superpower of planet earth.
In Quebec City, the blues were ready, with the blessings of the 34 heads of state and Ottawa, the branch plant of Washington. Unlike Seattle, the at least 3 meter wall separated the protesters and residents from the delegates and the resident hostages inside. What the 34 bullies could not forsee is that the neglected environment will never submit to their wishes. A $500,000 pass for the corporate elite cannot ensure the direction in which wind will flow at any time. The tear gas canisters flew from the inside of the perimeter to the outside, but alas, the wind was blowing from the outside to the inside on at least half of the perimeter at any point in time.
The hotels and the convention center were required to shut their windows and their air conditioning systems so that the tear gas does not enter the undemocratic hallways of corporate power. Democracy may have been quietly usurped by the corporate elites, but they could not control the directions of the wind.
All that tear gas was really necessary for a few
stone throwers, as they would have us believe. I think they were
used to disperse the crowd that had a clearly defined goal contrary to
the wishes of the corporate elites. All the police had to do to deal
with the stone throwers was stand a stone throw behind the fence! After
all no body except the police had come with guns to shoot tear gas canisters,
rubber bullets or anything else. Anyone with a slingshot or catapult
throwing teddy bears, tomatoes or eggs was not in sight. The one only Jaggi
Singh with an invisible slingshot or a large catapult was already in custody
- 2 -
I was there with an army surplus gas mask, which leaked, and so was useless, so I thought. Till, I met a group of committed fence goers. I overheard one of them complaining to the group that wish he had a mask, like the others. I offered my mask, with the notice that it did not work for me. He jumped at it, and as the sign said “Fair trade, not free trade” he in the middle of the May hue tried to pay me. He gave me two fives and excused with a no more gesture! I moved on with a loss of a chance to face the Army surplus store manager, but I was delighted with shedding of the weight, it made it easy to move on.
I moved to a stand off between some sitting protesters, and twice as many police in gear moving towards them. It was fascinating to watch the spontaneous chants developed by the youth. They challenged the cautiously moving robot line with “Where do you have to go?” “Yes, Yes, Who is behind you?” Any thinking police could not but think of his paycheck to keep moving forward. They all did! Did they have a choice?
As I waited good distance away from the fence to take some photographs, a teargas canister launched right in front of me and began to bother my nostrils. I did the only thing I could, with that unwelcome projectile. I picked it up and threw it right back, before its heat could melt my civilian glove. At least, it was not bothering anymore! Some one asked me in Toronto, “Were you throwing stones?” I politely debunked that hype, and admitted I returned the tear gas canister that landed before me. Tit for Tat, Eh!
I was trying to capture some good pictures, but the tear gas deterred me and dulled the view. The heavy, low hanging tear gas clouds made photography difficult, but the winds going into the perimeter gave us some relief and delight at the thought that the well protected police and delegates were not completely out of the harms way! The wind goddess has her own way of equalizing all animals on earth, even if they have a fat bank account! I hope the lessons are internalized by those still refusing to give up ‘FIRST STRIKE” in our nuclear world!
Soon it was time to go home. On the bus of a progressive
organization, the mundane habits of North America surfaced. We had just
protested the multinationals, and laughed at the boarded McDonalds in Quebec
City, but the lunch stop was at the convenience of the driver, at a wayside
McDonalds near Montreal. None of the diverse delicious cuisine of
Montreal could be enjoyed! The bus anchor announced a short break,
as a “Smoke Break”! Wow, even the politically progressives need to
examine their daily economic and health-related practices. Many in the
bus objected, but were not about to walk to Toronto, for any of these gaffes!
We were exhausted in Quebec City challenging the wall, so what is another
Hamburger in McDonalds? Many ate without a grumble! The Toronto air
was welcoming and refreshing, even though we had a big laundry job ahead!
- 3 -
My son enquired, “Which was more dangerous?” Seattle or Quebec City? I said “Seattle!” as the perimeter was not clearly defined. In Quebec City, if you did not want to taste the tear gas, then all you had to do was to not go near the perimeter, even if it is your democratic right to protest! I was relieved, that he did not persist “What is a democratic right?” How could I explain?
Photos available on request
The Saturday Night Sweep – Notes by Gary Morton
In my write-up on the Saturday Yellow Zone direct action I note that we got out of Quebec City sometime after ten pm. At that time undercover men were nearby and the troops were shooting the first volleys of tear gas down from the hill streets at the dancing/drumming crowds.
I really wanted to stay but I had to be sure to get the digital photos and a report out. We did leave our younger friends Kate, Jake and Demetrie in the city.
They witnessed the police sweep, the so-called riot and the huge fire. In their report it didn't quite happen as described in the media.
There were huge gatherings under the bridges and one was particularly peaceful with some people dancing and others sitting on the grass. None of them were planning a riot. They were just hanging out or sleeping out.
Then the riot cops showed on the overpass and opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets, creating anger. One guy smashed out the subway station windows and was tackled by people who cooled him off. Then others began to build the huge bonfire in a pretty much orderly fashion.
It was hardly a riot. There never really were any riots anywhere in the city. The people in downtown Quebec were supporting us so we were careful not to destroy their property.
Right from the beginning the police strategy was to create panic and anger with gas attacks and then to arrest people. Late Saturday night they moved into the lower streets with specific orders to agitate and arrest people for participating in a riot.
Other reports say they attacked the CMAQ Independent media building wounding one man with rubber bullets. A tear gas attack was later launched on the medical building. After that they shot a man in the throat with a plastic bullet leaving him in critical condition. Another man suffered eye injuries after being struck in the face by shrapnel from an exploding tear gas canister. NDP Member of Parliament Svend Robinson reported that he was shot with a rubber bullet earlier on when riot cops attacked his peaceful group.
430 people were arrested, most of them in the green zones where no illegal behavior was taking place. These surprised people got chased down, gassed, beaten.
Many of these demonstrators did not understand how the police work. There isn't a green zone for the police, there is only a sweep zone. The only reason they didn't come right out and attack every group in the city after the early afternoon marches was because the Direct Action people in the Yellow Zone were battling them on the hill streets around the fence. They kept the police at bay until deep into the night.
After 11 pm riot cops were able to move down and demonstrate what their real intent had been all along. And they had media support because the corporate media served the lies of the FTAA masters with phony riot coverage.
The reason for the fast arrests of people like Jaggi Singh, Tooker Gomberg and others thought of as possible leaders is that the police think in military fashion. They think the actions will end if they find leaders to arrest. Though it doesn't work that way. Up in the Yellow Zone protesters regrouped and fought back on all of the streets. There weren't any leaders – it's a sort of equality of action thing.
So thank the people who took the fight to the police on the hill streets, because if they had not done it there would have been more like six thousand arrests and a makeshift concentration camp on the Plains of Abraham.
* 463 people were arrested
* Police fired 1,700 tear gas rockets according to their official count. Quebec papers reported the number at 5,000 gas rockets, so we have to wonder how the official count was made.
* $260,000 worth of tear gas was fired into the crowd.
* A few thousand rounds of bone breaking rubber bullets were fired into the crowd.
GASSING THE WITNESSES TO THE PULSE OF HELICOPTERS
EDWARD PICKERSGILL, GUELPH, ONTARIO
chkachkachkachkachkachka all day long the sound of helicopter blades
whirring in the air above
our heads. An amazing sense of the umbrella of security that was thrown over the OAS summit in
Quebec City. Even when the tear gas was at its densest at the top of the hill, along the fence
lines there were hundreds of people of all ages walking up the narrow roadways with that look
which people carry when they are bound and determined to be personal witnesses to a political
obscenity. In particular I will always carry a picture of a grey haired couple walking past me
towards the fence. If I had to guess I would put them in their early sixties. They each had those
little dust masks that people wear when painting. They walked straight through the crowds of
people pouring water into their eyes to wash away the tear gas. It was not long before they came
back gasping for air and bent over and having their faces drenched from water bottles wielded by
strange looking youngsters who worked quickly to flush eyes and mouths. The last I saw of that
couple was on a fence gasping but with satisfaction as they sat with arms around each other.
