archives of global protests

Report from Quebec
by Aaron 7:21am Tue Apr 24 '01

The view (through the tear gas) from the streets in Quebec.


On the weekend of April 20-22, I was present in Quebec City to protest the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. Leaders from 34 countries of the hemisphere gathered in Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas to lay the groundwork for a trade agreement that is supposed to be underway by 2005. I consider what I experienced in Quebec City as priceless. Tens of thousands of people from all over our hemisphere gathered together to fight a common enemy, and in doing so became one uncompromising force. The enemy is globalization, and its devastating affects are felt worldwide.

The trade agreement is strictly for countries that have democratically elected leaders. This includes just about all nations in the hemisphere except for Cuba. So let's think about democracy for a second. In the United States democracy stands for (or used to stand for) a government of, by and for the people. Anyone present in Quebec City will laugh at that statement as they wipe the tear gas from their eyes. These same leaders, that supposedly hold democracy so dear, have held their meetings in secret, preventing the public from learning about the specifics of their deal. These same leaders, who are supposed to represent the people, built a three-kilometer fence around their meeting and lined it with thousands of heavily armed troops TO KEEP THE PEOPLE OUT. It seems that democracy was the farthest things from their minds.

Our leaders promote globalization and say that it will benefit everyone. Then they wrap it with a nice bow and label it democracy. As time goes on, more and more people are unwrapping that bow, and what they see underneath it makes them sick. They see the destruction of the world's natural resources through irresponsible pollution, waste, and over-consumption. They see national laws that were made to protect people and their community disappear as governments make free trade the first priority. They see sweatshop labor and poverty rise when corporations move in, and literally control a country. They see labor unions lose their power, as all the work goes abroad. They see corporations make out like bandits as the rest of the world suffers. They see these same corporations pumping billions of dollars into campaign funds for our politicians, and watch as our politicians take it and remember who gave it to them. Then they realize that these same corporations control every bit of mass media that is consumed by the public. That's when they realize why they have never heard anything about this before.

In the media the anti-globalization movement is often portrayed through violence and naivety. The issues that we represent are never discussed and weak points are constantly pointed out. On my way home from Quebec we were listening to the radio, and all they could talk about was the 45 cops that were hurt. I have never heard the media comment on the 30,000 people that die from air pollution every year. Anyone that was in Quebec can tell you about the strength and rationality of our masses, but it is hard to find a way to publicize this. The media is oppression's most powerful tool, and soon we will learn how to use it. What you hear is what they want you to, so don't believe it all

The protesters in Quebec realized the magnitude of the enemy and their cry grew louder. As we drummed and danced, tear gas canisters rained from the sky, and we drummed harder. Busloads of people came in and found their place among friends. While a few hundred people were busy squabbling with the troops, fifty thousand marched through the city. It is a hard thing to watch hostility happen and not know what to do about it. There was no organization for the front lines, and for this, meaningless violence occurred. Our movement is so young, and these experiences so new, setbacks are inevitable. As people tossed around a Frisbee wearing gas masks I had to keep telling myself that I wasn't dreaming. I had to watch a kid in shorts and a t-shirt approach sixty troops in full riot gear with peace signs up and have five tear gas canisters tossed at his feet. As I ran away I wiped a mixture of chemical induced and real tears from my eyes as I gasped for breath and acceptance. These are things that we have never seen, and they cause such a mixture of emotions, reality is often lost. I am so proud of how we handled the situation, and no one can cover up how brave and strong we really were. I can tell you that I am fifty times more prepared for next time than I was last week, and I am sure that I am not alone. Let's keep moving forward. Viva La Resistance.

Peacefully yours