Monday, October 10, 2005

Journal Entries: Windsor FTAA Protest 6/3/00-6/6/00

Windsor protest: A few starting comments first of all. Certianly an event like this deserves to be covered thoroughly, although it is always impossible to write everything down. Windsor was supposed to be the next in the chain of protests: Seattle, DC, Windsor. Unfortunately the numbers were not what people were looking for, and the media called the protest a failure. The reasons for this can be debated, and I won’t get into it here. Suffice to say it won’t be remembered like Seattle or DC, rather as a footnote to Seattle and DC. However it will be remembered nonetheless, and a footnote is important. What makes me excited about Windsor is after Sunday almost all of the protestors left, and by Tuesday our numbers were pitifully low, but the media and police were still in full force. Therefore I feel as if I had a direct role in shaping this footnote of history b/c I was one of a few, not one lost in a crowd. A few who were received a huge amount of police and media attention.

Also, since by Monday and Tuesday we were only a few, most of the people mentioned in this journal entry are people I got to know a little bit well, even though in most cases I can not remember their names. It was a vibrant group that I felt bad about leaving on Tuesday (even though I didn’t have any terribly good friends, I had gotten used to a lot of famaliar faces).
It also helped me realize I was now part of an international student movement.

Woke up. Met Mark for first time at his house (David had hooked us up for this), and drove out to Canada w/ him. We stopped at the Detroit protest convergence center first to get information. We asked about getting across the boarder, and they told us it was almost impossible, but we decided to try anyway. We had coordinated our look so we looked as much like preps as possible. I had cleansed the car of anything left leaning b/f the trip, but Mark wanted to take along literature from the Detriot center, and I allowed it in the end (I figured after talking to people in Detroit we would probably either get waved on through or turned right back, I didn’t think we would get searched).

I wanted to say we were going to Windsor bars (Mark only 20, so it was perfect), but Mark said going to Stratford to see plays is better excuse. We went w/ that, and were asked to have car searched. As the boarder patrol went through everything in the car, they got closer and closer to the literature, and I got more and more nervous, and Mark and I struggled to keep calm, but our nervousness I’m sure was appearent (It was also cold out, which helped us shake). We had hid the literature in bottom of food bag, but they found it anyway. Police officer kept asking us questions, acting like he was just making conversation by mixing in serious questions w/ friendly ones "You guys ever been to a protest before? Are either of you a vegetarian?"

Finally he said, "we’re pretty sure you guys our here for our OAS protest." Mark tried to keep up fa├žade (which I thought was pointless after they found our literature), so I interjected that we had lied b/c we were told in Detroit, "They probably won’t let you through, especially if they know why you are coming."

Mark and I were seperated, and eventually brought to different detention cells. I was nervous b/c I didn’t know what the penalty was for lying to boarder guards. A whole series of questions followed. Most humerous was the cops fascination with Butterball, b/c of a note Kathryn had written the night before which they found searching the car: "Butterball’s cell phone number [followed by the number] ,activities begin to night at 6". They also asked me about DC, and I answered a lot of questions about that (including giving out the names of the people I went w/, which I didn’t really think about at the time but later regretted). They were trying to coordinate my stories with Mark who was in another detention cell. This was again humerous b/c Mark had no idea who Butterball was.

They confiscated Mark’s bandana, a hose and bungy cords (my dads I assume, left in the car when I borrowed it) and an "empty" (cops said it was, I could still get some out) bottle of clearsil.

Anyway, long story short-we got out in 3 hours or so . Final guy was sympathetic, said he would be protesting himself but they just didn’t want violence there. As we left another humerous moment as Mark reached for his crackers to discover they had all been crushed by boarder patrol.

Went to welcome center. Went to non-violence training, at the end of which formed an affinity group w/ the people there who didn’t have a group. I would stick w/ this group most of Saturday (what was left of it) and Sunday. The person leading the training b/c the spokesman for our group. It was cool b/c appearently he (Matthew) was a real experienced activist, although I never really talked to him all that much.