Witnessing. Active witnessing was what it seemed to be for most of us
on Saturday. The fence
had become a symbol of the oppression which was being welded on the other side. Was there a
hope that we would be heard. No chance. Not in any meaningful way. Was there a choice about
being there. Clearly for those of us who were there it was a matter of presence not a matter of
winning the day.
Even, I think, for the wild ones with grappling hooks and ropes who
were standing, well equipped
in the midst of the dense clouds of tear gas and whatever else was being fired. It was not a
matter of tearing down the fence and taking the fortress. It was a refusal to allow the fence to
stand unchallenged. As tear gas canisters were lobbed back across the fence there was not so
much a sense of victory as there was a sense of response to oppressive measures. As the water
cannons blasted away at the activists who were conducting their tug of war against the fence
there was a sense of delight in knowing that the tear gas residue was being washed away.
For me the weekend was more than just another attendance credit. No
matter how the powers
that be (in the mainstream or among ourselves) declare this as one more unfortunate
demonstration of unthinking anarchists casting "us all" in a bad light I just want it to be known
that for me it was a model of a weekend in which all sorts of different peoples and interests
showed up in one place at one time and demonstrated in a variety of ways that the corporate
agenda is unacceptable and that our various forms of self-governance will not be easily taken
On its own, the experience that has been this past weekend in Quebec
City is another bead on a
chain of political activism against the corporatism which seeks to envelope our planet in a dark
blanket of profit. There were a number of layers in response to the so-called Summit and the
ongoing test of resolve in people to resist the growth of corporate law will be seen in how we
develop our responses in the time between these political lobsticks -- these markers with names
like seattle, washington, prague, quebec city. Life goes on and while it does we can respond.
So now, perhaps, it's time for us to return to the incessant debate.
It'll be no more irritating than
the chkachkachkachkachkachka of the helicopters which tracked our movements on the weekend.
It'll be a lot less deadly that what filled our nostrils and mouths and completely cut off our
breathing until other humans flushed our eyes and noses and mouths clear and hauled us to
where the air was clear.
La Carnival Contre le Capitalisme
Brendan Myers, CUPE 3913
1. I'm Brendan. I went to Quebec City, to join "La Carnival Contre le Capitalisme", and this is what I saw. Let me preface this report by saying a bit more about who I am, to pre-empt any "ad hominem" objection to the accuracy and factuality of this story. It is too easy to dismiss reports such as the one I am about to make on the grounds that I am a protester, or a unionist, or a long-haired hippie, or just an angry Generation-X, who couldn't possibly have any objectivity. By labeling people this way we can more easily think of them as the label instead of as a person, and since they are no longer people their voices need not be given any attention. Politicians and the media do this all the time by characterizing certain people as "special interest groups", which selects such people out from the wiser and more enlightened majority and makes it easier to conclude that they deserve whatever injuries they get.
As it happens, I am an unionist (I'm the president of my local, actually), and I had every intention of being a protester on Saturday, and although I do not think of myself as a hippie I do have long hair, which one doesn't see on men much anymore. But I will deny and dismiss any attempt to characterize me as an inarticulate and randomly rebellious youth. I hold a Masters degree in philosophy, and am capable of thinking and articulating myself with clarity and precision. I am well aware of "both sides of the issue", fully capable of weighing them against one another, and no matter how often I approach the principles of international capitalism with an "open mind", its logic still leads me to conclude that it is horribly unjust and does indeed represent a clear and present danger to the rights and liberties of people all over the world.
But lest this self-description single me out as one of the "few" protesters capable of intelligence, let me point out that every person who came with me and who I met at the protest was equally if not more aware of the issues than I, just as well educated, most of them more creative, and each and every one of them possessed of a voice that deserves to be heard.
2. At six o'clock on Friday evening, I am surfing the internet in search of photographs and news stories about the protest against the Summit of the Americas. The reports that come through do not help much to steady my nerves, but at least I have a vague idea of what it is that I am about to walk into. The corporate press emphasizes the violence and unruliness of small groups of provocateurs, and I am lead to wonder why six thousand heavily armoured police officers and a concrete and chain-link fence line is necessary to defend against 'small groups'. Counts of attendance at the "People's Summit" range from a few thousand to ten thousand, but with a promise of a doubling or a tripling of this figure come Saturday, when everyone who couldn't get the week off work descends upon the city.
Special attention is given to two or three police officers who got hurt. There is also much attention given to what the politicians within the no-protest zone have to say about the protesters: every one of them is dismissive and patronizing, and some more than others. The left-wing press and other independent media isn't much of a help either because although they are more ready to report the protester's experiences and points of view, there is a lot of slogan-repetition.
At eight o'clock I head down to my office, where the organizing team that I am a part of is assembling, to handle any last-minute preparations and to pep each other up. One friend and I fling elastic bands at each other. Other people are taking inventory counts of 'field supplies': bandanas, food, water, clean cloths, clothing, communications devices, swimming goggles, vinegar, legal aid phone numbers. Someone else is photocopying a map of downtown Quebec City and trying to guess where things are going to be happening. At about nine o'clock most of us move to the front door of the building and await the highway coach. Other people are waiting for city buses to take them home, and we joke about what would happen if they accidentally got on our bus and ended up in Quebec.
Our bus is a bit late but when it arrives, a cheer goes up and we quickly get on board. Then it's off to Scarborough to pick up about a dozen more people, and then we motor on to Quebec City for nine more hours. I don't get any real sleep, as bus seats aren't the most comfortable things, and because of the palpable excitement and anticipation. We arrive at the "green zone" at about eight in the morning. The bus drops us off at a park next to a federal government building and the VIA Rail station, both stately and dignified buildings of brick and stone, with sloping green copper rooftops and gables.
There are already hundreds of people there, and most of them labour, and most of the labour people are steelworkers, as we can tell by the distinctive yellow flags. We soon notice the blue of CAW and the white of CEP, but the CUPE flag in my own hand is the only burgundy that anyone can see. We establish a time and a place to meet at the end of the day to get back on the bus, and then most people separate into their own affinity groups. An affinity group, for those who have never been a part of an event like this, is a small group of about a half dozen people who spend the day together and take care of one another the whole time. Everyone in the group has a job to do: one is the medic, one takes care of the food, one is the marshal who makes sure that no one is missing, one makes sure that we are psychologically steady and focused on the task and hand. There is no template for the size and job descriptions in an affinity group: it matters only that no one is alone and that everyone has something to do.
There is a tent set up in which several famous lefty leaders are going to give speeches; Maude Barlowe of the Council of Canadians is among them and several people from our bus head off in that direction to hear them. I decide that I want to see the barricade right away, as it was peaceful at that time. So we walk up the narrow, sloping streets of the Old City, between rows of some of the oldest permanent structures on the north american continent. I pass a park where I once saw a stage magician performing, when I was a tourist here eleven years ago. A moment of deja-vu passes over me: somehow I remember that eleven years ago I knew I would return to this place.
We encounter the barricade at St. John's Gate. It is a three-foot high concrete highway divider with an eight-foot high chain link fence on top of it. We are able to walk right up to it and lean on it. People have stuck posters on the fence and tied ribbons and flowers to it. About two dozen people are milling about, talking and laughing with one another. Someone has a ukulele and is singing "Don't fence me in". Students from Laval are making an independent video and they interview me, asking about who I am and where I am from and why I came. I tell them that I am here because public protests of this kind are the most visible expression of the people's outrage, and that even if the protest turns out to be futile, since we know the Powers That Be are not listening to us, still it is the right thing to do. It is the exercise of our right to say "No". The students thank me, as others shout across the barricade to the police there: "Did you hear that?". Another Laval student with a press pass talks to us through the fence until an officer orders her to stop talking to us. The people hurl insults at the officer for this. A short while later, she emerges on our side and talks to us, and the people start daring the officer to shut her up again. The reporter said that whenever she goes inside the perimeter, the police constantly harass her and accuse her of having forged her press pass.
