archives of global protests

From Seattle to Quebec City
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 20:10:40 -0400

Chai - your report is now posted with the others at
as per below.
Drop by if you want to scan in some photos.
I forwarded it to the lists on the FTAA

Also, I added - Black Bloc - Scan from Quebec Newspaper in the photos list
Gary Morto

From Seattle to Quebec City-FTAA
Chaitanya K Kalevar

Yes, it did not start in Seattle and yes, it will not end in Quebec City. Most certainly, it surfaced to global attention in Seattle. Don't tell me it did not, I was there!

Seattle was a breeze. It kept the element of surprise on the side of the demonstrators. The police did not know what to expect. The police and the demonstrators were on every street with the Seattle residents and workers in downtown Seattle. It was an experience! Each street was working on its own set of rules and was negotiating a civic society compromise. On many streets the compromises were heavy handed, as the police overreacted with their macho authority. The presence of the Seattle residents and workers as observers kept the dialogue civil and the police confused. They were not sure how to treat a crowd of protesters not far from the delegates and civilians in harms way!

In Washington, it was clear that the Seattle police do not have the experience of the Washington blues. Washington police were polite and professional compared to the Seattle ones. Seattle is not known for protests, Washington is! After all, Washington may be the most protested capital, the capital of the only democratic, but veto wielding superpower of planet earth.

In Quebec City, the blues were ready, with the blessings of the 34 heads of state and Ottawa, the branch plant of Washington. Unlike Seattle, the at least 3 meter wall separated the protesters and residents from the delegates and the resident hostages inside. What the 34 bullies could not forsee is that the neglected environment will never submit to their wishes. A $500,000 pass for the corporate elite cannot ensure the direction in which wind will flow at any time. The tear gas canisters flew from the inside of the perimeter to the outside, but alas, the wind was blowing from the outside to the inside on at least half of the perimeter at any point in time.

The hotels and the convention center were required to shut their windows and their air conditioning systems so that the tear gas does not enter the undemocratic hallways of corporate power. Democracy may have been quietly usurped by the corporate elites, but they could not control the directions of the wind.

All that tear gas was really necessary for a few stone throwers, as they would have us believe. I think they were used to disperse the crowd that had a clearly defined goal contrary to the wishes of the corporate elites. All the police had to do to deal with the stone throwers was stand a stone throw behind the fence! After all no body except the police had come with guns to shoot tear gas canisters, rubber bullets or anything else. Anyone with a slingshot or catapult throwing teddy bears, tomatoes or eggs was not in sight. The one only Jaggi Singh with an invisible slingshot or a large catapult was already in custody anyway!

- 2 -

I was there with an army surplus gas mask, which leaked, and so was useless, so I thought. Till, I met a group of committed fence goers. I overheard one of them complaining to the group that wish he had a mask, like the others. I offered my mask, with the notice that it did not work for me. He jumped at it, and as the sign said "Fair trade, not free trade" he in the middle of the May hue tried to pay me. He gave me two fives and excused with a no more gesture! I moved on with a loss of a chance to face the Army surplus store manager, but I was delighted with shedding of the weight, it made it easy to move on.

I moved to a stand off between some sitting protesters, and twice as many police in gear moving towards them. It was fascinating to watch the spontaneous chants developed by the youth. They challenged the cautiously moving robot line with "Where do you have to go?" "Yes, Yes, Who is behind you?" Any thinking police could not but think of his paycheck to keep moving forward. They all did! Did they have a choice?

As I waited good distance away from the fence to take some photographs, a teargas canister launched right in front of me and began to bother my nostrils. I did the only thing I could, with that unwelcome projectile. I picked it up and threw it right back, before its heat could melt my civilian glove. At least, it was not bothering anymore! Some one asked me in Toronto, "Were you throwing stones?" I politely debunked that hype, and admitted I returned the tear gas canister that landed before me. Tit for Tat, Eh!

I was trying to capture some good pictures, but the tear gas deterred me and dulled the view. The heavy, low hanging tear gas clouds made photography difficult, but the winds going into the perimeter gave us some relief and delight at the thought that the well protected police and delegates were not completely out of the harms way! The wind goddess has her own way of equalizing all animals on earth, even if they have a fat bank account! I hope the lessons are internalized by those still refusing to give up 'FIRST STRIKE" in our nuclear world!

Soon it was time to go home. On the bus of a progressive organization, the mundane habits of North America surfaced. We had just protested the multinationals, and laughed at the boarded McDonalds in Quebec City, but the lunch stop was at the convenience of the driver, at a wayside McDonalds near Montreal. None of the diverse delicious cuisine of Montreal could be enjoyed! The bus anchor announced a short break, as a "Smoke Break"! Wow, even the politically progressives need to examine their daily economic and health-related practices. Many in the bus objected, but were not about to walk to Toronto, for any of these gaffes! We were exhausted in Quebec City challenging the wall, so what is another Hamburger in McDonalds? Many ate without a grumble! The Toronto air was welcoming and refreshing, even though we had a big laundry job ahead!

- 3 -

My son enquired, "Which was more dangerous?" Seattle or Quebec City? I said "Seattle!" as the perimeter was not clearly defined. In Quebec City, if you did not want to taste the tear gas, then all you had to do was to not go near the perimeter, even if it is your democratic right to protest! I was relieved, that he did not persist "What is a democratic right?" How could I explain?

Photos available on request