By Judy Rebick
This weekend, the face of Canadian politics has changed. It happened here in Quebec City, at a massive demonstration against globalization.
Three things happened: The Peoples' Summit. The Confrontations. And the discovery that there was No Peace for the Peaceful.
THE PEOPLES' SUMMIT
This was a coalition of unions and non-governmental organizations from across the Americas. Saturday, the summit organized a diverse and colourful demonstration of about 60,000. People marched side-by-side down a six-lane boulevard. It took them about an hour to pass through the Lower Town that afternoon. The crowd was a generous mix of many cultures. There were also giant puppets, street theatre, drumming and a lot of dancing. Emma Goldman would be proud.
While thousands of people walked slowly through the lower part of the city, hundreds more - mostly youth - were locked in battles with the police near the famous perimeter surrounding the meeting place of the Summit of the Americas.
A major controversy among protesters was the decision of the People's Summit organizers to march away from the perimeter yesterday. The main march turned right. Those wanting to join the confrontations turned left. The majority followed their leadership and turned right, but many were angry not go to the perimeter. Instead, they went to a parking lot several kilometres from the action.
March organizers argued that it was too dangerous to take such a large march into the tiny streets of the old city. No doubt the debate about the various tactics used this weekend will continue for some time.
As well, there were a few fierce and prolonged confrontations with police. These exchanges drew most of the media attention.
In at least two locations, activists battled police in what looked more like a war than a demonstration. This reporter has never witnessed such a well-organized, sustained fight between demonstrators and police. At the perimeter, combatants positioned themselves on two sides of a wide road. They advanced and retreated as police attacked with tear gas, a water cannon and - later - plastic bullets. It went on all afternoon and into the night.
According to the Ligue des droits et libertés (Quebec's civil liberties union), violence escalated on Saturday primarily because of police tactics. André Paradis, executive director of that organization, told a press conference on Sunday that police escalated their tactics in three ways: First, they used tear gas from the moment of confrontation. Second, they used more aggressive weapons - such as water canons and plastic bullets. And third, they left the perimeter and chased protesters into a residential area, where some property damage occurred for the first time in 48 hours of protest.
According to the union - which had thirty observers on the ground - only 5 per cent of the protesters confronting police were violent. "Most of the demonstrators in the Upper Town [near the perimeter] were singing and dancing and peaceful," said spokesperson Sam Boske.
Over the course of the day, a growing number of trade unionists and others like the Council of Canadians joined the direct action to support the youth who were battling police.
A full day before the planned demonstration, activist leader Jaggi Singh was snatched from the street by five plainclothes police officers. His bail hearing is not until Wednesday. Singh has been charged with breaching a previous bail order, participating in a riot and possession of a weapon. The weapon in question was the theatrical catapult that was used to hurl stuffed toys at police Friday.
NO PEACE FOR THE PEACEFUL
Both Friday and Saturday saw mass peaceful civil disobedience that involved at least 6,000 people. These demonstrators were willing to face tear gas and the police for their beliefs. Even so, some peaceful protesters were treated with unexpected brutality.
Anna Dashtgard is the organizer of the Common Front Against the World Trade Organization. She described a sit-in of about 500 people on a side street near the fenced perimeter. As people sang and held up peace signs, riot police approached from two sides, trapping the group. After only one warning, police hurled tear gas directly into the group.
"I've never experienced anything like this," said Dashtgard - who also participated in protests at Seattle and Windsor. "It was so brutal."
After dispersing, some people regrouped in different places. One cluster of protesters was assaulted without warning. They believe the weapons of choice were concussion bombs. Another group was warned that police were about to clear the streets. Most of the protesters - frightened by the tear gas canons pointed directly at them - walked away. "The riot police trampled over the few who remained," said Josephine, an activist who was shaken by the experience.
It was impossible to approach the areas where the perimeter had been breached without feeling the painful sting of tear gas. Yet thousands of people, most of them young, climbed the stairs and streets to the Upper City. This is where the standoffs between police and protesters continued all day.
Plastic bullets injured several people - including one woman who was hit in the throat. She required an emergency tracheotomy.
As of Sunday morning, 450 people had been arrested. People were held in jail, denied the right to contact their lawyers or their families, and without food, reported Quebec's civil liberties union. Both male and female accused were stripped and left naked in front of others. These abuses were corrected after the union intervened.
Rebick is the publisher of rabble.ca, a new interactive
online magazine born the same week as the Summit. For a lot
more Quebec coverage,
protests cause headaches for trade summit
As members of humanity, we oppose the global "ethics" of the self appointed buisness and political elites that serve to disenfranchise people from all walks of life, and accelerate the destruction of our natural environment in the name of profit. The system of globalized capital that shackles the working class to the demand of the ruling class further enhances global inequality. A system based in inequality can never bring freedom. It is not worth being reformed.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas should be opposed because:
- - The working class of all countries involved will experience lower wages, inhumane working conditions and further exploitation.
- - It undermines essential environmental regulations, promoting the rape of our earth.
- - It is a secretive, undemocratic institution that is not accountable to the citizens of the Americas.
- - It will further monoculture, destroying the sovereignty of indigenous peoples.
Take to the streets for our earth, our culture and our lives!
Love , The Rebel Alliance http://www.stlimc.org/front.php3?article_id=26&group=webcast
QUEBEC CITY, April 22 (AFP) -
Leaders of violent anti-free-trade protests outside the third Summit of the Americas here said Sunday they succeeded in ensuring their voices will be heard at future trade gatherings.
"The activists in Quebec -- workers, teachers, peasants, students, women, et cetera -- reflect the evolution of an opposition movement that is now bigger, more diverse and that is present in all the international summits," said John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and an organizer of the protests here.
Some 430 protesters were arrested at the three-day summit which ended here Sunday, police said. Three photographers and a reporter were among those arrested, according a group monitoring press freedom here.
Some 200 people were injured, including 46 police officers, although most of the injuries were minor.
Confrontations between security forces and demonstrators have accompanied major world trade talks since the failed World Trade Organization summit in Seattle in December 1999.
Subsequent meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Prague and Washington also were met with violent demonstrations aimed at disrupting them.
Protesters here hurled stones, hockey pucks, golf balls and separated pieces of concrete blocks in clashes overnight Saturday, said police spokesman Steve Desroches.
Some of the 6,700 police officers on hand responded with tear gas canisters, which protesters picked up and hurled back over a three-meter-high (10-foot-high), 3.8-kilometer-long (2.4-mile-long) wire-fenced security perimeter installed to protect the 34 pan-American leaders here for the summit.
Several hundred young demonstrators, many self-styled anarchists, were at the forefront of the clashes, while mainstream protesters were peaceful.
The biggest protest, which drew 30,000 marchers to the streets Saturday, passed without incident, with demonstrators anxious to avoid being linked to more violent elements.
The march was part of the People's Summit, a week-long on alternatives to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which will encompass North, Central and South America.
"We want to make sure that the world's leaders hear us," said Ben Richman, a Canadian lawyer who participated in the march. "We want to make them make decisions that benefit the people and not only the big corporations."
In a sign the protests were having their desired effect, Argentine President Fernando de la Rua, who will host the next Summit of the Americas between now and 2005, said Sunday he will welcome demonstrations.
"The next summit, which I will be honored to host in Argentina, will not require walls to keep those who come to protest, and there will be space for those who come to applaud when we work for the benefit and the progress of all peoples," he said.
* forward and repost. Anyone can use the photos.
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 Your 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! - Gary
Emanzipation Humanum, version 04. 2001, criticism, suggestions as to form and content, dialogue, translation into other languages are all desired