The police at this place are about a dozen strong standing in two staggered rows, about fifteen feet from the fence, facing us, unsmiling and unmoving. They are dressed in dark green uniforms with padded armour, black helmets, visors, and are carrying batons. One of my friends shakes the fence a little bit and says "Look, I am shaking the fence!" This is in reference to news reports that people had been tear-gassed the previous day for shaking the fence. At this time, the police do not move, and a moment later an officer orders them off to another location. They march in unison, like soldiers. I shout after them, "Give my regards to Darth Vader", and pretend to shoot at them with a banana.
The posturing continues on both sides. It is a useless gesture because the police are not reacting, but it does boost morale. About two hundred feet away is another gate along the Old City wall, where more identical police are staring down the protestors, and the view through the fence here is particularly heartwarming because the police stand amid sixteenth-century fortifications and eighteenth-century cannons. But these were police, and not actors in costume. This is life, this is reality.
We returned to the People's Summit area after about an hour, to gather our people and join the march that the Federation du Travaille du Quebec had organized. CUPE has lined up behind the CAW, who appear to be at the front, and CEP is behind us. But there are no strict divisions, and the order is not at all a matter of rank. People with whatever affiliation are everywhere. You cannot see more than about twenty feet away from you in any direction because of the density of the crowd, so from the ground level it is impossible to estimate how large it is. One can only see the people, and above them the colourful flags, balloons, banners, puppets, and signs. And above them, appearing to float on a sea of activity brood the majestic train station and federal building. These buildings belong to us, because the spirit of Canada is embodied in them, as it is in our parade-- and this is part of the point of the protest. These buildings belong to us, and we are keeping them.
Ville de Quebec is a very good city in which to have a protest, because the downtown and especially the Old City is an architecture museum. This is the reason it was chosen for the Summit as well. Amidst the buildings and the streets was an impromptu festival of thousands and thousands of people. It is a festival of labour, environmentalists, social justice groups, pagans, socialists, civil rights activists, Raging Grannies, anti-poverty activists, patriotic Canadians, patriotic Quebecois, and all sorts of other "lefties". They came from every country in the hemisphere. There were musicians, jugglers, artists, dancers, costumes, and drummers. There are many, many drummers, and one's body moves to their rhythm almost of its own accord. There were black people, white people, Hispanics, Orientals, old people, young people, people with disabilities, many different religions, many different languages, and the whole diversity that is the human race-- in stark contrast to the old white rich men who are the world's corporate elite. A passing FTQ marshal tells me that there are more people in Quebec today than were in Montreal for the national unity rally.
If you were to momentarily forget about the politics of the event and look upon it with innocent eyes, you quickly realise that this wild celebration was a genuine manifestation of human spirit, because all of the activity therein came from direct creative expression. Nothing was a mere repetition of an advertising slogan or reconfirmation of an indoctrinated truth. If there was any indoctrination going on, it certainly was not that of a top-down hierarchical order of power, because there really was no one in charge.
A man standing on a power transformer held two placards in the shape of clenched fists, the word "Rise" on one and "Up" on the other. A man on stilts wearing a mask of Jean Crietien held aloft a water-cooler jug with the word "Mine" on it. One of our marching chants was "Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah", in imitation of all we ever really hear from the politicians. A sign read "34 countries, 33 suckers", in solidarity with Cuba who was excluded from the Summit; several Cuban flags were spotted about the crowd as well. Because all this creativity truly came from within, and was not manufactured externally by political or corporate powers, this march was a profound expression of who we really are and what really unites us, behind and prior to what we are compelled to be by the structures of economic and political power in which we live. I held my union's flag up to the sky and was very, very proud to be there.
The ocean of activity began to move. We are informed by FTQ marshals that there is a break-off point along the march route, and at that place those who do not want to go to the barricade can continue marching one way, and those who do can go the other way. We walk along a road that leads under an highway overpass and into a district of low-rise apartment buildings and local small businesses. Lining the march route are more people with banners, displays, reporters, and hundreds of supportive locals. A friend gives me a small bag of sage and sweetgrass. People are joking that those who hold English-language protest banners will be arrested. Most of us are singing labour songs or civil rights songs. As I pass a reporter, I point directly into the video camera and shout "Do you hear us now, Chrietien?"
Then we get to the break-off point. An FTQ marshal asks me to get rid of my union flag. I understand this-- the unions don't want to be lumped together with the molotov cocktail throwers by the media. I stuff the flag in a friend's backpack and drop the stick on the ground. We group together somewhere to prepare for the confrontation with police that we know will happen: we can already see the thick clouds of tear gas wafting among the buildings less than a kilometer in front of us. Some of us can already taste it in the air. Everyone ties a bandana around her face and douses it with vinegar. People write phone-numbers on their arms, so that they can still call their friends if they are arrested and strip-searched. A rumour goes around: one hundred people were arrested the day before, and they are all still locked up. I tie warrior-braids into my hair and don an old, worn and ripped trenchcoat. Swimming goggles for the eyes, and water bottles ready for those without goggles so they can wash the tear gas from their eyes. The corporate media reported that the only weapons the police were using were tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. But there are rumours of pepper spray and concussion grenades as well. Rain ponchos to keep the gas from saturating your clothing. Rubber gloves to protect your hands. Elastic bands seal off your pants so that gas cannot travel up your leg. We walk up the long ramp that leads up the cliffs into the Old City of Quebec. I have to stop half-way to dry-heave.
When we get within sight of the barricade, it is about five hundred feet away. First thing to do is be sure you know where your friends are and where the exits are. There are already about a thousand people at this gate. It's a different gate than the one I was at that morning, with a wider street and more corporate buildings. There doesn't seem to be much going on except a lot of shouting and fist shaking, so we advance. My friends and I brought a lot of extra medical equipment to help other people, and we station ourselves about thirty feet from the perimeter. The police are in full riot gear here, lined right up against the fence on the other side, dressed all in black and carrying shields. Their badge numbers are printed on their helmets-- they have no names, they have numbers. One gets the impression that they are not people. But we are people-- we have names.
A group daringly moves up to the fence and begins to shake it. A cheer goes up. Then a loud explosive Bang reverberates between the buildings and a thick white fog of tear gas quickly fills the space. The fence shakers get it right in their gas-masked faces, and a moment later the cloud envelops everyone.
When you are exposed to tear gas, your eyes fill up with tears and starts to burn, your throat burns, and your skin burns. Your breathing becomes more labourious. The pain can last up to twenty minutes if it is not treated right away, and remain an irritant for the rest of the day. It is excruciatingly painful. You can not touch your face because you will rub it into your pores. You can not run away either because you will just breathe heavier and ingest more of it. The most you can do is link arms with your buddies and walk away. This is not communicated when the corporate media describes tear gas as "non-lethal". My friends and I walk to a place about sixty feet away: Water is flushed through my eyes, nose, and mouth, and a clean cloth wipes my face dry afterwards. Even so, it is at least five minutes before I can see properly again, because I did not have goggles for my eyes. A friend has to pry my eyes open because my pain reflex is holding them shut. The gas residue fogged my glasses and I wipe them clean on the lining of my coat.
By the time I am okay again, I climb some steps at the doorway of a building to see what is happening on the front line. An armoured truck has arrived and suddenly it opens fire with its water cannon. A water cannon is not a garden hose. It delivers enough blunt trauma to knock a wrestler off his feet and badly bruise him. About a half-dozen people fall to the ground, their gas masks flung from their faces. The stream from the water cannon is sustained for two minutes. Anger rises in me almost involuntarily, and I scream at them: "You bastards!" A friend tries to calm me down, but a moment later someone running by says the water cannon is pepper spray, and my friend screams the same outrage.
We no longer refer to the police as police. Now we call them "cops", or "pigs". People are speaking openly about "the revolution". As soon as the water cannon stream ceases, one of my group and I check out a side street to see if it is a safe exit, should we need it. I ditch my bandana and produce a clean one, doused with fresh vinegar. When we rejoin our group, people have come back up to the fence line so the cops launch another tear-gas attack, this time from the roof of a building. Our position, about sixty feet from the perimeter, is not safe enough and we must back up some more. I am traumatized by tear gas for the second time in five minutes and my friend must treat me again. Mere moments later someone near me enters an epileptic shock and although I can not see properly I pull her over my shoulders and take her to some nearby medics. The faerie wings she made were broken.
