Thursday, October 06, 2005

Journal Entries: Anti-FTAA Protest Quebec City 4/18/01-4/22/01

When going through my old disks, I found this journal entry I had written after the anti-FTAA protests in Quebec City.

It is of course always dangerous to post journal entries on the web. This was something I originally wrote just for my own benefit, so that I could remember the experiences I had in Quebec. It is obviously not a polished piece of writing, and it was not originally intended for a public audience.

I've decided to post this on the web because
1) I think it’s a pretty good story
2) It might be of interest to any one else who was at this protest, or is interested in protests
3) Although I mention several people by name and describe things that they did, I don’t think anyone will mind because it’s been 5 years, and this is ancient history now. (Although if you’re reading this, and you mind, just let me know).

But it should be read as a journal piece, and with a forgiving eye. It tends to be a bit Joel-centric, because I wanted to remember my experiences and contributions. Obviously in all the disagreements that arises, it takes my side. And of course, the prose needs to be forgiven as well.

Media Mouse has several pictures on their website from this protest, which can be viewed here. However, as this account mentions, I split off from the rest of the Media Mouse group on the main day of protesting, and so at a different part of the protest when most of those pictures were taken.

I did a lot of filming of the protest, and some of that footage was edited into the Media Mouse film. But not very much of it. Our original intention was to capture the feel of the streets, and show things that the mainstream media wouldn't show. However upon returning from the protest, we felt that the mainstream media had focused too much on the violence at the protest, and ignored the issues behind it. So we decided to focus our documentary on the issues behind the FTAA. This meant that most of the footage I had shot was now inapplicable. Some brief shots of police and tear gas that I filmed were incorporated into the film, but the majority of what I shot ended up not being usable.

Anyway, without further ado…

Pre trip:

We had been planning this with Media Mouse for quite some time. Although leading up to the trip the line-up of those going was constantly changing, we ended up going with myself, Jeff, Joe, Erica, Bob, Tom, Rob, and Nancy met us there.

There was also a group from Calvin College going, who were even less organized than we at Media Mouse were. Peter was initially the main person who seemed to organize everything. (Peter was also well known to most of the gang at Media Mouse because of his active community involvement.) Then one day Jordan showed up at the Calvin College Social Justice Coalition meeting and asked about a trip to Quebec, and he appeared to take charge of everything from that moment forth. I tried to coordinate things as much as possible between our two groups. I stayed in close contact with the Calvin students, attended their organizational meetings and kept them updated on what we at Media Mouse were planning to do. However, even up until the day Media Mouse left for Quebec, the Calvin group was still unsure of what they were doing. They hadn't even finalized who was going and who wasn't when Media Mouse left. I didn't know who from the Calvin group would be going to Quebec until I saw them there.

Before Jordan took over and organized Calvin’s expedition, Vito expressed interest in coming with a group to Quebec, and so I had brought him along to the Media Mouse meetings. It seemed like a good fit because Vito was known and liked by the Media Mouse crowd anyway. Erica knew Vito from the School of America’s protests, and Bob knew Vito from the anti-Kohl’s sweatshop protests. However upon arriving at the Media Mouse meeting, Vito embarrassed me and failed to impress Media Mouse with his over the top violent rhetoric, and he made no attempt to conceal the fact he planned to cause trouble at the protest. Fortunately in the end he decided that leaving early with Media Mouse would mean missing too many classes, so he opted to go with the Calvin group instead. This saved me the embarrassment of having to tell him that Media Mouse had unanimously voted he wasn't going with us.

Anthony wanted to come with Media Mouse, but couldn't because of his schoolwork, so he stayed behind and agreed to be our contact person.

The previous summer, I had gone to a protest in Windsor Canada, and had been held up and interrogated at the boarder for 3 hours, at which point my story fell completely apart and I had to admit I was crossing the boarder for the intent of attending a protest. The rough questioning and intimidation treatment I received convinced me that it would be almost impossible to keep a coherent story together if we were separated and questioned at the boarder. Therefore I advocated that we should simply be honest about our intentions, and hope for the best at the boarder. I thought we would have a much better chance of getting through this way than if we got caught in a lie.

There was not uniformity of agreement on this point. Some of the others believed we could make a fake story convincingly stick. I was the only one with experience of trying to cross the boarder at the time of a major protest, so to hammer home my point I told and re-told my story ad infinitum. I’m sure the others wanted to kill me after a while.

We at Media Mouse were going to go together as a Media group, until we heard that big groups traveling together didn't have much chance of getting across the boarder. We decided to split up into small cars and go with fake stories. I objected to this and tried to convince everyone we wouldn't be able to fool the boarder guards. In fact I made this point repeatedly (and so it was a little embarrassing when we got through so easily, after I had scared both Media Mouse and Calvin with my gloom and doom scenarios.)

The other issue was that I was worried that my name would still be in the computers after the experience that summer. Therefore I would be a liability to any group trying to pass off another fake story. Jeff and Joe both had convictions for civil disobedience, so they might have trouble getting across the boarder as well. Therefore Jeff and Joe and I all went in the same car. I was very pessimistic about our chances of getting across.