I locked keys in car. We got to talk to some real cool old retired teacher while we waited for locksmith. Teacher overjoyed us Americans had come up to try and help Canada fight oppression, tried to get locksmith to give us discount, but locksmith anti-protestor (and rather rude to us).

We caught the tail end of a couple of teach ins, and met our affinity group again. There was a spokes council meeting, which Mark and I originally attended but when space b/c a consideration we left and hung outside. The police were everywhere and had been harrasing protestors all day (we heard horror stories about people getting arrested for practically nothing). Since I was an American, I didn’t want to deal w/ deportation courts, and was really nervous about it. Liz (in our affinity group) was also very suspicious of the cops and stirred up my paranoia. Her fiance Dan was in the spokesmeeting, and came out once to deliver a message to us. The cops strolled in and arrested one kid (Kyle) right out of the crowd of protestors (Kyle had been violating his parole by being there, but it was also an intimidation tactic for the rest of us to take note of). Liz, Rame and I went across the corner to stay away from the police a little bit (but also at the same time removed ourselves from the group). Mark had gone back to the car at this point. (It was really freaky, their were cops and undercover cops everywhere, looking at us from far away buildings w/ binoculars and everything.

Also in our group was Rame (SP?) a 17 year old activist, who took down my story about the boarder patrol for independent media. While I was talking to him, two cops came up. They asked him about his Chevron "Oil and blood" armband, and he explained it to them, and one of them asked if Chevron was an American company, and he said it was multinational, and then they asked him if he was an American. I was just waiting for the harassment to turn to me. I suspect, at the risk of sounding paranoid, that from afar our conversation had been listened in on (parabolic microphones-etc, I know they have the tech., I know they spared no expense for Windsor), and that the cops had just picked the wrong guy by accident to intimidate. At any rate, at this point the cop looks past us and says, "Is there a problem?" and I turn around and the whole crowed of protestors has come from around the corner. The same guy who was vocal when Kyle got arrested ("judge for yourselves weather the OPP is doing what is right") asked why we were being harrased, and the cop said they were just being friendly and talking to us. The guy then reminded the protestors of their right not to talk to cops, and then made a speech about George Dudley. "And that’s why me and others like me don’t really like to talk to the OPP, b/c we know what they’re all about." The cops just left. Liz talked about how she had freaked when she saw the cops talking to us. Rame believes the cops were really just trying to be friendly (and who knows, maybe they were).

Dan came out from meeting w/ Gary (legal advisor for our affinity) and announced that the whole plan was scrapped. We had to move spokespersons meeting to the riverfront, where we were much more open to infiltration. Spokescouncil decided b/c our numbers were down not to block the meeting after all, but march w/ labor. They decided things by consensus process though, which frustrated Mark who was sick of listening to them debate.

Eventually, once we found out what plan for the next day was, we left (Mark was really pushing to leave). We had found a place to stay from the welcome center in Windsor, but the map we got was bogus. After asking for directions from a man and his annoyed wife (it was late, but their light was on), we gave up and went to sleep in the car.