At the front line we are all just people, asserting our rights and protesting our injuries. No other affiliations matter. People trade water, bandanas, food, and other supplies freely. The solidarity is incredible. We have a common enemy, but it is not our enemy that unites us. Our humanity unites us. We take position near the top of a stair that leads down the cliff. I stand on a fire hydrant to observe the front line: more tear gas, more water cannons, and now rubber bullets are added to the fray. Looking down the stair to the street below, the march is still moving on, just as thick with people as when we were in it, and with all the colour and joy. But we knew what these people were walking into and because we knew that, our act of looking at them was different and we saw them differently.
We saw a stream of innocent and playful faeries from right out of Celtic folklore, blissfully walking into a blast furnace. I sat down on the stair and cried. I cried for my people and the land of my country, my Canada, who I love so much, and I cried that the state was so willing to use such terror on its own people to impose its will. I had known about the way the state attacks dissent before, and this was not the first protest I had ever attended: but seeing, hearing and feeling it demands a reaction that written words do not. I am ordinarily a very emotionally controlled person-- I do not often experience even happiness. But the supposition that "men do not cry" is part of our indoctrination and not part of what it is to be a man. My tears are part of the protest. However, I swallowed it soon because there was work to be done.
The people who went to the perimeter were people who had come a long way, some of us thousands of miles, to be there. We were daring and courageous. We were willing to expose ourselves to chemical weapons and possible arrest in the service of what is right. The police were there because it's their job. We were there because we wanted to be there. We were capable of looking in the face of the world's largest form of organized evil, and we were not afraid. Soon it became a kind of dance-- we would come up to the fence in an effort to pull it down that we knew was futile, and then the cops would gas us. Then we would "advance to the rear" (we do not "retreat") until the air was clear, and then advance again. Then the cops would gas us again. Then again, then again. We did this all day. The people inside the perimeter have nothing to lose-- they are already wealthy and powerful. The people outside the perimeter have their entire livelihoods to lose. And because the protest itself was largely an affair of culture and creativity, a matter of laughing at the enemy instead of engaging the enemy, therefore in the end the people will win.
My group decided not to go to the front line again for a while, and instead rejoin the parade which was still going on. We wanted to see what was down the other direction after the break-off point. At one place I passed the off-duty riot cops on a side street, where they were washing themselves of sweat and gas with water and vinegar. The cops and the people just stared at each other silently, not confrontationally, but in acknowledgement that both sides were playing the rules of someone else's game. The physical change of location rendered a completely different psychological environment.
On the rest of the parade route, there were more wonderful displays and street-theatre performances and the like. A man sat on the service platform of a billboard, a big papier-mache piggy bank beside him, dangling a giant gold coin from a fishing rod. Below him in the structural support frame stood three people with newspapers stuffed in their mouths. We applauded them. After dinner we went to the protest zone again, this time hoping to stay a safe distance away and watch. We were able to see the huge clouds of gas wafting among the buildings as if it was a predatory animal, and we could even smell it up to a kilometer away. Positioning ourselves on the highway overpass, we observed the same gate we had been at that afternoon from a different angle, about a hundred feet away. The dynamic was much different now. The cops were gassing the people with absolutely no provocation whatsoever. Anyone who walked within ten feet of the fence was shot at. They were firing the tear-gas canisters directly at the people's heads, as if the canister launcher was a kind of gun.
Bricks and rocks littered the barricade where people had thrown them. The flags close to the front were not the flags of labour that I was familiar with, but the black flags of anarchists and the red flags of communists. A group of black-clad, gas masked men whom the corporate press had called "Le Black Bloc" were using bricks and molotov cocktails to attack the police. We timed the tear-gas launches at an average of three per minute, and if the anarchists had thrown a molotov cocktail then cops would launch four or five tear gas canisters simultaneously, and one of them would come out of the perimeter to shoot the anarchists at point-blank range with rubber bullets. One affinity group of five people sat on the ground in a circle about ten feet from the fence line and simply peacefully endured the tear gas and water cannon attacks. Another man sat on a rock of some kind and just stared at the police unflinching. The row of riot cops on the other side of the fence were banging their shields with their batons in unison to intimidate us. But we were banging the metal guard rails of the highway and our noise completely drowned out theirs. It was as if to say, "You want to make noise? We can make noise. We can make a lot of noise."
Tear gas canisters were regularly tossed right back at the cops by people who had hockey gloves to protect their hands. We joked that the tear gas factory was inside the perimeter. We had to make jokes about what we were seeing once in a while to steady our nerves. We were observing a scene right out of a war zone, live and in one of my country's own cities. The cops were also firing the tear gas canisters on high parabolic arcs to land in the middle of the peaceful crowd -- one of which came close to us and we removed ourselves another fifty feet. Someone picked it up and ran with it all the way to the fence line. There we watched the action for another two hours in relative safety, aside from the occasional low-flying helicopter buzz, until a tear gas can rolled under our bridge and wafted everyone on it. This was our fourth exposure to tear gas that day. Then we left, went to our regroup place to pick up the bus. We walked through the narrow, sloping streets of the Old City amidst boarded windows, although none of the unprotected windows were broken. There was very little garbage either, despite the absence of garbage pails (presumably, the police removed them so that bombs could not be concealed within them). The Sierra Club had been cleaning up after all of us all day.
Anarchists running their supply lines were heard saying to each other, "Don't smash the windows. These people are on our side." When we got back to the green in front of the train station, we collapsed in physical and emotional exhaustion, and traded stories of the day with each other until the bus arrived. An experience like this tends to re-order your life priorities, and separate what matters from what does not. Suddenly, things like pro sports, or the ups and downs of my social life, are of no importance whatever. One thing we all take from it: having stood up to power there, we can stand up to power anywhere.
3. In retrospective contemplation, now that I have returned home, I offer the following seven summary comments.
First, Quebec really is a distinct society. (Get over it, Alberta.) Whether this gets admitted as a constitutional amendment or as a declaration of independence remains to be seen (and I would prefer that they stay in Canada), however all the separatists that I met seemed to realise that international capitalism is more truly responsible for all the things that they usually blame federalism for. One separatist I met who was carrying an FLQ flag was savvy enough to realise that the erasure of Quebec's national identity is happening simultaneously with the erasure of everybody's national identity.
Second, firing a tear-gas canister or a rubber bullet is an act of violence. The Summit leaders and some of the activist leaders sanctimoniously denounced the protesters who had been throwing bricks and molotov cocktails. But did anyone denounce the police for their acts of violence? After getting a face full of tear gas fourty times in an hour, returning fire becomes an extremely attractive prospect. If you have epilepsy or asthma and are exposed to tear gas, you will not be able to breathe at all. A rubber bullet strike in the eye or the temple at point-blank range will kill you. Let me say this clearly, and let there be no mistaking: If the police continue to use these weapons, it is only a matter of time before someone dies.
Third, Canada is not a democracy. What is democracy? It entails far more than rule by the majority: it entails rule by certain beliefs and ideas. The beliefs and ideas that rule a democracy are encoded into our constitution and our laws, and are open to perpetual debate, revision, and scrutiny; moreover the debate is something that everyone may join, and is free from intimidation by wealth or military force and so therefore may be based entirely on what is right, what is just, and what is in the public good. Such debate is the essence of democracy. But the people were forcibly excluded from the debate at the Summit of the Americas: they were gassed and shot at for asserting their right to speak, and to peacefully dissent. If this were a true democracy, dissent would be permissible, not silenced with chemical weapons, and the terms of treaties like the FTAA would not be closed nor secret. Moreover, the Government of Canada is guilty of incredible hypocrisy, for it represented the purpose of the Summit as "to increase democracy and liberty in all the Americas". The police actions at Quebec were the actions of a police state, not a democracy. We no longer have the luxury to stay uninvolved in the resistance against the destruction of our democracy.