Jeff decided to still go as media, since he works for the community Media center he had official credentials. Joe and I went with him as interns.

4/18/01 Wednesday
I got to the Community Media Center, where I was supposed to meet Joe and Jeff. I was a little bit early, and Joe was about 45 minutes late, so I had to do a lot of waiting. Jeff showed up with Anthony, and then left again, and I was supposed to instruct Joe where to go. When Joe showed up we put the camera equipment in the car, and took off.

We were going with the honest approach at the boarder. More or less. The only lie was that Joe and I were not interns with Jeff. Therefore we spent a good part of our 3-hour drive to Port Huron practicing our story. When we got to Port Huron, we got sent through very easily. Jeff had official media credentials, the boarder guards did a brief search of the car, but not very thorough. They just kind of opened up all of our bags and just shut them again, not even bothering to look at the bottom of our bags. In preparing for a thorough search, I had packed only nice clothes along to facilitate the story that we were going as journalists, not protesters. It meant that I spent the whole weekend as a very nicely dressed protester (which did have its advantages, namely allowed me to safely walk the street by myself with out fear of being picked up by the cops).

We called Anthony once across. He told us that Erica and Rob were waiting at Costco in London Ontario, before he got cut off. We went to Costco, and found Erica’s car, but no people insight. We looked all over for them before leaving a note on the car and going to dinner. They met us at dinner.

Erica and Rob had gotten across extremely easy (as had Bob and Tom, who had also met up with everyone in London). In fact no one’s story was even questioned, which was almost a disappointment after they had spent so much time preparing to get grilled at the boarder.

We had deliberately staggered the departing time of the cars to avoid arriving at the boarder at the same time. (Rob and Erica left at 11, Jeff, Joe and I not until close to 3). Therefore the others thought it would be a while before we showed up, so they had gone shopping for protesting supplies (none of which any of us dared to bring any to the boarder crossing).

This meant that for the whole weekend, the others were better equipped than Jeff, Joe and I. In fact I for some reason, never even got around to picking up basics like bandannas and goggles for the tear gas. (I had been to many protests before, and never got tear gassed, so I doubted how necessary these devices would be, and did not feel like acquiring them was a priority).

We set out again. However, an hour after leaving London, (in the middle of the night), Erica’s car broke down. Rob, who was driving it at the time, just suddenly lost power while cruising along the expressway. Fortunately we were near an off ramp and fortunately Erica’s car was in the front of our 3 cars. However we were delayed almost 2 hours probably while we got a tow truck and had the car towed to a car garage place. We packed into 3 cars and opted to pick the car up on our way back, rather then wait for it to get fixed and further delay our journey.

4/19/01 Thursday
Arrived in Quebec in the afternoon, found the welcome center, found out where we were staying.

We split up into two groups. Rob, Jeff and Tom (who met up with Nancy) went to do stuff (I forget what) and Erica, Joe, Bob and I were going to try and get some food and go to the women’s march. Food definitely took the priority though, and we were slow in going to the women’s march. In fact we ended up missing it. I was mildly annoyed with at the time, but it turned out men were not allowed on the march, so it turns out it’s just as well we had a long lunch. Erica, on the other hand, upon hearing that it was women only, really regretted missing out.

Since we were supposed to meet Jeff Rob and Tom at the Women’s march, we decided to find an alternate way to meet them. There was a candle light march at 8 to protest the gate being closed on Old Quebec, and we decided to go to that instead. First we took a tour of the wall, and visited Revolution Park, which was make shift park constructed safe under the expressway as a safe area.

Most of the shopkeepers were boarding up their shops. This concerned Erica, because she didn't see why independently owned businesses had anything to worry about. The violence and vandalism usually only targeted major symbols of capitalism, not small independently owned businesses. Erica worried that the boarding up of shops was playing into the fear mongering against the protesters.

(I maintained that it was a reasonable precaution on the part of the shopkeepers, since all it took was one idiot who was a bit less selective than the rest of the crowd to break a window that shouldn't have been broken).

When a shopkeeper spilled his nails, Erica helped him clean it up. I got down on my hands and knees and helped out a little bit as well if for no other reason than just because I would have felt stupid standing around watching. (Although, everyone else there just stood around watching).

After the nails were all cleaned up, Erica pointed to the boarded up windows and said “You miss judge us. You miss judge us.” Whether the French shopkeeper understood or not I'm not sure.

The candle light march was scheduled to start at Laval University. It was a hell of a walk there, and no one seemed to realize that when we set out except for me, but I actually like long walks so I didn't say anything.

After walking for a long time and then realizing we weren't even half way there yet, moral plummeted among the group. I was really the only one strongly in favor of continuing on.

Some people wanted to turn around. Some people wanted to take the bus, which was a good idea, but we didn't know where to catch the bus or which bus to catch.

In the end I won out, and we ended up continuing on and eventually arriving at the University finally, only to decide not to march. The rest of the group was worried about the police presence, and the fact that the march was under the heading of a large sign reading “Viva l’Anarchie.” “What is this?” someone asked. “A stupid anarchist march to get us all arrested before the official protest even starts?” The marchers were planning on going down the middle of the street, presumably without a permit.

