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Update on FTAA from Toronto
march 2001

Reclaim the Streets NYC -

part of a news letter from friend in Toronto-petra

Agitators train for Quebec brawl
Government moves to open a dialogue as protesters mass their forces for summit

Joël-Denis Bellavance
National Post

OTTAWA - A group organizing a massive protest to derail the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City next month is recruiting protesters in the United States and holding training sessions across Quebec on how to resist police arrest.

The Liberal government is so alarmed by the activities of the group, called SalAMI, that Pierre Pettigrew, the International Trade Minister, is seeking a meeting with its representatives next week in Montreal, the National Post has learned.

Jean-François Gascon, an advisor to Mr. Pettigrew, said the Minister wants to hear SalAMI's concerns. The Montreal-based organization was created in 1998 to fight what it calls "globalized capital, free-trade agreements and environmentally destructive productivist policies."

Several of the group's 800 members participated in the human blockade in Seattle in November, 1999, that forced the cancellation of an entire day of meetings of the World Trade Organization.

"We have approached the SalAMI group because it's part of our desire to enter into a dialogue with representatives of the public," Mr. Gascon said yesterday.

Police say more than 10,000 people are expected to converge on Quebec City to protest against the poverty and social inequities they say result from globalization.

In a recent speech to the Quebec Chamber of Commerce, Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, signalled his intention to appease the protesters by pushing for human rights and social justice at the April 20-22 summit.

SalAMI — sal ami means dirty friend in French, while AMI alone is the French acronym for a multilateral investment accord — has also threatened to block access to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Sussex Drive in Ottawa in early April unless Mr. Pettigrew releases the legal text being used to negotiate the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.

Philippe Duhamel, the main spokesman for SalAMI, told the National Post yesterday the group will hold training sessions in Ottawa on April 1 before organizing a large demonstration the next day.

He said two members of the group have spent the past several days in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other cities in New England trying to recruit protesters to disrupt the Quebec meeting, at which talks toward the creation of a free trade zone among the three Americas are to dominate the agenda.

"We are trying to defeat the free trade agreement. Adding a few paragraphs to deal with the environment or the rights of workers won't make it better," Mr. Duhamel said.

"We are hoping a great number of people from the United States will come to Quebec City."

Mr. Pettigrew has also been under pressure from the Bloc Québécois in the House of Commons to publish the text and debate the merits of any deal before Canada signs on to it.

Mr. Pettigrew has refused, saying he needs the approval of the leaders of the 33 other countries to release any details.

"It is totally unacceptable that a Minister is more accountable to some dictators from Latin America than to his own citizens," Mr. Duhamel said.

SalAMI has been giving training sessions on civil disobedience across the province for two years. A typical session lasts a weekend and costs $30. It includes theory and hands-on protest simulations to prepare protesters to deal with tear gas, pepper spray, dogs and horses and ways to peacefully resist police arrest.

"We are not a group that advocates violence," Mr. Duhamel said. SalAMI has been open about its plans and has probably been infiltrated by the police already, he said.

Svend Robinson, the NDP MP from British Columbia who has been involved in protests before, helped SalAMI book a room on Parliament Hill to hold a "Parliament of peoples" on April 1 on the issue of free trade.

Mr. Robinson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ottawa police and the RCMP have been gathering information on SalAMI for several weeks.

"At this point, we're just not sure what to expect from them," said Sergeant Dan Delaney of the Ottawa police.

A massive security operation has been put in place in Quebec City that includes a two-metre chain-link fence, anchored in concrete, to mark the perimeter of the summit's "security zone."

Access to the zone, which includes much of old Quebec City, will be controlled with special passes issued to the 6,000 summit participants and to people who live and work in the area.



March 13 2001 anti-FTAA rally NYC | alca |