Fourth, the Government of Canada is responsible for the violence at the fence line. Had the government opened the FTAA treaty to public scrutiny, ensured protection for the commons, not erected so tangible a symbol of its utter contempt for its own people as a barricade, and provoked violence by defending it with heavily armed police, then the protest might not have been so violent. If the people are already outraged, the solution is not to barricade them out of the process. Moreover, had it done its duty to democracy and engaged with the people on the people's terms instead of on its terms, entered into treaties to guarantee the protection and empowerment of the public civil commons instead of entering profit-driven trade deals, and just simply cared for the people, the protest would never have occurred at all. Who knows what would have happened instead: an impromptu festival perhaps, rather a lot like the parade, in thanksgiving to each other for giving to ourselves the greatest country in the world in which to live.
Fifth, one or several of the following three things will happen at events of this kind unless the politicians change their ways. One of the police will die, or one of the protesters will die, or one of the police will drop his shield and helmet and join the side of the people (as happened at the recent liberation of Serbia). The first possibility will turn the tide of public opinion against the protest, whereas the second and third may well be what it takes for the protest to succeed. It sounds horrid to say that death is a precondition for success, but may I remind you that a protest is not a tea party. The impact on public opinion would be powerful. On the other hand, Dudley George was killed by OPP officers for his nonviolent protest and it still did not shame the provincial government into backing down.
Sixth, the protest is a spiritual activity. In many ways the protest is the assertion of who we are, and also who we are not. We are not mere functionaries in the capitalist profit machine, as consumers or target markets. We are people. We are the land. I hope I have shown this throughout this story.
Finally, and most importantly, you should have been there.
In solidarity, Brendan Myers.
Brendan Cathbad Myers, B.A, M.A. Guelph, Ontario, Canada http://www.uoguelph.ca/~bmyers
Quebec's Peaceful Revolution
By Dave Marshall - geneACTION
e- mail Kelly Ann Kennedy <@total.net>
We left Toronto at nightfall, a bus full of 'Rise Up!' anarchists,
and arrived at Laval University, just outside of Quebec City, at dawn.
I may have slept an hour or two, I'm not sure.
Clear skies and temperature near freezing, gentle mountains surrounding the city emerge from the darkness. Some other buses are arriving also. We wait outside the university sport complex for a while, then inside for a while longer, as organizers kindly welcome us, and verse us on what has been provided and what to look for. Floor space inside the giant gymnasium is searched for to accommodate the additional arrivals of busloads. When enough spots are found we go quietly so as not to wake the 2000 or so already peacefully sleeping people. It is comfortable here; the floors are made of rubber. As hundreds of people arrive and mill about, it is amazing how quiet it is. I don't think I'll sleep, however.
At the food tent, volunteers hand out peanut butter and jam sandwiches, muffins and orange juice for breakfast.
Back inside the huge rubber floored gymnasium I chatted with floor neighbor Alain for a while. He lives in Montreal and believes in things spiritual. Hindu chants, meditative dancing, vegetarian food, and Gaia, are some of his guiding interests, passions, and teachings. He is eating fruit, gratefully, meditatively, and offers me some of his pear.
Gaia is our planet alive, and in grave danger of being murdered by a group of violent ecological terrorists soon to be meeting behind a heavily fortified security zone. Awareness of this is bringing thousands to the city today to peacefully protest outside the fortress walls.
We begin our walk from Laval just after one o'clock. Friday afternoon is sunny, cloudless, and warm as the day progressed.
The numbers of people, of banners, signs, buttons, stickers, drum-beats, tambourines, whistles, chants, songs, and cheers would also increase as we neared the city, as would the enthusiasm of the peaceful people marching in solidarity, supported by local residents flashing thumbs-up and peace signs and joining us in our chants and songs of solidarity.
I became an adopted affinity member with Henry, Peter, and Bernard, and helped them carry a 20ft. long 'BEWARE, GENETIC ENGINEERING' banner along Chemin Sainte Foy. The small mountains surrounding the city are frequently in plain view on this crystal clear day.
Down to Boulevard Charest, our banner pulls tautly in the breeze. There are huge puppets 15 feet high and costumed people on stilts. There is street theater comedy and comical radical cheerleading, much noise and laughter as our parade ascends Rue de la Couronne towards Cote d'Abraham and up and around towards Av. Dufferin, and the notorious perimeter fence.
We stand back a good way from the fence and a large crowd before the fence. This is a green-zone event where no conflicts are scheduled. The more active peaceful protesters had earlier taken a different parade route. They would be up the hill on boulevard Rene Levesque.
We stand with our large banner enjoying the drumming, the chanting, the cheering, dancing, and laughing.
I go to check out the perimeter fence as Henry relieves me of my end
of the banner.
The fence is chain-linked, galvanized steel, 7ft. high, bolted upon a 3 ft. high concrete barrier.
When a group of peaceful citizens begin pulling on it, it doesn't seem so strong. As a section of the fence begins swaying to and fro the riot police advance from their original position 30 yards behind the fence to less than 10 feet away.
The first few canisters of tear gas send the peaceful citizens scrambling.
A group of us go west, up Rue D'Aiguillion, to escape the first of the
tear gas. The perimeter fence divides the street, it runs uphill between
old row houses up along our side of the fence and a brick wall twelve feet
across the fence.
About fifty yards up this street a hooded citizen calmly and peacefully begins cutting links in the fence with a large pair of wire cutters. Within a minute and a half the fence is cut from bottom to top and folded across until there is a wide-open ten foot gap in the security perimeter at this unguarded section of fence.
A few people jump through the opening and run up the hill along side the fence. Another few minutes elapses before the huge police security force realizes they have a mammoth breach in security. Eight riot police rush in to guard the opening.
By now more tear gas bombs are being fired into the crowd. Most
are picked up by gloved peaceful citizens and returned to where they had
come from. Peaceful citizens close to the fence are shot point-blank in
the face with high powered tear gas powder fired from guns. It is a terrible
thing to witness.
To stand bravely in front of a fence is now a crime, subject to vicious assault with harmful sickening chemicals fired from high powered weaponry.
Tear gas is fired now further into the peaceful celebration. Medics are kept busy attending to the many tear gas casualties. Eyes and throats burn everywhere. The tear gas keeps coming despite any actual challenge to the security perimeter. Helicopters hover above.
A few rocks and bottles are tossed across the fence. They have more room for garbage than our side. Our side is crowding up with tear gas and canisters.
This continues for a few more hours. At one point an American flag gets
burned. People cheer.
Peaceful citizens closest to the fence bravely stand their ground. Some stand holding peace signs, others tie peaceful signs to the fence. A group of brave young women dance up close to the fence. They dance beautifully peaceful and creative movements to the rhythmic drumming of an ancient beat. They dance a soulful beat, a collective beat, a universal beat. Creative messages are colorfully chalked and crayoned onto the street where the peaceful citizens assemble. Further back from the perimeter a large circle forms, of people holding hands while songs of solidarity ring loud and clear.
From down below to the east on Cote Sampson, a few hundred riot police, in columns of three march in semi-unison, puffing and sweating profusely up the steep hill past Peter, Bernard, and I. They turn up Rue des Glacis where they park themselves and where they appear to have about thirty harmless citizens boxed in close towards the perimeter. Bernard, in impassioned French speaks to a riot police standing sentry along the guardrail overlooking the zone verte a l'iot-Fleuri. This is the green-zone space for artistic work, communal vegetarian food for everyone, incredibly colorful and creative highway overpass suspension walls, and great loud music. Bernard is our affinity group goodwill ambassador and translator. He feels inclined to speak and teach and reach out and bring out the goodness in everyone there in the streets of Quebec. His English, although limited, is articulate. I can only imagine how articulate he is in French. He speaks passionately about the perils of genetically engineered food, and he seems to have an effect on everyone he speaks to. Twenty minutes or so later we politely pry him away from conversation with the riot police sentry guard. We leave there sensing that arrests might soon begin.
We continue on and up through the old ramparts, away from the crowds,
the tear gas, and the noise.