I really wanted to stay and go on the march. I argued that there were only 3 police cars present, and that was not enough of a police presence for them to try and arrest everyone on the march. But I was outvoted on this point. I then offered to stay by myself, but this was also outvoted. “We should stay together,” the rest of the group said. “It’s bad news to start splitting off.”

A more legitimate concern was that Joe beginning to get sick. In fact by the time we made it back to our room at the hostel, Joe was extremely sick. I was worried I would catch whatever bug he had and would miss out on the days of big protest, but he was all better in the morning and no one else got sick. We theorized that he must have eaten something that disagreed with him, and then aggravated his condition by putting in that long walk all the way to the University.

4/20/00 Friday
As was the case with the day before, I was really chomping at the bit to get going and protesting, and everyone else was more relaxed. This caused me a great deal of frustration, although the excitement didn't start until later in the day, and in retrospect I was unnecessarily impatient.

Jeff, Rob and Nancy opted to go to various speaking events, while the rest of us decided to go to the carnival against capitalism. This also started at Laval University (all the way across town) so the morning’s activities consisted of getting bus passes and a blank videocassette.
(We had Rob’s camera, but he had left all his cassettes with a friend who he had met up with at the welcome center the previous day.)
We got breakfast at the People’s potato, which was a free food place near the college we were staying at. While the others were still getting ready I, in the interest of getting moving faster, volunteered to go to the local media store to get a new cassette. They didn't have any. In the end we ended up buying cassettes off of another protester that we met. I also went to Subway to get change for the bus, before we left for Laval.

Once at Laval, we waited a while before the march started. I saw a few familiar faces (someone who might have been Jaggi Singh, but I’m not sure. I ran into one of the Michigan State University students that I had hung out with at the Bush inauguration protest earlier in the year. (Although he was so disguised I didn't recognize him at first. He had on the whole black block protest gear).

We also ran into former Media Mouse comrade Crystal. We had heard she would be coming from NY, and had hoped to run into her. Crystal was with a guy named Doug, although I never did figure out where Doug was from or what his relationship to Crystal was. (Doug did seem to know a lot about Calvin College, so he must have some connection to Grand Rapids).

Erica broke out the bubbles, and we had fun using those. When the march finally started, we marched all the way down the path we had walked the previous day from the fence to Laval.

There was a separation point where the yellow zone separated from and green zone, and we went with the yellow. Crystal initially stayed in the green zone, but left to join us when the Shell Gasoline station she was standing by got smashed up. (The rest of us didn't witness this, although given the anti-shell slogans everyone was saying, we all assumed it was only a matter of time. When we saw the shell station the next day, it was all boarded up. In fact, given the hatred of Shell, why Shell didn't board up the previous day, when all the Independent stores were boarding up, is a mystery to me).

We marched all the way to the fence, at which point the black bloc appeared to materialize out of nowhere. (Very odd, we all thought, since no one had seen them on the march).

Some kid, I believe unrelated to the Black Bloc, was on a CBS news van. When the CBS news guy saw him there, he began yelling for him to get off. The kid replied it was a free country and the CBS guy was furious, and started to climb up and get the kid down himself. Two black bloc guys ran over and blocked the CBS guy with their big sticks. The black bloc guys actually ran past me to get there, bumping me as I blew bubbles. The CBS guy continued to yell at the kid atop the van, but didn't try to get at him any more.

Other notes: As black bloc materialized, the guy in front had a bed mattress with the Anarchy A symbol on it. He used it violently to knock back people with cameras, yelling “no pictures”. They carried long wooden sticks in their hands, and crowd reaction was varied. A man standing next to me implored them, “peaceful protest, right guys?” There was also a catapult some of the black block had brought.

The black block began working on taking down the fence. A couple of them climbed on top and began rocking it back and forth. To our surprise, there were no police around.

Erica moved forward to film them. I stepped up on a small fence in the park to see better, and rest of the group went to look for Erica. I figured since they knew where I was, we could stay together easily, but once tear-gas hit everyone would move.

The Black bloc took down fence. Everyone was euphoric, but then no one knew what to do next. Rob (who wasn't there, but saw news footage) and Crystal would later lament this as the lost opportunity of protest, and to a certain extent I agree with them, but we were all worried about what extreme reaction would await us if we breached the fence. Within minutes riot police showed up and the opportunity was lost.

Police fired tear gas at us. Everyone’s first reaction (including myself) was to run, but someone yelled out not to run, only to walk. I remembered the workshops I had attended on non-violence and realized he was right. We had been told that running only creates a sense of panic, and that we should avoid running under all circumstances. Once I remembered this, for the rest of the days of protest I myself would yell at other people to walk. (To my surprise, sometimes whole crowds would stop running just because I shouted out not to).

The tear gas canisters were thrown back at the police, and I suffered no adverse affects. However, as the canisters kept coming, eventually I get a whiff of some and retreated teary eyed to the back of the crowd. It was mild compared to what I would later experience, but unpleasant enough at the time.

