Before and after the storming of the Wall (part 3)

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at tao.ca
Wed May 2 18:46:29 MDT 2001


The police followed a pattern of clearing the block, then sealing it off, then
clearing the next block. only to retreat and cede the whole thing, starting all over
again. This is where my description of police violence as far worse than that
perpetrated in Seattle comes from. The police had decided to punish the people- to
teach them a lesson: if you are going to take on the state, and take on the
directions and policies of the main agenda of the capitalists, you are going to have
to learn what the fight will be like. That was the direct, deliberate lesson. That is
why a block could be gassed with a ferocity as to clear out every last inhabitant on
their feet, leave people collapsing to the ground, throwing up and some going through
convulsions. That is why the people two or three blocks away from the front saw the
police randomly lob huge rounds of gas thousands of people deep into the crowd. That
is why they would launch gas on all four corners of an intersection several hundred
yards from the main "fight", and force people to retreat down the hill- only to lob
gas in front of the crowd while advancing on it. Forcing everyone with a flower or a
crowbar down through clouds of gas that one needed to enter to escape- that wasn't
crowd control. That was class education.  That was a blunt "do you have what it
 takes" gauntlet challenge on the part of the police. The fact that so many people
kept coming back in waves must have been a singular shock- they couldn't make people
leave en masse. And that is something new for much of Canada.

About 8 blocks from where the fence had come down earlier in the day was where I was
hit. They had pushed all of us down the hill, pounding the crowd at different depths
with gas. I had no gas mask, and it was day one so I still didn't even have the
little vinegar soaked mask to breathe through I received from the street medical
clinic on the second day. So, as you can imagine, when the gas came I was dancing
around at a high pace trying to gauge the wind so I could avoid the biggest blasts at
least. At this point, one of the Black-Masked gents saw my face and all the stuff
streaming out of it, paused and gave a quick couple of massage-like tugs to my
shoulders, and said "relax, relax!" This kind of gentle, quick interaction was
something that happened many times over the days, and they were always extremely
important and decisively powerful in the strength it provided for the participants.

Then I witnessed something that was the opposite of a pick me-up. I spotted what was
obviously an agent provocateur. I had seen this man earlier in the day, but he didn't
seem all that out of place then. He only seemed older than the rest of the crowd, in
his late thirties or early forties. He was in no particular garb, dressed in jeans
and a jean jacket. I first saw him standing in a crowd of the non-rock throwing
people, grabbing a rock and tossing it at full velocity. I first thought that this
was tacky, rather than deliberately trying to cause trouble for those standing there-
in the same way I thought that the men who picked up the tear gas canisters to lob
back at the cops but instead launched them deep into the crowd were idiots- but
idiots who were on "our side".  I thought nothing of him again until I was on my way
down the hill, being gassed all the way. As mentioned, I had no protective gear- so
when gas hit an area, I set about getting away from gas. At one time on this hill,
gas was launched into the front of the crowd, the middle and all the way to the back.
The canisters at the front stayed there as the people moved back, the ones where I
was at this point, the middle area, were quickly gobbled up and thrown onto buildings
and into alley-ways to clear them out by thick gloved combatants. At this point, I
was in between the front gas, and the air in the middle that had been poisoned. Only
I was still there, except for the same gentleman I alluded to before. He quickly
darted into the alley and kicked the canister back into the street. Only I could see
him; I was looking around to see if anyone else was watching him. He then peered
carefully around the corner of the building towards the protesters, and not the
police (they would have been able to see him from the angle he was at). After looking
for what would be his opening I guess, he then put his hand on his mouth and started
"coughing" as he "stumbled" out. It was very slick- and my only proof of his actions
is my word. Take that for whatever you want.

At any rate, the blocks were gassed all the way to the bottom of the hill. I wandered
back up, with maybe 6 - 8 others, to stand in defiance and claim the block. While
standing there, a horizontal shot of a tear gas canister flew by to my right, at
which point I turned to get the heck away. While I was about three or four steps down
the hill from where I had been standing, I was hit right in the base of my spine, or
as it turned out, about ¼ of an inch off the actual bones. Needless to say, I let out
a bellow, something like "Aaagghh!!". In the immediate next three steps, I paid
attention to my ability to move my legs and found I could, but I didn't like bending
at the waist. Within seconds, three or four medics showed up to carry me off to one
side and ask me a series of questions, and told me my coat had a nice burn in it. We
all decided (they insisted, actually) that I should have it looked at.

I wasn't in deadly pain, but I wasn't in running condition any longer, nor were my
wits or my balance that clear. Since I was done at least for the day, I wanted my
back injury looked at. I got a very slow escort to the clinic, where a nurses' aid, a
nurse, a doctor and finally a traditional Chinese medicinal practitioner had a go
over me. I need to stress, that I would not have gone to the hospital. I had been
actively in the "front lines" all day, probably several thousand pictures of me had
been taken during this time, and I had no idea what kind of bizarre charges people
were to be saddled with. As I say, I don't go in for martyrdom. As such, if any had
asked me to go get looked at there, I would have gone around simply with backache,
hoping that it was only that. The gentleman who knew the traditional Chinese
treatments did an acupuncture job on me that relieved the immediate pain. The other
MD gave me advice about what to do on my back (I ended up ignoring this advice), and
sent me off with painkillers after checking all my reflexes and determining it was
only a deep bruise.

