archives of global protests

Two anti-FTAA demonstrations that must not be ignored !
by Michael Lessard 8:47pm Sat Apr 21 '01

Michael Lessard, member of Operation Quebec
Spring 2001 (OQP 2001).

( A coalition of 34 organisations of the Quebec region which took unto itself the colossal task of making sure all protesters had shelter, helped prepare the People's March and, most of all, was involved in months of education to explain why we say " NO to the FTAA ! " )

(Quebec City, 22:00 EST / 02:00 GMT) Friday (April 20) and Saturday (April 21), spectacular peaceful demonstrations took place in Quebec City with the same central political opinion: "No to the FTAA" or "NON à la ZLÉA" as Quebecers say. Unfortunately, from my observations, these two impressive actions have been largely ignored by independent media as much as commercial media. Therefore, here is an independent coverage based on my involvement in OQP 2001 and my participation in these demonstrations.

On April 20, around 13:00 (1 PM), two contingents left at exactly the same moment from Laval University. One, taking the Rene Lesvesque boulevard, focused on the intent of challenging the perimeter (yellow-red zone), which has been quite covered by the media once they quickly tore down parts of the insulting wall. The other, leaving by Chemin Ste-Foy, was a demonstration which was to be followed by a non violent civil disobedience (green-yellow zone): blocking the Cote d'Abraham (sic) which in one of the main entrance possible to the so-called security perimeter. This second contingent was organised by a Montreal coalition name the GOMM: Groupe opposé à la mondialisation des marchés (Group opposed the trade globalisation).

Organisers and myself estimate 5000 people participated in the GOMM's demonstration. We very festively and loudly marched all the way downtown then up the Cote d'Abraham to face the closed fence of the perimeter. At that time, we were about 7000 since trade union workers temporarily left the People's Summit to join us ! We chanted loudly and proudly anti-FTAA and anti-capitalist globalisation slogans. At the foot of the fence, they danced and enjoyed their massive gathering. After a few minutes, tear gas fell upon the crowd and the GOMM decided their action had been sufficient. Nonetheless, some of the affinity groups stayed to join the efforts against the perimeter.

April 21, on a very sunny Saturday, the People's March took place with an enormous crowd, at least two or three times more massive than predicted by all organisers. For example, OQP 2001 thought about 20,000 people might show up. It turns out between 40,000 and 60,000 marched the long road chosen for such a massive demonstration. Thousands of students began marching from Laval University and, after marching for at least one hour, joined thousands of citizens of all woks of life at the Quebec Museum, where they all proceeded to reach countless thousands of others downtown. There were many artistic creations such as giant puppets and street theatre that very often focused on American domination. After more than three hours, people kept pouring in (!) the huge area where people stopped to rest and refresh, groups played music and speeches were made. In truth, this demonstration was so enormous, many people left since they could not hear the speeches or were simply fatigued after walking a rather long distance. For the moment, it is nearly impossible to estimate more closely the number of people, since there were people everywhere, coming from various directions other than the planned path.

I find important to mention that during the Peoples' March, speakers roared the following message: "We are informed that 60 percent of the wall has fallen ! " The crowd applauded. Therefore, though all these people chose not to confront the wall, this obviously does not mean they accept it. In fact, "violence" against these fences separating leaders from the people, does not seem to bother people much, if they do not utterly support it.

Such a great gathering of citizens, mostly from North-America, is very important politically. They can no longer claim the opposition to the FTAA and to savage capitalist globalisation is composed of a few marginal youth. Here, in Quebec City where I live, democracy has spoken as best it could in such an antidemocratic context. The People's March was truly composed of the people and clearly shouted together : we do not want your so-called free-trade imposed upon all the Americas. A project solely defined by a shallow neoliberal worldview put forth by elitist corporate government executives.