As I went more to the back of the crowd and away from the tear gas, I quickly recovered. Those near the back of the crowd had not seen what had happened on the front lines, and everyone was asking me if I was all right. I answered I was. After I was done coughing, a news team from CTV asked me if I was okay and if I would talk to them. I told them yes. It took a while to get the camera ready, and then when the camera was finally ready two guys in black bloc walked by, and one of them flashed out his hand and quickly spray-painted the camera lens, making it unusable. So I ended up talking into the microphone/ cassette recorder instead, and said that many protesters were obviously equipped for tear gas, but unfortunately people like me were not. (The reporters were far back enough that they couldn’t see what was going on, so I told them news from front, how wall got knocked down).

The format for the rest of the day, indeed for the rest of protest, was then established. Get tear gassed, retreat, recover, advance again and repeat process.

And that was how I spent the rest of the day. Eventually I ran into Bob and Erica, who had their own tear gas stories. (Erica, being at the very front of the crowd, had apparently been tear gassed worse and had to be lead out by Bob. They had lost Tom and Crystal in the confusion. (Crystal had lost Doug at the beginning of the yellow/green split).

We sat on bench and Erica reviewed footage she had taped. There was screaming suddenly and the crowd started running. Wanting to get into the action, my first impulse was to run into the crowd towards the site of the disturbance. Bob and Erica had the opposite impulse, and yelled after me until I retreated with them. It turned out that the disturbance was nothing more than more tear gas (probably the cops were beginning to fire into the back of the crowd).

Two armored cop cars carrying water cannons in front of them came in from the opposite side of the protest, heading towards the fence. As we observed from the lawn, everyone just got out of the way to let these things get past. One kid stood in the way, waving his anarchist flag. When the kid turned his back, the police car accelerated, presumably to scare him out of the way. We all gave a general shout of alarm, concerned that he was run over. He turned out to be all right, but everyone ran forward. Even Bob, Erica and I came forward. The Black bloc attacked the police car, smashing in the windows with their sticks. The officers inside flinched defensively as glass shattered all around them.

The police vans were both forced to back up. They let loose the water cannons, but Black bloc did surprisingly well at continuing their attack well avoiding the blast.

Then the tear gas came. To our surprise it was launched not just at the troublemakers, but deep into the crowd as well. Everyone, including Bob and Erica, ran. I yelled out “Walk! Walk!” and to my surprise everyone listened, but soon I was beginning to wish I had chosen to run once the tear gas wafted in our direction. Bob and Erica, better equipped then I was, were able to lead me out as my eyes stung so bad I couldn’t open them for more then a few seconds at a time. We had to leap through some bushes in our rush to escape, and then climb down a steep hill, still covered with snow from the winter. It was so slippery Bob advised me to just fall down it, but I was able to slide down with out loosing my footing. At one point (probably at this point or shortly afterwards) I lost track of Bob and Erica even though I could hear them. Once they realized I wasn’t following them, they came back and grabbed me and led me away. With their help and with the medics help I was able to get my eyes cleaned out. It was the first of many times that I would need help cleaning out my eyes.

We eventually met back up with Tom, Crystal, and Joe. Crystal had been the Seattle World Trade Protests, and because some people had said the size of the protest at Quebec was similar, I asked Crystal if this was what Seattle was like. She said it was very similar, except the cops were more brutal in Seattle.

Crystal used Erica’s cell phone to call Doug and meet up with him. We stayed away from the main crowd to avoid the tear gas, but the police began firing the tear gas everywhere, and we had to retreat a couple times.

At another point, the gas was fired nearby and demonstrators had to get through a narrow passage between a wall and a bush to escape. I held a branch of it back to make it easier for the grateful protesters to get away, but by the time everyone was through my eyes had begun to sting a bit. I pulled out the lemon juice soaked bandana Erica had given me, and took a breath of that after which I really started to cough (perhaps because it had been used a few time previous to clean off tear gas, and the rag had begun to smell accordingly).

Everyone else began wanting to leave. Bob was concerned the police were going to arrest everyone. I thought this unlikely given the sheer size of the crowd, but the police encouraged this fear by embarking on various flanking tactics. Bob, taking the reluctant Tom with him, checked everything out to make sure we weren’t in danger of having our escape routes cut off. The debate about how long to stay continued for quite sometime. I was able to keep everyone there for a while by saying we didn’t necessarily have to put ourselves in the line of fire, but we should at least stay to see what would happen. However, this became a harder and harder sell once it was apparent everywhere was in the line of fire. Eventually people voted to leave.

Rather meekly I asserted my desire to stay. I thought, as in the night before, they would insist we stay together but they let me go, although they made it clear they were not happy about my departure. Erica let me keep the lemon soaked Bandana, and gave me the cell phone so I could call Anthony at 7 and let him know I was still all right. Then Bob gave me his watch so I would know when the appropriate time to call Anthony was. I left company with the rest of Media Mouse, who went in search of dinner (although they would eventually return to another part of the protest and outstay me by about an hour-ironically enough).