The cannons high up above the river are not being used. Bernard chats with a few nice old local ladies. They are concerned about excessive security force they have witnessed in their beautiful city. Down near the old town he talks up a guard standing behind the perimeter fence. Things are quiet, calm, and pretty much deserted down in the old town Friday night. We walk over towards the Old Port, find an small outdoor cafe and have a beer and some walnuts for dinner.
Walking west from the Old Port we pass some large storefront windows being boarded up in anticipation of the large peaceful march planned for next day. We have a good laugh with the plywood installers. We hail a cab to take us back to Laval where Peters car is parked. Our cab driver needs little educating about genetically engineered food. He is as animated as Bernard about the violent scientific and corporate takeover and genetic contamination of our food supply.
Just outside the sports complex I meet and talk to Guy, an independent
media photographer, who had taken 6 rolls of film up on boulevard Rene
Levesque. The Plains of Abraham had been more active than our assembly
had been. More fence had been pulled down. More arrests had been made.
More vicious assaults had been arbitrarily inflicted against innocent citizens
trying to express thier freedom of speech. Despite this, Guy assured me,
peaceful protests would continue throughout the night.
Saturday turned out to be warmer than Friday.
After a huge peaceful religious group, citizen group, and trade union march down through the lower town, a bunch of marchers break off to join up with and help their brothers and sisters up on the hill in several spots. They break off to join them and support them in brave peaceful protest against excessive violence being planned behind a tall fence guarded by heavily armed state funded terrorists with thick body armor and heavy shields.
If the unions were there at all, they kept a low profile.
The dancing continued all day in different locations. The tear gas came more frequently and more concentrated.
Up on Cote d'Abraham turns were taken to peacefully challenge the perimeter.
Scores of citizens were continually overcome by tear gas. Some were bleeding from direct canister hits. Others had been hit by plastic bullets.
Access to a side street on the east side of Cote d'Abraham was now closed off by about 20 riot police.
A steady volley of tear gas canisters were shot up high into the air,
and into the crowds far back of the perimeter. Others were fired line-drive
directly at groups of people, most of which were returned.
The crowd cheered as another American flag was set ablaze.
Colorful messages on the walls and the street were accumulating. Fires burned, drums beat, and people danced. Loud heavy music filled the street from an open second story window just down from where the violent state police continued their relentless assault on citizens rights to peaceful expression and peaceful assembly.
The scene looked and felt like war, yet only one side had any real weapons.
The other side had only courage, but a great amount was evident as they
bravely stood in front of the fence. Some even began to climb the fence
before being shot point-blank by a blast of tear gas or a plastic bullet.
I saw several plastic wounds during the day, terrible deep wide flesh wounds
- evidence to the weight and the size; maybe 7/8 of an inch in diameter
by three inches long, and the velocity and force of impact. I saw how dangerous
plastic bullets could be, how capable of serious injury or death, if hit
in the wrong place.
Still, the brave, dedicated, peaceful youth kept responding. They were not out for a good time; they were there for good reason. They were there to change a rotten, corrupt, oppressive system that has traded in their right to participation, their future, and the future of billions of others much worse off than them. They were there to challenge agreements that are fundamentally designed to exploit nature as a resource for us to cinsume, and life as a commodity, worth only what the highest bidder will pay.
This is the message that came through all that day. It was a common message written on thousands of shirts, jackets, buttons, banners, signs, walls, sidewalks. It was written in French, English, and Spanish.
It was sung and chanted and danced to. Dances of the earth. Dances of freedom. Dances of love danced to continuous beating of drums. This is what was shouted and chanted and sung in songs of solidarity - that our world is not for sale. Language was no barrier in the streets of Quebec. Such state manufactured divisions and confrontations were irrelevant here. 'Solidarity' is the same in every language. It is something that nation states cannot accept because solidarity transcends the limits of Nation States. It is something that Nation States cannot understand, accept, or accommodate. Nation States are dependant upon competition, conflict, and self interest. To the Nation State solidarity is a threat.
What we brought was a collective message transcendent of Quebec, Canada,
or of any nation. What we brought was transcendent of a new world order
making dirty deals in favor of exploitation, destruction, and waste, behind
chainlinked barricades and heavily armed walls of force.
Despite youthful fervor there is little delusion at all. The message is carried out with deliberate conviction and purpose.
No one came to have a party, blah, blah, blah. They came to challenge force, challenge violence, and challenge a shameful societal apathy that lets all this happen.
They were not out to hurt, and no one would be hurt by them. Many were prepared to risk injury though, and many were being wounded by the violent state.
We unfurled our large banner there in the war zone for the leaders and the cameras to see. All at once, four tear gas bombs came our way. I got dosed pretty badly and had to retreat.
Lucky for everyone there was always a volunteer medic nearby, even near the front lines. Always brave, they were always ready to assist the wounded and severely tear gassed with water and a special solution to rinse out the eyes.
All along the narrow streets residents on front steps and from open windows would offer support. Some left hoses running so that people could refill water bottles, drink, and rinse out tear gas from their eyes. They seemed sympathetic to what we were doing. They disliked the fence also, and the inescapable tear gas pervading the city. A lady walking home from work was having trouble breathing and needed her eyes rinsed out. From a second story window some residents informed us that the summit meeting had to be moved to another building because of tear gas entering the ventilation system. I hope they got a good dose.
Up on Rene Levesque another battle raged. Two blocks west of the perimeter, drummers drummed entrancing rhythms in unison. A large group of dancers danced beside a row of riot police guarding the street running south off Rue Rene Levesque. On another side of the dancers was a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Some windows had been broken, and white paint splattered on the front entrance. A cardboard sign hanging over a broken window read, "I owe you for one broken window. It was signed, ' The Revolution.'
Tear gas continued to slither down the street from the direction of
On the Plains of Abraham, along the bank of a hill parallel to boulevard Rene Levesque, more riot police stood guard.
Bernard and I unfurled our 'Beware, Genetic Engineering' sign right in front of the line of police. We were immediately told to move down the hill because we were blocking their view of the street. Our sign, with a backdrop of riot police was popular with photographers.
Pictures were also taken of Bernard afterwards talking animatedly to a few of the riot police. The piece of rope he gripped in his hands had alarmed them at first, and when he held out his arm to shake hands they looked ready to take him down. He only wanted to talk, however. He only wanted to educate, humanize, and communicate that what we all share in common is greater than what divides us and leads us into conflict. It is the state that creates conflict, and is dependent on conflict to keep itself strong.
The tear gas came heavy from the front lines up the road. Water cannons could be seen further ahead shooting water into a crowd down below to the north.
The riot police were out on the street now, most likely to protect another
breach. A rapid fire volley of tear gas dispersed a group of peaceful
protesters not far in front of us, then quickly about 30 riot police rushed
in from a southern flank position and took down about 15 peaceful protesters.
I recognized two of the arrested from spending some time with them earlier
that afternoon. They were nice people. They were friendly, thoughtful,
concerned, and most of all they were peaceful.
A new front line of police soon was formed across boulevard Rene Levesque, closer to us. A brief standoff with a few peaceful demonstrators ensued. A riot cop advanced and aimed, but did not fire. Other peaceful protesters were still being held down on the ground behind the new front line, and more reinforcements were moved in to refill the flank position.
We unfurled our 'Beware, Genetic Engineering' banner once more, and soon several more tear gas bombs were coming our way. They even fell to a distance behind where we stood. The height and the distance with which they traveled was impressive.
I wondered about the thousands of people in their homes and apartments; victims also of this relentless assault of tear gas.
As darkness came we headed back. The local youth was noticeably out in full force now and the beer and alcohol seemed to be flowing freely. A helicopter hovered overhead shining sharp beams of light on the peaceful crowd below.
Back to Av. De Salaberry and down to another street we went east until we dead-ended at another wall of riot police. They blocked off the road at the bottom of a hill on our side of an intersection. A large portion of fence beside the old cemetery had been taken down.
