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SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS - FTAA Quebec April 20th
Coming Off The Fence
On-the-spot reports by Shawn Ewald
A20 Quebec City
A block before the perimeter, people were asked
to follow green, yellow or red routes. We went red. It only took
a few minutes for the black bloc to take down the fence on l'Amerique-Francaise
and not long after that for the first volleys of tear gas to be
fired, which were met with rocks and bottles from the protesters.
The Quebec police force has a great deal of experience
in crowd control and use extreme violence and terror tactics with
skill. In retrospect, everything they did had a degree of strategy
which most people were unprepared for.
We didn't bring gas masks because we assumed they
would be confiscated at the border. The gas hurt like hell, but
when we walked away and faced the wind, it cleared. But after each
dose it became harder to recover.
After an hour the police brought in two water cannon
trucks behind the protesters, in an attempt to trap them between
l'Amerique-Francaise and Turnbull, and lure the black bloc away
from the wall. The last part of the plan worked, but not how they
expected. The protesters who were now fighting mad after being tear
gassed for over an hour, ferociously attacked the water cannon trucks
- smashing the windows and attempting to open the doors to drag
the drivers out. The trucks made a hasty retreat and from then on
stayed safely ensconced behind the perimeter fence.
Later we learnt police - dressed as protesters
- kidnapped Jaggi Singh, one of the most visible and effective spokepeople
for the actions. They caught him in the green zone, beat the crap
out of him, and threw him into an unmarked car.
A21 Quebec City
The next day's assembly point was on Charest at
noon. Yesterday we had 15,000 to 20,000 in the streets, today we
had 60,000 union marchers according to the organizers and 10,000
to 15,000 protesters and angry locals.
This day we brought goggles, cloth to cover our
faces and vinegar to cut the tear gas. A couple of bank windows
got broken, no big deal, and sometime before noon, protesters occupied
the freeway on and off ramps on Cote d'Abraham and began a massive
drum session on the guardrails to disrupt the nearby summit. The
drumming started before noon and the marathon did not end until
it was viciously dispersed around 4AM. The whole time, these people
were under direct attack but the black block came to defend them
and draw fire away. The people who took part in that defense (men,
women, black, white, asian, First Nations, Quebecquois) showed incredible
guts, ferocity and tenacity. Barrages of teargas, plastic bullets,
and water cannon blasts were met with storms of bricks and stones,
flaming debris, and teargas cannisters flung back in the cops' faces.
The "bangers", as we were calling them, on the freeway
and the defenders took shifts - it was an informal system: someone
got tired or hurt and there would be someone else to take their
place. This battle went on for hours.
Vinegar on a piece of cloth will protect you from
CS gas pretty well, but not if you're foolish enough to walk into
a cloud of it, so we decided to move on down to St. Jean, where
we heard the fighting was also getting fierce. On our way over we
saw some amazing generosity from the citizens of Quebec City; a
lovely middle-aged woman hung a water hose out her window smiling
on the crowd below as they rinsed their eyes and filled water bottles;
a shopkeeper in the street did the same; a grandfather with his
grandchildren sat on his stoop shouting: "Mais oui! Mais oui!
C'est Admirable!" as we passed and the black bloc marched down
a street to cheers from protesters and locals alike.
There is a long, steep staircase that leads from
Cote d'Abraham down to Saint-Vallier, where we sat on the curb to
relax and chat, with many locals gathering to mingle with activists.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, people came running and screaming down
the stairs with a cloud of teargas trailing behind them. The cops
had managed to push the line about two blocks down the hill, yet
the "bangers" were still going strong.
The locals started throwing bottles and rocks up
at the cops and got another round of teargas for their troubles.
It took an hour for the cops to back off, but by this time the camel's
back has been broken. It was Saturday night, and the bars and streets
filled with angry working-class whites, blacks and south asians
of St. Jean-Baptiste and Limoilou who had been perpetually gassed
the whole day.
The whole intersection of Charest and Couronne
belonged to the locals and the activists. A bonfire had been lit
and people were drinking hard, smoking dope and the sound system
was pumping out hip-hop.
Another amazing street battle occured on Cote d'Abraham,
this time with the full resourcefulness of the locals. At one point,
they pulled a steel fence seemingly out of thin air and march up
Cote d'Abraham to charge the cop line near the top of the hill.
The battle raged back and forth until 4AM when the cops finally
drove everyone down into the park. We heard there were still battles
going on at St. Jean and Rene Levesque, but it was over for us.
There was a rumour that the Canadian army may be brought in, provoking
people to say there'd be a revolution because Quebecois hate the
army: They still remember what the army did in the 70's during the
Quebecois civil rights struggles. On Sunday morning, we learned
that something like 455 people had been arrested and sources claimed
that only approximately 300 were accounted for.
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