I spent the rest of the evening in the usual cat and mouse tear gas game. The police gradually began forcing the demonstrators back away from the park area where we were, and into a residential zone. The low buildings, as I would discover then and the next day, helped keep the tear gas trapped for long periods of time.

I called Anthony at 7. Erica, as she herself admitted, had been calling Anthony a lot that weekend, so I was worried it might be an annoyance, but he seemed happy enough to hear from me. I explained to Anthony why I was calling (because I had left the rest of the group, and they wanted me to check in). I chatted with him about the day’s events and media coverage of it (I told him what happened to us, and he told me what coverage he had been reading). I could hear Tear gas being fired off and I just commented on it in passing at the time, thinking it was far enough away it wouldn’t affect me. Aided by the low buildings, the tear gas reached me and I soon began coughing violently. I couldn’t even say good-bye to Anthony. “Did you just get gassed?” He asked at last. “Yeah, I should probably go now,” I barely managed to squeak out.

Other protestors were also caught off guard as I was. In fact, as I retreated I saw a few of them panicky smash through a police fence wall to get away from the tear gas. I ran off until I could breath again. The only casualty of the experience was a bubble bottle that slipped out of my pockets while I was running and broke on the ground.

(I would later learn that Erica and the others called Anthony about 20 minutes later from another phone. Anthony told them about my abrupt end to my call, and right afterwards they got tear-gassed and were forced to end their call in the same way. We later called Anthony that night to let him know we were all all right).

The rest of the night was more cat and mouse stuff. The protesters were beginning to get fewer and fewer. Some organization was giving out free food, and I had a quick meal in between getting tear-gassed. There was one call for people to call it a night and go to a planning meeting, and about half the group left at that time. I had really no desire to go to a planning meeting and figured someone else from Media Mouse would be there instead (although I was wrong about this), and so stayed on. When the second call to retreat and go to a planning meeting was given, I left at that time.

(Either the 1st or 2nd call to leave was accompanied by the announcement that tear gas had gotten into the ventilation of the FTAA meeting, causing the opening ceremonies to be postponed to Saturday. We all cheered).

I made my way back to the Campus. I was surprised to be the first one back. A large part of the reason I left when I did was because I was worried the others were getting worried about me. Had I known they were also still at the protest, I would have stayed out later. (And it sounds like, from the stories I heard from the Calvin group, that I missed an interesting night).

I listened to a folk singer at the college and ate at People’s Potato (a volunteer food group in the college) while waiting for the others to get back.

The others came back with in an hour, with stories almost identical to mine. It sounded like a good part of the hour extra they spent out was spent taking the long way back because of the fear about being picked off by the police once they left the main group, so we probably left the main protest at about the same time.

Once they came back, the others were all in favor of leaving to get food. I had already eaten at People’s potato while waiting for them to get back. I urged them not to make to long a night of it, because we would have a big day tomorrow, and tried to get them to go to People’s Potato, but they went out anyway. I walked them out to their car, but ended up staying behind, as did Tom, who was too tired to go. He went to People’s Potato, and I went with him to keep him company and get seconds on food.

They came back before Tom and I went to sleep anyway. We all went to bed about the same time so I guess the only thing I gained by staying in was saving some cash.

Jeff, Rob and Nancy got back. They did not have quite as exciting a day as we did, but they had seen the demonstrators still outside right before they got back, and apparently the numbers had swelled since I left. The smell of tear gas was also still in the air.

4/21/01 Saturday (My 23rd Birthday)
Since no one went to the planning meeting, no one knew what the direct action was going to be. (It was not printed in the program of course. The only thing we knew about was the legal march at noon). Based on my experiences of past protests, I figured things would start early, and was impatient when the group was moving slow again. (Although, once again I was probably over reacting.)

After a slow time getting breakfast, they want to drive out of the city to get more supplies. After the previous day, more supplies for handling tear gas was no doubt a good idea, but leaving the city on the big day of direct action seemed unbearable to me. What if we had problems getting back in again?

I toyed with the idea of staying in the city and going by myself. I had brought my parents 10-year-old camera just for show of having equipment when we crossed the boarder. I had no intention of taking it to the protest because it was much too old and bulky, but I got it out and toyed with it, and decided it might not be that big and bulky after all, and I said maybe I could take it around and get some footage by myself. As with the previous day, they said it was my decision but they emphasized that they didn’t like the idea of me going out by myself.

I gave in and we all piled into Joe’s car. Rob split off from Jeff and Nancy to go with us as well and we left.

However, going down the street I saw the unmistakably form of Vito, and became excited. It was the perfect excuse to get out of the car, and the others wouldn’t be worried because I was no longer alone. I told Joe to pull the car over, I got out my camera and I ran out to join the Calvin group.

I ran over to the corner, called out Vito’s name, and embraced him. Also there was Peter, Jordon, Nicole Regiania, Johann, Danielle, and John. We exchanged stories. They had all gotten in late Friday night, had stayed in to see all the protestors get funneled out of old Quebec by being forced against the cliff by tear gas. Apparently some protestors had even been forced to jump over the cliff to escape the tear gas, but all this happened late at night (like at 12:30). I regretted somewhat not staying out.

