PGA Bulletin

Peoples' Global Action against “Free” Trade and the WTO

Issue number 2, June 1998

Part II:
May Actions in North America



The Operation SalAMI, a non-violent direct action to resist the MAI and the agenda of big capital, unfolded in Montreal on May, reaching its peak on the 24th.

Why SalAMI? AMI (Accord multilatéral sur les investissements) is the French acronym for MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment). “Sal” means bad or dirty. Hence, “Salami” means “dirty little MAI.” It has the alternative meaning of “no good friend.”

The main action consisted on a blockade of the “Conference de Montreal on Globalized Economies” at the Sheraton Center Hotel. The Conference de Montreal (May 25–27) is an annual gathering of the political and corporate elite. Of particular interest was the presence of Donald Johnston, Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at which the MAI has been negotiated in secret since 1996. This year's guest list also included the far-right Governor of New York, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, representatives of the US Department of State and the Deutsche Bank Group as well as senior executives of Bombardier, the Royal Bank and other multinationals.

On the first day of the conference, the entrances of the Sheraton Center Hotel were blocked by more than 100 protestors. At 10:20 the police proceeded to arrest activists involved in the blockade. As of noon, about 30 people had been arrested and a few have been released. That left another 80 to maintain the blockade. The activists kept arriving in waves and managed to maintain the blockade until 2 pm. At that point the attrition due to arrests made the blockaders too thin on the ground and the blockade was lifted. At that point, the demo moved a few blocks south to the police station where the hundred were being held. There, a UK citizen was arrested for not having moved when he was told. Of course he was given the order in French and was heard protesting, “I didn't understand the order” as he was dragged away.

A hot point in the action came when the riot police advanced on the crowd to clear them from the street, only to find that they had sandwiched twenty camera-wielding journalists between their shields and the militants. Not the best way to keep your brutality from being noticed.

Although the protest is non-violent, the police has not been so gentle. Several protestors have been roughed up during their arrests.

Still, many people said that this is the best demo they've ever been too. The crowd was full of life with constant singing, chanting and dancing.

On the 27th over 1.000 people demonstrated at the “Bye-bye Conference de Montreal” parade.

Operation SalAMI was launched officially on May 1st, with a street party outside the Montreal Stock Exchange (in conjunction with a similar party in Paris). For the last month or so, the organizers of Operation SalAMI have conducted an awareness-raising campaign in Montreal and beyond about the MAI and its agenda, culminating in an alternative conference entitled “The Globalization of Injustice: Resistance and Alternatives” that took place on the 22–23 of May at the University.

Contact: Operation SalAMI – P.O.Box 282, Station E. Montréal H2T 2A7. tel: (514) 982-6606, ext. 2236, fax: (514) 982-6122. E-mail: Web:
more montreal global action days: S26


On the 20th of May commuters into the city of Ottawa were met by huge banners declaring “World Trade Organization – Global Government for the Rich” along with banners drawing attention to Chiapas and the MAI. Traffic was slowed down to a crawl creating a rather large traffic jam. Police and Ministry of Transportation officials rushed to the scene (although not quite as quickly as they would wish, as they got tied up in traffic!). Public response and local media coverage was very positive.

At noon, 100 demonstrators played a game of global soccer in front of the Royal Bank (one of the largest in the country and a strong proponent of corporate globalism). Men in suits representing business, politicians and the WTO kicked a globe of the earth around while refusing to let anyone else play. “That's what's happening at the WTO – men in suits are players in the game of international capital – using the world and the fate of millions of people around the world as their soccer ball”, said one of the organizers. Speakers included refugees from Guatemala and East Timor. There was a broad media coverage (including national networks) and good response from the public. Over 2000 leaflets were distributed to citizens. The action was held in a very popular area known as Sparks Street Mall, and provoked much police presence. The bank was locked up during the action for fear that the demonstrators were planning to take it over.


Toronto street party (May 16th) – About eight hundred people took over Bloor Street, one of the busiest in town, with puppets, street theatre and play, children drawing chalk pictures on the street, lots of drumming and dancing. From 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. the party was a fantastic experience for the participants. However, before that march started, the police started to turn up the volume on their intimidation tactics. They started to harass people sitting on the street, and went wild cutting the rainbow web of fabric ropes tied across the streets, stomping balloons, pushing people out of the way and threatening to arrest people who interfered with them, with the clear intent of shutting down the street party.

One person was arrested, and the crowd was divided as some drifted away and some marched on side streets to Christie Pits, while the rest stayed. At this point the police became more confrontational, including riding a horse directly at one of the protesters who was filming the scene. Finally, the police opened their blockade of the street, and the march could continue in direction to the Pits. Several people sat down at Pits in the roadway, reminding the police that the demonstration was peaceful but that the streets were for everyone. Two more street-reclaimers were arrested at this point; one of them described the detention as follows: “Officers came over to me, ordered me off the street, and when I said something along the lines of “I'd rather be arrested than give up my right to protest”, promptly arrested me. I was told I was being charged with unlawful assembly. This means that sitting in the road has resulted in a charge that could end up in a jail term of up to 6 months and a fine of $2,000.”