Drums beat, whistles blew, and people danced in front of the police. Bernard talked up a local resident in front of a closed-up shop. This resident could not be swayed, however, even by Bernard, from his faith in the state, and that the future state of Quebec would solve all the problems of the present dysfunctional federal state..... Likewise, earlier in front of the bank with the broken windows a lady would not be swayed from her conviction of the seriousness of damaged private property. Even if it happened to be a major player and symbol of blood sucking capitalism, private property was important to her. Despite Bernard's efforts her opinion held firm. She would continue to maintain that it's O.K. for big violent banks like the CIBC to steal and exploit, but it's not O.K. to peacefully and symbolically shatter a few of the violent bank's windows.
He was better received a short while later by a couple of elderly ladies sitting beside a little park, where even here, nearly a kilometre away, you could not escape the tear gas.
Running battles continued back at Cote d'Abraham. On the lookout platform above the park, smoke from a wood fire intermingled with more waves of tear gas wafting down from the perimeter area above. The front lines had advanced here also. The riot police were becoming more aggressively positioned to continue their assault upon the people.
We went down to the area beneath the highway overpasses, into the zone
verte a lilot-Fleuri.
A steady, rhythmic, beating of hundreds of sticks and rocks against the metal guardrails and metal highway signs was impressive and inspiring. The cliff walls and the concrete walls and the spiraling concrete ceilings acoustically amplified the steady rhythmic guardrail drumming. I was handed a rock and offered space alongside the guardrail to join in the primordial chorus of drumming. A guy was playing his acoustic guitar beside us for all it was worth, unconcerned that no one could hear him. He was entertaining himself as much as everyone else.
I spotted a brick not far from my feet and banged it on the guardrail for more emphasis, more base, to help carry further into the night this cohesive primal communication. Down here the revolution was happening. Down here there was power from within. Down here the manifestation was sprouting. Down here there was controlled anarchy - fluid, dynamic, and complete.
A nearby fire beneath the overpass was steadily getting bigger. Highway
signs were coming down.
Further beneath the spiraling convergence of highway overpasses we walked to the food tent. There we waited briefly in line and were handed a plate of rice and vegetables. They had fed thousands like this all week, free of charge, and continued to feed the brave youth well into the night.
In a makeshift washstand of hanging water buckets that had to be manually hauled in to the site, we washed the plates and the utensils provided and returned them back to the food lineup. No one was using disposable plates and cutlery that I could see. Down here recycling was being practiced as part of the revolution.
Incineration was also being practiced as a solution to waste. From 75 yards away we could feel the warmth of the fire growing steadily bigger. The guardrail drummers kept the beat steady and strong and revolutionary.
Closer to the cliff wall below where riot police stood sentry, a strange, luminous, intense fire was ignited, sending an enormous cloud of smoke up above the overpass. Helicopters were quickly dispatched overhead to investigate.
Bernard, Peter and I went over to the Old Port to get a beer at the
same outdoor cafe as we'd been to the night before. They offered me a ride
back to Laval but I was deciding I needed to stay.
Heading west along Charest Est. there was a large crowd converging up near Rue de la Couronne. In the little park to the east a large wooden real estate billboard was coming down. The large wooden poles and the sign itself got the fire in the street going pretty good.
Up the hill the conflicts continued but things there appeared less thick than before.
It was midnight and the party was in full swing. It was mostly local people singing, drinking, smoking, and smashing bottles on the ground.
Plywood was pulled off the boarded shop windows to feed the fire growing
there in the intersection.
The images were as intense as the flames from the fire, as numerous and diverse as the thousands of signs, and as persistent as the tear gas.
Huge banners were draped from the top of the precipice towards the Plains of Abraham. One of them proclaimed 'Peoples Summit'. I counted four helicopters in the sky.
It was after one a.m., when a large column of riot police began their advance down Rue de la Couronne, towards the peaceful celebration down in the streets. Without warning, and without provocation, tear gas bombs came pounding down into an innocent crowd below in the streets. It was concentrated tear gas with a devastating effect. It took a couple of city blocks of retreat before I began to recover. Down here with no wind, the tear gas would not go away. It followed us down the street as we retreated.
I watched as the windows of a Subway Sandwich shop got smashed. Good for them, I thought. Even though I'd privately criticized that sort of thing just a short time earlier, I knew I had no good reason to criticize them now. After the extreme police violence I'd witnessed the past few days, a few broken windows didn't merit a second thought.
Walking home along the parade route from a day and a half before, the
streets were quiet and the air was less toxic. I was trying to recall if
I'd seen any violent protesters yet. I couldn't. All I could recall were
the many acts of courage, generosity, and solidarity in the face of unnecessary
Nearly home now, the solidarity chant still plays in my head. A light rain falls, but the revolution will not be doused.
Read - The
Quebec Wall by Michel Chossudovsky
FTAA - Superheroes and Villians Site
Here are 3 Reports
– Finance Ministers Protest (April.3.2001)
- Report – Toronto Protest at the Finance Ministers' Meeting – by Gary Morton
- Was that Harris' Armoured Bus? from: sly
- Finance Ministers - The Protest in Toronto by David Marshall (GENEaction)
Report – Toronto Protest at the Finance Ministers'
Meeting – April.3.2001
By Gary Morton
This was perhaps the first real day of Spring in Toronto. The cold and gloom were gone, the sun was out and it was 8 degrees. Up at Queen's Park about 400 people showed (some estimates were 1000) for a march to the Four Seasons Hotel on Avenue Rd. where the finance ministers from the 33 FTAA nations were meeting.
There should have been more people, but weren't because most of the planning in Toronto has been around getting people to Quebec. The demo for the finance ministers' meeting didn't get a lot of attention, yet it still had an impressive listing of organizing groups - Asian Canadian Labour Alliance, CAW, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Federation of Students, CUPE 3903, Ontario Federation of Labour, Toronto Mobilization for Global Justice, New Socialist Group.
The march itself was spirited and well done with signs, banners, balloons, drums and whistles. We enjoyed the sunshine and the noisy trip up the open streets to the Four Seasons Hotel … where we were greeted by barricades, 800 cops with horseback men, riot squad guys and paddywagons … from eight regional police forces.
All of the streets around the Four Seasons were full of cops and we heard that there were even more on the inside.
Huge, tall and broad the Four Seasons towers over a small corner church, and on a hastily constructed platform connected to the church, police looked down on the demonstration. They wore full armour and aimed combination tear gas and plastic bullet guns at us. Beside them a huge sign said Church of the Redeemer … We are Open! … Unless the Lord Builds the house … their labour is in vain … Who builds it ….
Chanting, drumming and whistle blowing went on for some time. A few undercover men moved into the fringe of the crowd, a statement on the anti-democratic elements of the FTAA got read aloud by Anna and echoed by the crowd. Near the barricades some jostling looked like the beginnings of a few arrests.
One person did get arrested and taken off at the beginning of the march, but there weren't any arrests at the demonstration. Mainly because the entire crowd, led by the organizers, suddenly marched off to a teach-in a couple blocks down the road.
Some people remained holding the road, others began to drift off and in a short while a tiny group of us were left to facing 800 cops.
Those left at the demo or who showed a little later were nearly all alternative media people. Here are some of the names - Tooker Gomberg, Toronto's green mayoral candidate and web video activist. He sat in the middle of the road with a friend. I was present holding one end of a large Mobilization for Global Justice banner brought by web activist Bob Olsen. Also present were Patrick from the Video Activist Collective, Dave from Gene Action, Oriel from Radioactive Feminism, Tom from Eye, Peter from People and Planet Friendly Events, some people from the Free University of Toronto, Jean who is homeless, a chap from Rise Up, and a couple of the people who do the weekly protests on homeless issues at Allan Gardens.
We wanted to hold the road, but failed when an army of police moved in, threatened Tooker with arrest and bullied us off the road.
Stuck on the corner we kept the banners up while all sorts of cops paraded around us. They were pushy and one them slammed my leg with a portion of steel barricade and then tried to pretend it was an accident.
Later in the dark only a handful of us were left so we decided to walk around and try to get into the hotel. That effort failed when police swarmed in from various directions and in the end we went to a nearby restaurant and talked about media plans and Quebec.
In general we were people with a different view of a protest. We felt the teach-in should have been held on the street and that the net and other means should have been used to get more people down. We could have easily held our own against the cops for the entire night and into the next day if people had stayed.