We went over to the big legal march, and observed costumes and stuff. There was someone dressed up as an FTAA fat cat carrying labor along in chains, and he was pretty funny. He made us laugh, and agreed to be interviewed on camera. Then, as he talked into the video camera, he addressed my parents.

“I bet you didn’t think your son would come to Quebec when you gave him that video camera, and fight against everything you believe in.” Pretty amazing. How did he know the video camera was from my parents?

Eventually we fell in with the March. Then we stopped to get off on the sidelines for a while and observe. Jordan ran into some of his friends from home, who told us where the direct action would be, and there was some confusion as he tried to coordinate everything and keep up with his both friends from home and from Calvin. Eventually, we fell back in line with the march, having lost Jordan’s friends.

When the split came in the march, Jordan and I were the only ones from the Calvin group who left to take part in the direct action (although the others would all leave the main march to join the direct action later in the day).

Like the previous day, the whole thing can more or less be summed up in Cat and Mouse games with Police and with Tear Gas. Jordan and I found the area around the fence quite heavily tear-gassed already before we even got there, and we couldn’t even get close to the fence without our eyes burning. In the end we had to go all the way around to find a way up to the fence, and ended up where we had been the previous day.

We ran into Jeff Smith at one point. Jeff had gotten separated from Nancy, and seemed as happy to find us as we were to find him. I introduced him to Jordan. We also ran into Crystal at another point. However Jordan and I wanted to get up closer to the gate, and so parted ways with Jeff and Crystal not too long after meeting them.

As mentioned before, the rest of the day was simply cat and mouse games, but some high lights can perhaps be pinpointed:

I got some good shots of advancing line of Police. In fact in a moment of bravado I advanced close to film the police while the other protesters retreated. Jordan was a bit unnerved by this and entreated me to be careful because the police had a history of targeting people with cameras. The cops made a fake charge once, and I was frightened into retreating a little bit. They also launched two canisters of tear gas, which (much to the delight of the crowd) was simply blown back into their faces because of the wind. Unfortunately the cops were wearing gas masks and were unaffected.

The cops eventually embarked on flanking maneuvers to divide the protestors up. There was no resistance to this. Everyone moved compliantly. Jordan was concerned (like Bob the previous day) that we would the police were planning on first surrounding everyone, and then arresting them. He became increasingly worried when we stayed close to the cops so that I could get video footage, but my brief moments of bravado aside I did share some of his concerns, and when we left to rejoin the other protesters we took the long way around to avoid all the police.

The cops eventually retreated, leaving the area open again. (All the flanking and maneuvers were presumably nothing more than a scare tactic). Then the cops started advancing again, and I did some more filming. An English-speaking hippie read out a manifesto to the police, and got a French protestor a manifesto to read to translate for him as he read, and I filmed part of this interaction.

I wanted to go further down the police line to film. Because of all the tear gas, we had a hard time getting close to the actual Police guarding the fence. To solve this, instead of going down the main street we went around a side building. On the other side of the building there wasn’t so much tear gas in the air, so we were able to get all the way to the fence. Then we followed the fence until we got to the main street.
Once there, we saw that the police guarding it had (with the help of tear gas) advanced a block down. We were then able to go behind the police lines and film them from the back. This meant some great video footage, but it caused Jordan and I to worry about getting blocked in by the police. This was becoming somewhat of a legitimate concern as the Police were beginning to close ranks on the sides as well. There was a brief panic and debate over what to do. We were blocked in on all sides now, and completely isolated behind the police lines. We eventually decided to just try to walk through the police lines and see what happens. We kept our eyes down and were non-confrontational, and they let us pass through and rejoin the main protest.

Jordan wanted to check out other areas of the protest to see what was happening over there. My previous experience at large protests made me think that there was no large area where the “main battle” was going on, simply a series of small-scale direct actions happening all over. I wanted to stay where we were because it was pretty exciting, and I doubted the other areas would be much better, and could possibly even be less exciting. I convinced him to stay where we were for a long time before I finally agreed to check out other areas.

At one point we made a brief attempt to get to an area called the Plains of Abraham, which we had heard was one of the trouble areas, but after not finding it, just stayed where we were.

On one of the tear gas encounters, a little girl from the neighborhood, who was presumably just out with her mother and little brother to check out what was going on, was crying because her eyes burned. I gave the Mom my bandana (actually Erica’s bandana) which she used for herself, the girl, and the boy as everyone retreated. (Although the Bandana hadn’t gotten cleaned out yet from the day before, so who knows if it was a help or hindrance.) At any rate, I think the Mother was grateful for my good intentions, and returned the Bandana once they were to safety. Jordan helped clean out people’s eyes afterwards who needed it. The tear gas had forced us down by a Pizza place, so we took a quick break to get a bite to eat.

Next I got some footage of the Protestors doing a peaceful sit-in in the middle of the street. They were trying to stop the police from advancing and pushing the protesters any further down the street. They pleaded with the police to respect the fact that it was a peaceful protest. The police eventually retreated, but there was more commotion as some protestors got too close to police lines, and the Police tried to club and kick them. I was the only one with a video camera present, so people were yelling at me to film it, but I had a hard time focusing the camera in the excitement, and did a terrible job.

