It Won’t End in Quebec City: Judy Rebick Sums Up the Summit of the Americas

Canada will never be the same after Quebec City.
Politicians dismiss these events at their own
peril. The young people battling police are the
best of their generation. They came from all
across the continent to stand up for democracy and
against corporate rule. And they witnessed a
profound breakdown in democracy that reinforced
their view that existing political institutions
must be radically changed.

"My generation doesn’t believe that the
traditional political institutions represent us,"
one young man told me in trying to explain what
happened in Quebec City last weekend.

I asked him why he and thousands of other mostly
young people kept returning to the danger zones in
the Upper City last weekend. I know this young
man. In everyday life he gets upset if someone
raises a voice in anger. He doesn’t like crowds
much either.

Yet last weekend he and thousands like him
suffered volley after volley of tear gas, risked
plastic bullets, arrest and intense emotional
confrontations with police time and time again. He
didn’t participate in throwing stones at police
but he supported those who did.

The Montreal taxi driver who told me it was just
elaborate theatre on both sides, the cops and the
protesters, wasn’t there. It may have started that
way. On Friday, protesters, many of them in
colorful costumes, all but a few of them in a
carnival spirit, marched singing and chanting 6
miles from the University to the perimeter. La
cloture, the Quebecois call it, an ugly chain-link
fence dividing a beautiful city became the symbol
of their frustration with a political system that
refuses to hear their voices.

When part of the fence came down, most people were cautious. Some went through and a handful started to throw stones at the advancing police. Most
stood their ground and waited to see what would
happen. Things escalated with the first lob of tear gas canisters. What began was a macabre dance
that continued all day Friday. This was no riot.
Demonstrators showed extraordinary discipline.
They moved off the street to safety when the tear
gas hit, and came back as soon as they could see
again. The police were also restrained. It went on
for hours.

But on Saturday everything changed. Quebec’s Ligue
des Droits et Libertes (Civil Liberties Union)
blamed police escalation of tactics for the increased violence on Saturday. Police are trying to blame well-known activist Jaggi Singh. Singh is still in jail on a trumped up weapons charge. They charged him with possession of a dangerous weapon. The weapon was a theatrical catapult built by a surrealist group from Alberta and used to hurl teddy bears on police lines. The story and a photo of the medieval mock weapon can be seen on www.rabble.ca . Some want to believe it was a handful of hooligans spurring the others on.

What is most important, however, is that the rule
of law broke down on Saturday. A significant and
important part of the population withdrew their
consent to be governed. The state was reduced to
what Karl Marx called its essence, an armed body
of men.

In two locations, protesters battled riot police
for hours in scenes that looked more like Northern
Ireland than Quebec. Not more than one hundred
participated in the front lines throwing stones but thousands supported them pounding guardrails
and posts with stones and placards in a deafening
show of solidarity. Mostly, the police assaulted
peaceful demonstrators who were simply blocking
roads. Medics, helping demonstrators clean their
eyes of tear gas, were among the most frequent
targets of police.

While youth battled police above, tens of thousands of demonstrators from unions, women’s groups, environmental and international development groups, student and cultural groups marched through the city below. Organizers feared people would be frightened by the violence but thousands more than expected arrived in hundreds of buses from all over Quebec and Canada. While some were upset by the violence others pledged to stand side by side with the youth the next time.

All through the week before, 1200 delegates from
across the Americas developed a common platform
and a common strategy against undemocratic trade
deals. What has emerged is a mass and diverse
movement for democracy and equality against
corporate rule and for many against capitalism. It
is being led by the youth.

Canada will never be the same after Quebec City.
Politicians dismiss these events at their own
peril. The young people battling police are the
best of their generation. They came from all
across the continent to stand up for democracy and
against corporate rule. And they witnessed a
profound breakdown in democracy that reinforced
their view that existing political institutions
must be radically changed.

A flyer being handed out at the bail hearings this
week said it all, "it didn’t start in Seattle and
it won’t end in Quebec City."

Author: Judy Rebick

News Service: ZNet

URL: http://www.zmag.org