Police repression biggest threat at Quebec City


Not since the War Measures

Act, thirty years ago, has there been a greater display of the armed might of

the state in Canada than there will be in Quebec City during the Summit of the

Americas on April 20-22. And not since the War Measures Act, when the army

occupied the city of Montreal after two public officials were kidnapped by the

FLQ (Quebec Liberation Front) thirty years ago, has there been a greater need

for people of conscience to speak out against the repression of dissent.

If there is violence in

Quebec City, it will almost certainly come from the police not the

demonstrators. For the last few weeks, hints of evil intent by “a small number

of violent groups,” has been used by the RCMP and Quebec’s Public Security

Minister Serge Menard who announced just yesterday yet another 1,000 police to

add to the extraordinary army of 5,000 already in place for the meeting of

leaders of the Americas.

Not a single group organizing

for Quebec City is planning violence of any kind. Most of the groups in a

somewhat naïve attempt to avoid police repression have written in their basis of

unity that they renounce all violence. There are two organizations that refuse

to renounce violence in advance because they think that in some struggles

violence is sometimes necessary, for example the Zapatistas in Mexico.

Neither of these groups is

planning violence in Quebec City. As they see it Quebec City is different from

Seattle. Breaking windows at Starbucks, as a symbol of transnational corporate

domination can be justified, in their view. Breaking windows in a small café in

Quebec City cannot. As far as I can see, humour and imagination rather than

violence will be the weapon of choice of demonstrators in Quebec City.

The anarchist groups that

security forces are most worried about have been distributing flyers door to

door in Quebec City encouraging residents to “adopt a demonstrator.” You can

check off whether you want an anarchist, a feminist, a trade unionist, a student

or whatever with cute little graphics beside each check off. They are calling

their activities a “Carnival Against Capitalism.” Sounds threatening doesn’t it?

In the 1960′s the police used

to talk about “outside agitators” causing problems in otherwise peaceful

demonstrators so that they could justify riding in on horses clubbing young

people whose only crime was opposing the war in Viet Nam. The strategy of

creating the evil few to repress the many is a very old one. Don’t buy it. You

can find out what is being planned yourself. Start with the independent media

site at www.cmaq.net.

The biggest challenge to the

wide variety of groups organizing to protest the FTAA will be to remain united

in face of state attempts to divide them. The movement got diverted after

Seattle in a divisive debate about tactics.

The tactic used by

anti-globalization protesters is non-violent civil disobedience. In the best

tradition of Gandhi, demonstrators put their bodies on the line. In the direct

action training taking place in numerous cities across Ontario and Quebec,

students are learning how to remain calm and peaceful in face of police

provocation. The police on the other hand, learn how to intimate and frighten

demonstrators so that only those willing to be dragged to jail will remain to

face down the Darth Vadar-like terror of the riot squad.

In Windsor last summer in

what seems now like a dress rehearsal for Quebec the massive police presence led

to completely unprovoked brutality against peaceful demonstrators. Police used

pepper spray indiscriminately on protesters who were doing nothing more sinister

than hanging a banner on a fence. Residents of Windsor became furious when they

realized that their city was turned into an armed camp to protect them from

2,000 peaceful, youthful demonstrators who were in general better behaved than

the police.

Like in Windsor, there is a

10 foot high fence with a concrete base virtually surrounding the old city to

keep demonstrators far away from where 34 leaders of the Americas are meeting.

And like in Windsor, major attempts are being made to stop activists from coming

in to Canada from the United States.

The police build-up and

rumours of violence are also an attempt to frighten away people who might find

common cause with the protesters but are not willing to take a risk to protest.

The claims of the Canadian government that the Summit of the Americas will focus

on strengthening democracy ring pretty hollow in face of the fact that no-one is

permitted to even see the documents that the leaders will be discussing,

Most anti-globalization

activists assume that the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) will have all

the odious elements of NAFTA, including the infamous Chapter 11, which allows

corporations to sue governments if laws or regulations interfere with profit.

In a recent report journalist

Murray Dobbin finds that more than half of the corporate law suits so far

involve challenges to health or environmental measures and that almost half are

challenges to municipal or state government regulation.

No one really knows what’s in

the FTAA agreement because the documents are secret. On April 2, protesters in

Ottawa will use direct action to attempt to liberate the documents from the

Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The training for that

action will be held in the Parliament Buildings in full view of television


There may be the odd person

in Quebec who gets frustrated enough to throw a rock at the police or threw a

window but that is not the reason for the massive police build-up. The biggest

challenge to the anti-globalization movement in Quebec will be not to get

diverted by these age old police tactics of divide and rule and keep their eyes

on the prize, the growing opposition to undemocratic trade deals that seek to

codify corporate rule over democratically elected governments.




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