I felt extremely safe in the space, knowing "we" were taking care of one another. I
also was so relieved to know that unless I was incapacitated or injured in a severe
fashion (like the gentleman hit in the neck and unable to move), I wouldn't have to
go to the "official" hospitals. I could trust these people to simply do what they
could to save me pain and prevent further injury. Many others, I am sure, had similar
injuries that were borderline dangerous like mine after the shutdown of the street
clinic. These people might not yet know what has exactly happened to them. And that,
as far as the closing of the clinic, is a violation of their rights as surely as the
injury being inflicted upon them was in the first place. More important for us to
know is that this was also the point of the police operation.

 I went home to the University after my injuries were "patched up" and I called
family who were wondering by then what was going on with me. The bus ride back,
sitting there stinking of gas and holding my coat in a plastic bag which protected
others from the worst of my fumes, was a young man who "intellectually" knew all that
had happened this day five years ago. But the shock was still a lot to bear, and I
hadn't really been able to absorb the lessons half as well as my clothes did toxins.
That had been day one.

 Day two I woke up early and tried to piece together what the different actions on
the menu were. I felt weak, and was decided to go to the large "official" labour
march- to see what that was composed of and how it went. I was also very curious as
to what the labour tops would do to stop their members from helping the younger
people, in the main the Anarchists- on the main front. I was later to hear some
members making arm-lock chains to prevent access. I can only express total utter
contempt at this action.

I heard from others that the night before the action had continued right through the
night, with police chasing and summarily gassing a crowd that got more defiant as the
night went on. I am still utterly amazed at the composure of the crowds that fought
the police for essentially 48 hours straight. The resistance, although it became more
focused on the police and the state, rather than the FTAA policies of the state,
never lost political character. I cannot begin to explain why this is so. But it is
cause for great hope that it is so.

  I talked to the man who was sleeping next to me- he wanted to go to help out the
medics. Since I had spent a large amount of time there, I knew how to find it and
offered an escort, before I would split off and join the main labour rally. After
arriving with my friend at the clinic, I then received the mask I would end up being
glad to have. I decided to walk up with my friend to the main place of action and
have a quick look before moving on to the labour march.  I was temporarily blinded
again as the gas still in my system reacted badly to being within several blocks of
the current rounds of gas. I was thinking about what to do, perhaps just go back to
the labour march down the hill without first seeing the police in action against the
people. That didn't last once I looked sideways and saw clouds of gas rise as several
hundred people ran by. I grabbed a bottle of water and re-joined in, much to the
chagrin of my eyes and back. I didn't think I really had a choice.

 This day the police were going to punish people as the main goal. They were not
going to do anything other than hurt people- that seemed to be the intent. There was
a sort of ½ block area, just north of where the weak spot in the fence had been
punched the day before, that provided people almost a bunker. Into that little area
was launched unbelievable amounts of water cannons and gas. I first saw the water
cannons as almost a god send, thinking that as long as I avoided the power-pressure
of it, it would cool us off and help the pain. I hadn't realised that the CS gasses
stuck to water. It meant major pain for many people. I saw one man who had been
soaked across his lower regions get stuck in a cloud of gas and stumble out. Needless
to say, one can imagine the pain he was in. It certainly showed on his face.

 I don't believe the point of the days is simply the story of the brutality of the
Quebec police, so I won't go into the details of the escalation on the "everyday"
fronts of the 2nd day. The differences showed in other places as well. After some 7-8
hours my feet had developed very large blisters, so I packed it in and went for
dinner with two good friends I had come across near the weak link in the wall. Right
after we ate, a large group (I guess 1000 or so) of primarily Anarchists walked by-
and we were now in the suburban downtown area. I was surprised, and delighted to say
the least. They were chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" and from what I could
tell were people who had been gassed all day and were regrouping to take one last
crack at the state.

As they marched along they passed what I saw to be a rave. There was an empty lot on
a corner right on Rue Charest (a main street that was not part of the mostly fenced
off "old city" of Quebec- where all the busses had been re-routed).  Raves are not
what they originally were. Beyond the simple drug culture (and that has always been
there, front and centre in rave culture), there has been an almost hippie-like
rejection of pop culture, where being a "raver" meant rejecting aggression and
embracing a different attitude towards other human beings. Also like hippies, this
was (and, to some extent, still is) not a real vision- it leaves the Imperialists in
power- but is a lifestyle almost like an activism in and of itself. The other side
that was also "activist" in a sense was how the original raves were thrown. A group
would invade an empty and/or unused warehouse, set-up a sound system and record
tables, etc.- then throw the party. This radical squatting aspect has been all but
totally lost for a long time. As someone with a love of the music and a respect for
the counter-culture aspects of raving- I have hoped to get people I know who are in
this "scene" to cross over into activism. It is trying, but occasionally it works for
at least one action. Yet I had not seen anything like what I saw here this night. The
"rave" was out of a truck that had backed into an empty lot and simply started
"spinning" (playing) different kinds of electronic music. I was impressed that this
existed and wished I had the energy to top off the day with a dance of some sort.

Then, the Anarchist crowd of maybe a thousand came back- and they were running down
the hill beside the rave. Gas rose above on the hill, and I realised I wasn't done
with the conflicts yet. These people immediately blended into the crowd dancing,
while the DJ announced that "They think we'll stop dancing? We'll show them!!" and
then he cranked the volume and simply drove his truck across the intersection and
took over the side street adjoining Rue Charest.  The crowd then built the bonfire
and had what amounted to a street party, until the police began lobbing tear gas into
it. I left around this time, almost ready to collapse.

-------------------------------------------
Macdonald Stainsby
----
In the contradiction lies the hope.
                                     --Bertholt Brecht





More information about the Marxism mailing list