The bank, which we were standing by, had already gotten the windows on it smashed early in the day. However, during a standoff with police someone decided the bank wasn’t smashed enough, and kicked in the window right where Jordan was standing. (In fact, Jordan was so close that they accidentally kicked him too while they kicked in the window.)

Then some sort of inflammation device was thrown in, causing a fire inside the bank. Most of the protestors were less than pleased by this. “Those goddamn anarchists,” someone next to me yelled out. There was a call for water bottles, and other protesters used their water to try and put out the fire.

The police stayed still and just watched this for several moments (for who knows what reason,) and then suddenly charged forward and tried to grab anyone close to the bank. The person who had actually firebombed the bank was of course long gone, and the only people still around were the ones trying to put the fire out. One girl who was slow to retreat was surrounded by police and just barely escaped. People yelled at the police in Anger. “She was trying to put the fire out.” The awful part was I thought I had the whole incident on tape, and then realized I had forgotten to press record.

People staged a sit in like the previous one above to assure police we were actual peaceful protestors, but this was ruined by beer bottles which tended to come about every thirty seconds from somewhere in back. These were thrown at the police despite the booing of the rest of the crowd. [Side note: I support a variety of tactics during protests, but nothing disgusts me more than a violent protester hiding behind a non-violent crowd. If you want to go throw beer bottles at the police, go do it at another place. Don’t cowardly hide behind a peaceful crowd and ruin their attempts at non-violent protest.] One of the police, after beer bottles were repeatedly were thrown at him, yelled out something in French, which I didn’t understand, but the response of the crowd was more booing and yelling “fuck you”.

Eventually I gave into Jordan’s desire to go see the rest of the protest, and we traveled along the fence, although we had somewhat of the same problem we had before in that at most areas it was hard the fence because of the tear gas in the air.

At one area there was a water cannon. Actually there had been a water cannon in the area we had just left, but we could never get close to that one because of all the tear gas in the area. This water cannon was guarding part of the fence at the end of a narrow street, and shooting water at the protesters trying to approach the fence.

Jordan wanted a picture of the water cannon, but was nervous about getting close to it. I had used up all the battery on my video camera, so I gave Jordan my video camera to hold, and I took his camera, and tried to get close enough to the water cannon to get a good picture.

I ran up far enough to get into a little nook where a bunch of protesters were hiding (mostly young kids, but a couple older guys). It was a narrow indent, and we were really cramped in there, but these kids were playing cat and mouse with the water cannon. They would emerge from the nook briefly, throw something at whoever was manning the cannon, and retreat back into the nook while the water cannon tried to knock them down. I don’t think either the police or the protesters were accomplishing much of anything by this game, but everyone seemed to be having fun. Giving the Black Bloc’s adversity to having their pictures taken, I identified myself as part of an independent media group and asked if it would be okay before I took a picture of the cannon. A kid repeated my question in French to the rest of the gang, and then told me no one seems to mind, but that they were concerned about my lens getting wet. I took my picture, and then ducked back into the nook. A neighbor also shouted something in French down at us, and one of the older protesters yelled something back. I asked for a translation of the argument, and the neighbor was angry because we were egging the water cannon on. The older protestor told me, “I told him to just relax and watch TV. This is the most excitement he’s going to have all year.”

I left the nook and went back to where Jordan was. Jordan complained about burning eyes, and soon afterwards mine also started to burn, eventually so bad that I couldn’t open them. Their was no tear gas in that particular area, so Jordan hypothesized that the water was mixed with pepper spray, which was a likely solution, although we had breathed in so much tear gas earlier in the day that it was getting hard to tell.

Our eyes burned so bad that we need to stop and get help from the medics cleaning them out. Then we moved on. We got to another intersection, and saw part of the fence ahead, but also a thick cloud of tear gas. “Should we walk directly into the tear gas?” I asked Jordan. It was a joke question of course, but another protestor overheard and laughed. “You have so many options here, walk into the tear gas, walk into the riot police.” “Welcome to Quebec,” I added.

There were riot police in fact just up one block, which was what she had been referring to. As before, a group of protesters were doing a peaceful sit in. I joined in at the sit in. Jordan wanted to keep going to see what else was out there. I wanted to participate in the demonstration as opposed to just walking around and observing it.

I stayed there a while before moving on. Various people would try to approach the cops with peace signs and hand them copies of Canada’s constitution as a symbolic effort. One kid enraged the older protesters by shaking his butt at the police. They kept booing him and telling him to sit down.

Eventually we left, and ran into Jeff again. Jordan and I asked him what was further down the fence, and he told us what I already suspected. There was a lot of stuff going on, but so much tear gas in the air it was impossible to get close to it. Jeff wanted to go back to the park area that Jordan and I had come from, and we agreed to it.

On the way back we saw people being carried away by the cops, apparently for aggressively attacking the fence. Jeff got some video footage of it. It was one of the few instances I saw of cops arresting people as opposed to simply tear-gassing them.

