IAC Report from Quebec Protests
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Mon Apr 23 12:51:22 MDT 2001
REPORT FROM QUEBEC CITY
Following is a report from Quebec City, based on interviews with four
organizers for the International Action Center who were in the midst of
the action, taped Saturday night (April 21) after the major marches,
rallies and confrontations.
Jack Smith, Mid-Hudson National People's Campaign, IAC
Q: What did you consider were the most important differences between the
demonstration yesterday and today?
Greg (who photographed the march): The participation of the Canadian and
Quebecois labor movement in today's action gave everyone the assurance
that there was mass support; and from the working class for the assault
on the FTAA. I'd estimate there were 40,000-60,000 people here today
between the march and the groups around the city. The Canadian workers
know how damaging NAFTA has been to them. Quebec's workers feel
threatened by the FTAA as they did by NAFTA. Workers throughout Canada
have shown in the past few years they are capable of militant actions
themselves. I saw groups of workers today with their own cotton gas
masks and goggles. Public workers in Newfoundland recently won 15%
raises with just the threat of a strike.
Sara (IAC organizer): The labor march and the break-off marches were
separate actions, but when you went to the wall to fight you knew that
the workers were cheering you on, even those who were not participating.
Q. Most of you were at demonstrations against these oppressive
international bodies in Washington and then at the protest in
Philadelphia of the Republican National Convention. How would you
compare them with this one?
Gery (youth organizer): This one was more militant. We were out in the
streets near the perimeter of the fence last night past midnight and
then in action from early this morning, and all that time the
demonstrators were standing up to the police. Also, since the police
relied on gas ;there were reports of 30 canisters a minute coming at
us,and water cannons instead of on arrests, it meant we could stay in
action longer without being arrested. There were many demonstrators here
from the United States and I think that the good, fighting spirit and
solidarity of these days will carry over for the next period just as it
did after the experience in Seattle.
Deirdre (veteran anti-war activist and socialist writer):
There was another tremendous difference. The mass of the population of
the city were with us. It wasn't just the workers on the labor march,
but also the people who lived in the neighborhoods. Even the shopkeepers
who boarded up their shops in fear of the clashes invited us in to use
the bathroom or to give us water to wash out our eyes. One person
insisted he help us, and told us how my father fought the fascists in
the Netherland; as he berated the police. Another woman ran down after
us to offer us muffins. There was zero hostility to the demonstrators,
including those who were tearing town the fence and fighting the police
Sara: There was also the advantage that both the movement in Quebec and
in all of Canada, and the population in general, is better organized and
more politically aware. Our anti-racist, socialist and anti-imperialist
literature was accepted with enthusiasm by the crowd. And they also took
care of us well. At the school where we stayed the high school students
had fought to make it available for the demonstration, they kept it
secure and they organized food for those who came to struggle. You had
the feeling of being an army with a population behind you.
Q: The IAC brought its own political program to the demonstration. How
did you participate to bring out these political points? What was your
Gery: Our main thrust was to raise the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We had
hundreds of bright orange flags that read Free Mumia in Spanish, French
and English. And we had a big banner that read ;Build global resistance
to the capitalist death machine. We marched with these banners in the
labor march for an hour, then went over to where there were
confrontations at the perimeter. People would see the banner and start
chanting Brick by brick, wall by wall, we're going to free Mumia
Abu-Jamal. The flags and banners were useful in regrouping the
demonstrators when, for example, they had been assaulted by gas or
cannon or rubber bullets, which were used more today than yesterday.
Sara: The demonstrators were organized into three basic groups: those
who would directly challenge the authorities, those who would assist
those in direct confrontation which was what the IAC did;and those who
attempted to avoid the threat of arrest or attack from the police,
although everyone was gassed. Some of the groups like theBlack Bloc; and
others were well organized, with grappling hooks, gas masks, etc., to
latch onto the wall, accompanying the action with drumming and bugling.
Then despite the heavy gas, inspired by the music and the struggle, we
would grab onto the rope to help pull down the fence. There was
tremendous solidarity among the participants.
Q: What do you think the impact of this weekend will be on the
developing anti-globalization movement and on the progressive movement
Sara: I think this will take the movement far beyond where it was with
Seattle. That almost the entire population identified with and supported
the most militant actions will give a tremendous impetus to everyone who
participated or who will get an honest report of the events.
Deirdre: I agree. I haven't experienced anything like this since the
days of the movement against the war in Vietnam, in terms of mass
support for militant action, and all on a progressive basis.
The IAC may be reached at:
International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011 email: iacenter at iacenter.org
phone: (212) 633-6646
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