Went to capitol theatre (where Noam Chomsky was speaking. It was sold out but Mark was still interested.) We went to a city hall park with a large group, met up w/ people from our affinity group. We marched w/ labor, and ended up at the river front. Then, in civil disobedience, we marched around the perimeter of the police barricades. I stayed close to Dan and Liz (who advised me to stick close to them if I didn’t want to get arrested). Some of the protestors were tear gassed for putting banners up on the barricades. We got all the way around to the other side of the barricades, and blocked a bus. (I was in the back hanging w/ Dan and Liz, and we would alternately go foreword and back, staying out of trouble. I didn’t want to get arrested in Canada). Rame was arrested for kneeling in front of the bus (I would find that out later), and Mark said that night he couldn’t sleep b/c he couldn’t get out of his head the images of police beating protestors, but I was far enough back where I couldn’t see any of that. At one point we thought we had been tear gassed, and Dan Liz and I all retreated a few steps w/ a bunch of other protesters. Only later did I find out that it was actually a cloud of pepper gas from the front that was carried back to us by the wind. The bus was eventually muscled through.
There was reports of people needing help elsewhere, and so Dan and Liz and I went, only to encounter phalenxes of police, so we just waited until the rest of our group showed up. Liz and Sue (also in our affinity-older woman) ridiculed an overweight cop, which I thought was inappropriate. We also chanted "Who killed George Dudley? They did, they did".
We eventually ended up at the river front. I felt a little bad b/c I left Dan and Liz (who I had marched w/ all day) w/o saying good-bye. We went to riverfront. I actually fell asleep, and when I woke up the spokes council meeting was happening right around me. Mark and I went back to the same church parking lot to sleep in the car.

We met at the park and marched around a little bit, met up w/ some of the high schoolers who had walked out. Mark got bored and left to get a bus ticket to go home, thinking things were essentially over. We marched down to the court house and surrounded it and chanted about the injustice for a while. The cops surrounded one of the older woman and had their clubs out and we panicked, but despite their intimidation they only wanted to tell her to stay on the street or we would be arrested.

Then, we marched over to the schools, where we yelled "Walk out" and encouraged students to walk out and join us. We did this at two different high schools, and only got a minimum of students to join (at one, the principle was standing in front of the exit. Many high schoolers had walked out earlier in the day and were with us now though.

We found a park where the delegates were eating lunch, and marched around there. At one point, we formed a barricade at the entrance when the cops wanted to get through. I allowed myself to get pushed back by the cops (again, not wanting to get arrested) and the small group sitting in front of the entrance were foricibly removed.

On the way back we passed the tunnel, and pretended to be meeting and planning something just to test the cops reaction time. With in two minutes they came rushing out in full force, with more bussed over shortly. We were split into two groups (on either side of the tunnel entrance). The cops told us to move, and I had had enough trouble by the boarder all ready, so I was the first one from my group to leave (yeah, one of the wussy things I did that weekend as an American in Canada).

We met at the feminist theatre, and then I stayed up late w/ a bunch of Canadians making banners for the next day. It was super cool-really nice feeling. Tons of cops outside and stuff (we think the delegates might have been eating at a resturant, but they were also keeping a close eye on us). At one point it was just ridiculous how many cops were outside, so we all just moved to the middle of the room for a while and sat down (working on the banners) so they couldn’t see us so well. There were only 10 of us at the most there, most of the night it was even less then that.

They harrassed a couple of people from the intersection (probably unrelated to the protest at all-but we were hyper sensitive about it and so made it very obvious we were watching them. I encouraged one girl to take her camera and make it look like she was taking pictures. "Call for back up" another guy yelled out the window ) The cops looked up at us occasionally.
A guy and girl also danced from the window for the cops at one point, but someone else told them they would get us all arrested and so they stopped.

We left in a big group so we would not be harrassed, and there was concern when I split off from the group to find my car, (they said if I wasn’t there the next day they would send for help). Slept in car for third night.

We met at 8 in the morning again. We marched through the streets and blocked traffic, chanting various anti-police type stuff. (I got disgusted w/ it quick. I don’t like cops, but it makes us look ugly that we are harrasing the cops well they are blocking traffic for us. They say "We all live in a big police state" (Yellow Submarine) which got changed to "Pig Police state". Our numbers were really low by this point.