About 60 protesters marched to the local police headquarters to support the arrested reclaimers and call for their release. One more person was arrested during the march. At the trial on Sunday the 17th, one of the detainees could be seen in rough shape, with his arm in a cast.

For more information contact TASC at (++1) 416-651-5800 or <>
more toronto global action days: S26

Other actions

In Orangeville  , a small town in Ontario, a group of workers confronted the office of their parliamentary representative.

In Winnipeg  , 200 hundred marched through the streets, including the main intersection. They eventually wound up at the Forks, the local market, where a demonstration was held.

In Regina  , Saskatchewan 100 demonstrators, including sixty postal workers, blockaded the Royal Bank.

For information about actions in Canada call Catherine Louli at (+1) 730-1386 or cell (+1) 850-7488; or Kerry Pither at (+1) 230-4070.

The United States


On the 18th of May, 14 activists went to Headwaters Forest (in the North-Western corner of California), property of Pacific Lumber Corporation, to support efforts to hinder the logging operations by stopping the work and supplying water and food to a group of tree-sitters. They were met by a bulldozer driver pushing a massive redwood log toward them down the road. The loggers decided to please their bosses by citizen-arresting the protesters, and forgot their work for some hours. The protesters, not wishing to risk violence by resisting, made the most of the occasion: they let themselves be arrested and had lively conversations during the hours of non-logging and non-roadbuilding that passed until the county sheriff's deputies arrived. The officers were reasonable and friendly, and hauled only two protesters away. One member of the group surreptitiously split off to successfully resupply the tree-sitters.


Berkeley Street Party took place on the 16th of May in Telegraph Avenue, which has a tremendous history of civil unrest – from the birth of People's Park in 1969 (where police shot protesters and killed one) to the “Reclaim the Earth – Compost in the Streets” action on Independence Day 1995 (officially a celebration of war). The crowd of perhaps 300–500 took to the streets with flags with bicycles, tremendous banners (“Take back our Lives/Reclaim the Streets”) and all manner of colourful costumes were to be seen. They pushed couches and chairs and carried carpets with them. The energetic atmosphere was exquisite and empowering. The couches finally came to rest at Telegraph Ave, and the hand-painted twister games were splayed out upon the asphalt, and the chalk and the spray-paint emerged, and boxes of juices and other food was distributed by Food Not Bombs. A DJ was present, with a legitimate permit to be a mobile sound system. Walking from one quadrant of the intersection to another was like walking through the tents at a carnival.

While dancing filled one street, down another an automobile (donated to the party) was being symbolically smashed to bits, individual frustrations at the domination of society and the planet by the motorcar being expressed. At the same time some participants rushed to demolish television sets in the centre of the intersection. Through it all, a tree apparently found in the trash (a common sight in Berkeley) was brought to the intersection and erected beside a trashy advert's newsrack, which a bicycle was subsequently leaned against. The crowd had swelled to perhaps seven hundred or more. A theatrical fire show erupted on the dark street downhill from the dancing and burning.

As the evening drew to a close, the police slowly encroached on the free space, seizing the couches, overrunning and uprooting a circle of women singing at their feet. The crowd thinned and the playground was dumpstered. Now large police walls boxed in the party at two ends. Police created and escalated confrontations by pushing and shoving the peaceful crowd. It must be said that through the night bottles were thrown at police on several occasions. Sadly, the only known arrests of the evening were four black youths – not surprising in a country where social apartheid is sustained by racist repression. One shop window was smashed, either by a police baton or a bottle thrown, after the police began shoving peaceful people. Berkeley/Bay Area RTS has already contacted the owner of the shop to reassure them that a benefit will be held to help pay for the damages.

But the realities of the true destruction, the slow-motion riot of the normal street, harassed by police, and marked by poverty and eating from dumpsters, were not forgotten. “They're going to crack down on all the kids on the Ave for the next week to get revenge,” said one young woman. “I'm going to hide.”

But the feeling had not ebbed. The streets were ours.
more berkeley global action days: S26


The End Corporate Dominance Conference was held in Portland, Oregon, on May 29–31. It was very successful; about 600 people participated, mainly from the USA but also from Canada and Mexico. The Art & Revolution Parade against Corporate Rule was also quite successful, despite the best attempts of Portland Police to boycott it. They arrested four people for 'disorderly conduct', which apparently now includes crossing the street outside of the crosswalk.

For more information and conference statement please contact: Bicycle Transportation Alliance <>
more portland global action days: S26 - A20

index of part II