Short Report from Quebec
research at SPAMneravt.com
Sun Apr 22 08:31:32 MDT 2001
My carload returned to the Vermont side of the border late last night. We
went up early a.m. and got to Quebec City around 11 a.m. The four of us
didn't have any difficulty, although they checked our IDs closely running us
through a computer data base, getting across the border at Derby Line.
However, the 16-person van from Central Vermont that was supposed to be
travelling along with us, or we with them, had some trouble. When they ran
the ID's on the passengers, they found a person with 400 plus lifetime
arrests and came right out to see who this exceptional troublemaker was,
only to discover an 85-year old man, Chicago Seven defendant Dave Dellinger!
The press who were present in numbers must have gotten a really great story
hook. In any case, they stopped their van and we still don't know if it,
Dave and the other passengers eventually got across. (I just talked to
someone on the phone who says that they did and that it's frontpage news in
our newspaper.) We never saw them in Canada.
So, after waiting for some time up the highway to see if the van would
indeed appear, we decided to continue onward. Arriving across from the
majestic older part of the city, which is on the north side of the massive
St. Lawrence River (full of fast-moving icy waters from the Great Lakes
heading for the sea) perched on steep cliffs with 18th century
fortifications, fancy hotels and government offices on top, we left our car
behind on the south side and took a pedestrian ferry across the river
landing 6 or 8 blocks from the "legal demonstration" site. Large numbers of
people were gathering, coming off the ferry like ourselves, out of the train
station, or from buses, at a long narrow parklike strip near the river.
After the usual speechifying (which we didn't get to hear because it was in
a very large, packed tent), the march set off through the narrow streets of
the lower city with the ramparts of the upper city, where the meetings of
the "hemispheric leaders" were going on, on our left. The march was huge.
I'm not sure what the official numbers are said to be today. But it was
huge. There were contingents with flags and banners of all sorts. Among
others things, I saw a fair number of Cuban flags. There seemed to be some
considerable dismay that Cuba had been excluded from the summit. "Donde
esta Cuba" was being worn by one person I saw, who had the words tapped on
her shirt. Others were wearing small Cuban flags or waving larger ones. I
also saw Chileans, Peruvians, and others from Latin America with their own
respective banners (some may have come up for the People's Summit earlier in
the week), along with a sizeable numbers of Palestinians and supporters of
an end to the Iraq sanctions. We ended up marching along with a huge and
very organized Quebec labor contingent.
The march unfortunately was headed away from the old city with the summit.
I understand that choice of route was a considerable matter of debate among
the diverse coalition of organizers with the more militant and radical
arguing of course that we just be heading the other way. In any case, after
we had gone from some blocks, we could see in the distance that the "Black
Bloc" people and had others had scaled the cliffs, from which they had lower
large banners, and were engaging the police at or near the infamous Wall
surround the summit. Clouds of teargas were swirling up there and police
helicopters were hovering overhead. Although we were some distance away,
being downhill and downwind from this situation, we all got pretty
thoroughly gassed. The march continued a few more blocks where it passed by
a large park on the left. (I've got to get a map and see where this all
was.) I was reacting poorly to the tear gas and flopped down on the grass
to recuperate, while we assessed the situation and watched the rest of the
march go by to see if we could spot any of our missing (to us) colleagues.
It so happened that at this point was where the break away march was taking
place to climb up some steep stairs to the top of the cliff. Everybody in
the march was being told that they had this option and many, especially the
young who were suited up for action, were taking it. I don't know how it
was being phrased in French. But the English translation was something
like: "If you want peace keep going this way, or if you want to fight go
this way." We decided after an interval to go left and scale up the cliffs,
where the action clearly was. And indeed it was -- with thousands of
protesters testing the police lines (the "flicks" were dressed in their
robo-cob gear) and in some places going at the chain link portions of the
Wall with boltcutters and teams of people pulling at it with ropes. It had
come down in places. The mood was basically exuberant. People with spray
paint were busy decorating that the sheets of plywood that many (although
not all) of the businesses had used to board up their storefronts. Some
stores and bistros were still open. Every once and a while a new wave of
teargas would come rolling down the street or the cops would let loose a
volley of plastic bullets from an alley. On our side, the radical
cheerleaders in their black or red leotards with pompoms would come around
to entertain and lead the cheers, and other groups -- including some radical
workers --were dancing or marching a little bit around while here and there
some people were writhing from the gassing. Very surreal scenes.
I see from some IndyMedia reports this morning that some possible looting
took place later last night. But not while we were around. We eventually
worked our way back to the ferry around 7 p.m. and headed back southwards to
the border -- where again we had no trouble. My head is still swirling with
a mutitude of images and the effects of the gassing and being tired. I'll
try to write something more analytical later today or tonight. But in the
meantime I wanted to share something. It was great! Best time I've had
since street-fighting days in the anti-Vietnam War movement in East Lansing,
Michigan. And these kids today are so much more sophisticated in terms of
their decision-making and tactics.
The future looks promising from this side of the fence.
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