Home | SchNEWS OF THE WORLD
Summit Of Americas - FTAA - Quebec City April
Diversity of Tactics
by Michael DesRoches
The April 2001 Summit of the Americas brought every
head of state (north and south), except Castro, to Quebec to discuss
the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) - a hemisphere wide free
trade zone similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
- but this time including Latin America. Trade Unions, authoritarian
leftists and direct action groups were invited to join a 'Convergence
Table'- organising along strict principles of non-violence - in
line with previous North American mobilizations.
However, during an action against police brutality
in Montreal in the lead up to the summit, things turned ugly when
both police and other activists turned on people engaged in confrontational
action, leading to mass arrests. In response to this and the exclusive
principles of the Convergence Table, activists in Montreal formed
the Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitalistes - or anti-capitalist
convergence - la CLAC. In Quebec City members of the local organizing
group broke away to form the Comite d'accueil Summit des Ameriques
- or Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee - CASA. A new alliance
between the two was formed which promised to 'respect a diversity
of tactics' - a move which got CLAC and CASA speedily excluded from
the Convergence Table and excomunicated by the Unions and NGOs.
Despite limited resources, CLAC and CASA provided a framework under
which people could organise their own actions. Caravans travelled
the northeast and networked with other groups, provided educational
events, and hosted two regional consultas - giant spokescouncils.
Meanwhile the Canadian security forces erected
a 12 foot metal fence around the centre of Quebec City. The Comite
Populaire St. Jean Baptiste, a radical community organisation, used
the alienation caused by the fence to discuss the Summit with residents
- as well as the FTAA and politics in general - all the while plugging
their 'adopt an activist' program to provide housing for people
during the summit.
The action plan, agreed at the consultas, consisted
of providing space around the perimeter for three different degrees
of action. A green zone would remain peaceful and creative, a yellow
zone disruptive but non-violent and a red zone for more confrontational
actions. Everyone was asked to respect the right of others to take
whatever colour of action they felt was acceptable. This meant not
escalating things where yellow actions were taking place, keeping
all direct action out of the green zone and respecting the right
of people to be confrontational.
Despite misgivings, the plan actually went off
better than expected. The main CLAC and CASA day of action was held
on Friday, April 20, the day before the Convergence Table march.
Contrary to all expectations the fence didn't last 30 seconds -
a problem as most actions had been planned around its destruction.
When we broke through, there was no unified response and police
managed to push everyone out of the security perimeter fairly quickly.
Still, for the next two days Quebec would not be silent for a moment.
Actions went on throughout the day and night. The solidarity between
protestors was amazing. In the green zone Food Not Bombs provided
food non-stop for the entire weekend while a sound system blasted
music from bands and DJs to those redecorating the space.
The Convergence Table marched on the Saturday,
the organizers having chosen to direct the march away from the security
perimeter towards an empty stadium for a rally. The CLAC/CASA contingent
turned away from the march and headed for the fence, joined by some
union and NGO groups, disgusted with the reformist agenda of their
Although almost everyone agreed the action had
been a success, the links and structures they left behind have proven
more important than the street battle. Mutual support has already
helped open a squat in Montreal, a campaign of economic disruption
in Toronto and is now busy organising for a day of action in Ottawa
against the G8 summit. The Quebec actions also set a precedent and
anti-capitalist convergences with similar principles have sprung
up in Washington D.C, New York City, Denver and Ottawa, making anti-authoritarian
organising the base of the movement rather than the exception.