By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“If we’re going to have a process that’s going to be inclusionary, we have to sit at the table as equals. And that’s never going to happen,” Dickout said while organizing an Earth Day cleanup of a Quebec shopping district that would be trashed on the final night of the summit.
Civil Society, in fact, turned down an invitation to join with the heads of state inside The Wall to present their findings. Smelling a trap in the form of a photo op, the groups instead threw in with the Peoples Summit, a weeklong assemblage of speakers and teach-ins outside the perimeter that brought out such anti-globalization thinkers as the Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow and No Logo author Naomi Klein. The Peoples Summit, which declared itself pro–fair trade (as opposed to free trade) and was more reformist than radical overall, eventually released a final communiqué condemning the FTAA and saying it should be scrapped.
By Saturday night, even the slightest prospect of dialogue was dead. The moderates had moved, joining ranks with the radicals in a remarkable consensus: The FTAA could not be reformed.
“We decided that the wall itself had to come down,” said David Graeber, sitting in the Université Laval student union that night. A member of the Yale anthropology faculty who found himself running with Mohawk traditionalists, the militant group Ya Basta! and the Black Bloc (“purely out of anthropological interest,” he chuckled), Graeber was on the frontlines when The Wall was first pulled down. “The wall is a symbol,” he said. “Neoliberalism — what they like to call ‘globalization’ — is really about creating walls which imprison the poor in little enclaves. Then they’re desperate. Then you cut services inside the wall by privatizing everything, getting rid of social programs, and rich people can fully exploit them.”
One of the leading advocates of this critique, well-known Montreal activist wonk Jaggi Singh of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, never got the chance to cast his vote because he was whisked away in some kind of pre-emptive police black op. According to Helen Nazon, of the Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee, she and the decidedly un–Black Bloc Singh were talking to friends on the Rue St. Jean on Saturday, blocks away from any action, when four men jumped out of a van, threw Singh to the ground, kicked him, and only identified themselves as police after bystanders moved in to stop what they thought was an assault. Singh was then disappeared overnight and finally charged with “possession of a weapon,” which even journalists such as Klein regarded as specious. So much for what Chrétien called “Canada’s proud tradition of democracy.”
One has to wonder. Will an alternative structure emerge for future economic summits, or will they simply decamp like the WTO, which will hold its 2001 ministerial meeting in the protest-proof Arab state of Qatar? Bush said he’s not going to let even legitimate concerns “derail” his agreement. “Derail,” in this case, meaning to change the language in any way. He’s going to sign this FTAA thing unless a gang of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans jump him Korean Parliament–style and physically restrain him from doing so. Which they might, in a manner, by refusing him Trade Promotional Authority — but look how popular NAFTA was in Congress. Even if he gets denied, they’ll just bump it down the line to the next summit meeting, and sign it someplace where the summit kitchen isn’t closed down from C.S. gas contamination.
The pounding in the lower city intensified beyond midnight into the new day. At 4 a.m. on Sunday morning I walked up to the gate on the Boulevard Rene Levesque, where the water cannons and the tear gas had been concentrated, to find the park in front of the Grand Theater deserted. Not one person remained of the thousands who had been there for the previous 48 hours. Now there was nothing but drizzling fog clotted with searing pockets of C.S., and some graffiti I had seen in the lower city came to mind: “Quand la paix n’est rien de moins qu’une guerre interrompue” — “When peace is only war interrupted.” The implication was that such a peace is false, and the hundreds of exhausted police huddled out of the rain in every doorway certainly made this scene feel false, but this graffiti wasn’t referring to the cessation of hostilities. It referred to the everyday peace that is life in go-along Canada in its hundred-somethingth year of market capitalism, and by extension life in its ambitious big brother, the United States of America. It was the everyday peace that was quickly re-establishing itself now that everyone was going home. It was democracy itself that was emerging as false.
“The old myth is dying, the myth of progress,” a middle-aged woman had told me earlier, choking back tear-gas tears. She gave her name only as “Unruly Mob Goblin.” “The new myth is being born here,” she cried, “the myth of connectivity.”
I walked past the motorcades inside the perimeter and under the scrutiny of 34 different sets of secret service, wondering about that word, myth. We would be connected to one another, but not to the inside of the Hilton Hotel, where the lights were mostly on and the Free Trade Area of the Americas continued to be born. Eventually, a local homeowner had told me, the protesters would “elect their own gray-hairs and become the government.” Is that what it would take?
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