Back at the park-same old same old. Tear gas and strategic retreat. Eventually as it got late we decided to leave. I thought we were just going to another part of the protest, but we ended up going to a restaurant to get something to eat. I was ready for a break, and Jeff hadn’t eaten all day.

As we left old Quebec we saw signs that protest had spilled over into other parts of the city. There was a bank that had all its windows smashed (Erica and the others had been there when this happened, apparently a black bloc group that was very organized) and cops guarding the broken bank (although I don’t know why. The damage was done.) There was also a rave going on in a park that featured black bloc looking people dancing up upon a van.

We got a meal at a coffee restaurant. It was the place Jordan was supposed to meet the rest of the Calvin people later in the day, but they got their shortly after we did, so we all stayed together and chatted. They had had a similar day as us; the only difference was that they had stayed with the legal march for slightly longer before joining the direct action. Vito apparently had behaved himself (Jordan said he picked up a rock early in the day, and then Peter got on his case for it), but Vito admitted that when he was separated from the group for a time he had thrown stuff at the cops. I thought this might be flourish of rhetoric until others in media mouse later confirmed that they had seen him throw stuff over at the cops. (He finished off a bottle of beer, and then threw it over the fence.) Vito and others also told us that as they passed the rave scene a cop van had suddenly stopped and apparently grabbed kids at random and carried them away.

We stayed in the place for a while, and then left. The Calvin crew had decided not to stay for the night, and was going to head back. Jeff too decided to head back. I gave Jeff my video camera, but said I wanted to stay out for a while longer, and he was perfectly fine with that.
From the coffee house, we could see a bonfire up on old Quebec, and I wanted to check it out. The protestors had found wooden crates and were using them to make a huge fire. The cops came after a while and sprayed water cannons to displace both the protesters and the fire.

Some Protestors threw some Molotov Cocktails at the cops, and also would run forward to flick off cops in between water gushes. To further disperse us, the cops tried to shoot the water around the corner where most of us were hiding, but there was a street light in the way, which prevented this.

Because I had only packed nice clothes with me to aid in the boarder crossing, I felt safe walking around by myself just like I did the previous day. I didn’t look like a protester, and especially as the night went on more people who lived in the city were outside mingling with the protesters. I even had one group ask me for directions in French because they thought I lived in the area.

The Quebec nightlife was also beginning to integrate with the protest scene.

I made my way back up to the place where I had spent most of that day and the previous day. It was now dark out, and the helicopters were used to spotlight the protesters. Usual cat and mouse game still going on with tear gas. As the bars were opening, some of protesters were becoming drunk and some of the drunks were joining the protesters. Organized protest was beginning to disintegrate, but I wanted to stay out as long as I could anyway. Media Mouse group was already talking about leaving on Sunday morning to head back, so I figured this would be my last chance to observe.

The Black bloc showed up again, and was booed by some of the protesters while others chanted “solidarity”. Although I opted for the solidarity chant, as far as I could tell the black block didn’t accomplish anything more than getting the tear gas launched again.

Police officers did at least two charges that I saw, in which they ran and grabbed whoever they could for random arrests. In the second charge they covered the area with tear gas first, firing several times deep into the crowd. By this time I had given up on my principles of not running. At the end of the day, my eyes stung too much to simply walk and let the tear gas catch up with me. I ran, and managed to escape with out too much tear gas ill effect, or getting grabbed by the police.

The college we were staying at had a 1 0'clock curfew, so I started walking back around midnight. (Had I known the college ended up not enforcing curfew, I would have perhaps stayed out longer). There was another big rave in the street at one intersection. There was a bonfire at another intersection. Both were outside of old Quebec. I stayed and observed the bonfire for a while, then left eventually in order to make it back one time.

Again I half expected everyone to be worried about me, but as with the night before, they were out later than I was. No one was back yet except Jeff and Nancy. Apparently Bob, Joe and Erica had been back before, but then left to go out and look for Tom. Rob and Tom came back with Crystal and Doug. Rob used my card to get Crystal and Doug into the building, then came back out and gave my card to me. I told Tom the others were out looking for him, and he thought that was stupid because there was no good way could hope to find him in the huge city. He was probably right. Soon it was past 1, and we worried that the others would miss curfew. However the building security told us Curfew was not going to be strictly enforced, and when I went to bed, I awoke the next morning to see Bob, Joe, and Erica had all made it safely back.

4/22/01 Sunday

I really wanted to stay for the protest on Sunday, but I was the minority on this. As I had been the minority all weekend, and as the group had already been talking about heading back on Sunday the day beforehand, I didn’t make a big deal out of it.

The problem was that Erica’s car would not be ready until Monday morning, so we had to wait around until then. I figured as long as we were stuck in the area anyway, we might as well attend the protest, but the others wanted to go to Montreal and spend the day away from the tear gas.

In the end we compromised, and we stayed only long enough to attend a conference on Sunday morning. Rob and I went to a conference put on by the Sierra club. When we came back, we left. (Jeff and Nancy had already left, so the rest of us went without them.)

We went to Montreal and had a good time. However, as I've written quite a bit here already, I think I'll just end the account here.

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