So as it stands now it's after midnight, the finance ministers are feeling wonderful and unopposed. A few of us are going down tomorrow to protest, and we did send an emissary down to the teach-in. He came back saying the folks there weren't going to be helping us.
* Since everyone's into teach-ins these
days, I thought I'd end this with a little teach-in of my own. I dreamed
it up while staring at 700 cops.
Teach-in on Toronto Democracy and Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin
The city of Toronto is now a megacity composed of six smaller cities. 76 percent of us voted against the megacity idea, but our votes didn't count and the provincial government forced it on us.
Today's march began at Queen's Park, home of the provincial government of Mike Harris. Harris is the local Grand Wizard of Globalization and generally he works to privatize and poison everything. His party stays in power due to money. Wealthy corporations give him millions in campaign dollars that the other parties don't have.
Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin, often touted as the next liberal Prime Minister is also from Toronto, though he couldn't give a damn about Toronto. Right now angry citizens are meeting across the city due to cuts to libraries, community centres, social programs for the poor, health programs like AIDS programs … all people programs are being cut.
Why? Well because Toronto is about the wealthiest city in the world, and it is also nearly bankrupt. Every year Paul Martin's federal government, and the provincial government suck 5 billion dollars out of Toronto, that isn't returned as services.
We've lost our housing programs, there are a lot of poor and homeless on the street. Right near the Four Seasons, where the finance ministers are sleeping peacefully, there's a 70 year old lady who sleeps in the cold on the concrete with a sign on her that says God Help Me.
On the World Stage Paul Martin is supposed to be the good guy who wants to help poor people and nations … but do people in the poorer nations really need his sort of help? Do they want to be wealthy yet poor and homeless at the same time?
So the lesson here is don't toss a coin up in Toronto or it'll be sucked away on the wind and you'll never see it again.
Another interesting point is that at the demo a reporter stood beside me interviewing the police on their role in democracy. She studiously ignored me while a grinning police spokesman rambled on about how police are the champions of democracy and weren't there to intimidate us.
Let's take a look at police democracy in Toronto – There's Police Chief Julian Fantino, who took to the media waves today to warn activists to behave or else. And how did Julian get his job? Well, actually he never even applied for it. The police services board applied for him, even though they are supposed to pick the chief from a number of candidates. Other candidates for chief walked out in disgust, and as citizen opposition developed the police board decided to hold a fast meeting on a Sunday night to put Julian in quickly.
Julian is known as a fixer. And in other police news, a daily paper today noted that a number of ordinary officers are making more than a hundred thousand a year in pay.
And how about Mayor Mel Lastman. He did win big in the last Toronto election and a key reason for that victory is that our corrupt local media didn't give any real news coverage to anyone but him.
So there you have your teach-in on Toronto Democracy … and soon we'll have the FTAA and probably something even worse … where global corporations are the government.
But hey! Don't forget that
Paul Martin is the good guy and that tomorrow he'll lead the pack as the
finance ministers thunder across the global divide on their white horses,
to bring these grand and democratic wonders to you and your nation.
2. Was that Harris' Armoured Bus?
-------- Original Message --------
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 20:59:55 -0400
From: "sly" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Yorkville avenue was used to bring the big purple tour bus of ministers
into todays meeting just after 3pm today Police presence diminished
quikly within 15 minutes of the bus passing through The 'unicorn'
cleared the airport at approximately 4pm Any guesses who that might be
? Female Gender especially - 'loveliest of them all.....' There
were more of 'them' today than of us. Hmm Anyone organizing
something in major cities - for those who cannot make it to Quebec. Why
not meet downtown at Toronto's City Hall or Vancouver's or
Victoria's .......... on Apr 20? Let's support each other across the
continent... across the globe..... If we can all manage to stand
together in different places for Earth Day why not April 20th
3. Finance Ministers - The Protest in Toronto
By David Marshall (GENEaction)
It was a spring day such as we remember they could be... full of promise... an exalted sense of relief that the sun and the clouds could again co-exist.
The protesters came with drums and whistles, colored chalk, signs, banners and balloons. They sang and chanted as they marched from Queens Park, north along cordoned-off Queens Park Rd., to Bloor street where the barricades and an impermeable wall of men in blue stopped them cold.
An imposing show of force....it seemed inconceivable this was happening here, and not some Third World dictatorship. Behind the barricades a uniformed wall had formed. Behind them the supporting ranks were thick. They guarded the fancy Yorkville storefronts along Bloor St. They rode bikes, they had cruisers, vans, larger armored vehicles of many sorts. They had horses with face shields ready, somewhere. They guarded the old church on the corner very closely, as if they owned it themselves. I had to wonder where the clergy stood on this matter. Where were they hiding?
They guarded the whole block surrounding the hotel where the finance ministers were dining. They took pictures. Plainclothes officers milled amongst the protesters. Between them and the front line barricades and a wall of heavily armored riot squad police, three gas masked, goggled, and heavily armed tactical squad specialists stood poised and ready with rubber bullets and teargas canisters. Like coiled snakes ready to strike they gazed menacingly down from the scaffold erected there beside the church.
It seemed like a dress rehearsal for Quebec City - a full costumed affair complete with face shields, body shields, gas masks, batons, rubber bullet guns, tear gas guns. A military helicopter hovered intermittently above the hotel just in case. You couldn't tell where the snipers were, but they had plenty of prime choices from neighboring business rooftops overlooking the crowds. Seven different police forces were there, with over eight hundred uniformed officers in all.
In response to this, a peaceful group of protesters did their thing, but were no match to challenge the forces present. The street was relinquished with virtually no resistance. A few sought to keep our Avenue Rd. - Bloor St. intersection a little longer but the solidarity had dispersed, had been whisked away by a few organizers down the street to a teach-in. A few remained, standing on the corner, the same one as the church, to hold up a few banners beside the cops, who still outnumbered the protesters. The cops stayed until darkness, guarding their church, until the call came that their mission was accomplished. Chief Fantino should be proud of his well paid minions. The dictator chief kept the financial dictators safe for another day. They need to feel safe from those scruffy protesters, opposing fascism.
"How dare they protest these things?," the finance ministers incredulously ask. "Have they not been watching the stock tickers lately? The stockmarkets are crashing, and the GNP is going down the tubes. Other than a war, what could be better than a trade deal to get the economy fired up - get that oil pumping, those SUV's purring, those trees falling, etc. etc. etc..."
"They don't even want us to cut down trees," another minister muses, between bites of his steak tartar. "They want to save things like that.... things that are natural.... but they don't even drive to the malls anymore to see the nature they have there."
"They probably don't even watch TV," another minister adds, incredulously, "and seen those car adds and beer adds and information on biotechnology. Man, nature never looked so good as now."
"Most of them don't even eat meat, I've heard", mentioned another minister, and they all laughed at that one.
Like the trade agreement being formalized far behind the barricades there was not much competition in the streets down below. The game is over before it begins, really. The only question to be answered, really, is how far into submission to beat a helpless opponent.
According to the corporate world there are apparently no limits, and there should be no limits to human, animal, and ecological subjugation. True repression knows no boundaries, and corporate rulers know how hard to squeeze, and how much poison to inject.
Sometimes a fallen opponent will flail out in desperation, as if in a last gasp for life before the venom sinks in........but such reaction cannot be considered a threat to such force.
It must be a hollow sense of victory when they realize how harmless we all are. It must be much like a prison guard, or a factory farm employee looking after thousands of horribly tortured factory farm animals. It takes a special breed of being to handle jobs like that. But hatred breeds more hatred and this world has apparently been reduced to hatred, confrontation, violence, and senseless brutality. It is quickly becoming a game of subsidized survival of largest and strongest, competing in the most violent ways for control of resources and capital, of which all life has been commodified and put up for sale.
The protests will continue and become more frequent. It's a learning
experience and we learn as we go. But the dedication is there, solidarity
grows stronger, and the numbers are growing opposing this fascism. It doesn't
take much research to uncover the disturbing facts; its just a matter of
going there, and more and more of us are going there together....something
to ponder and be grateful for on a beautiful spring day.