At the river front, someone throw a piece of chalk at the police (behind their barricade). I must have glared at the kid w/o meaning to, b/c he said something like "oops" to me. Minutes later I noticed cops were congregating around him, and I guessed what was about to happen. He pointed to me and asked to use my piece of chalk, and I nervously brought it over to this soon to be arrested kid. He used it, tossed it back, and then the police nabbed him. As far as I know, I’m the only one who had seen him throw the chalk, so the others thought he had been picked out randomnly as an intimidation tactic. They were furious and tried to block his being taken away. The cops got him behind a human barricade of theirs and whisked him away as the protestors tried to break through and help him, then they linked arms and sang pig police state, and some french chant about how the police are fascists. (I didn’t participate-usual reasons plus I didn’t have a ton of sympathy for the kid anyway-dumb thing he did and I thought he was kind of annoying in general.

As we marched away, someone realized that we were supposed to be at the high schools then to encourage a walk out. I was recruited b/c I had a car and got 3 (all 19 I think) high school girls who volunteered to go w/ me. (Nice ratio, but I was just beginning to talk to this girl I had been interested in all weekend when I got pulled away).

They were all from the area, but none of them went to this high school, so although they thought they knew were they were going, we took a couple of wrong turns. By the time we got to the high school, the walk out had already happened, and 5 of our people had been arrested their by the police (who had arrived b/f I did). The high schoolers were marching w/o clear direction (or so we thought at time-I think now they were pretty organized), so we found them and I dropped the two annoying girls off. Picked up one of the high school "leaders" (technically everything is democratic, but certainly she was one of the more visible personalities), Sarah who needed to go to her house to get food and bandanas. Tricia also stayed in the car.

I dropped Sarah and Tricia off at waterfront, but wasn’t allowed to park car there so I had to park car out a ways. I then ran into the High schoolers, who were at city hall, and I told them the rest of the group was at water front. Marched down w/ them chanting "2468 Windsors a Police state" and "Political views are not a crime". I also warned those in the front about the cops near the river front, but when we got to the river front, after the high schoolers were jubilantly welcomed, everyone just marched back to city hall again.

We congregated on the steps and had a teach in, and then we marched. The cops arrested 3 people who had strayed from group, so we were all encouraged to buddy up. I buddied up w/ this girl who ended up taking off her shirt b/c it was hot (she still had a bra on, but I was kind of embarresed-didn’t stick to closely to her).

The cops surrounded us at one point. They outnumbered us so greatly now it wasn’t even funny (maybe 50 of us all together-including high schoolers). We were intimidated enough to quickly decide to retreat to the side walk and go back to the park.

At the park we lounged and sang songs, despite the fact that our small number was ridiculously surrounded by cops, plainclothes and undercover cops, and even a helicopter above. At one point some of the plainclothes cops were looking at pictures of us they had, obviously an intimidation tactic (we panicked as we asked if anyone had ever been arrested or was wanted). Our legal advisor confronted them, and we surrounded them and gave them a rough time but they didn’t give us an inch.

We eventually went back to feminist theatre. We found out that the 9 of our number arrested that day were not allowed to see their lawyer, and was being shipped out to different prisons, allegations of abuse, and other stuff. Since these 9 were all vibrant personalities to me (many I had stayed up late w/ making the banners-and our numbers were so small I knew everyone now), I felt kind of bad for not going, but I arranged w/ Mike (another American) to go over the boarder together w/ him, and he had a plane to catch, so after helping making banners, we just saw everyone off (according to papers 14 arrested that night). Mike and I went to observe Press conference (just 3 other people there and CBC.)

We went across. Our car was searched immediately after they found out where we had been, but after that they just let us through and were pretty cool about it.

Addendums: disrespect for the corporate media that was really quite funny. Like speaking in French and pretending not to know English, or refusing to talk to different reporters, to hanging up on reporters. Also, talking into a walkie-talkie while being interviewed.

While we were marching-someone yelled out, "Why don’t you get a job you bunch of idiots." I just smiled and waved, but another girl yelled out, "We have jobs. Do something useful with your time."

In park, someone took of his shirt and pretended to give orders to the cops, and then he ran like he expected them to follow, while being filmed the whole time. Appearently same person did a strip dance in front of stone faced cops on Sunday.

No comments: