Arrested in a bizarre kidnapping by police at the Quebec City Summit, activist Jaggi Singh was held in prison for 17 days. NOW spoke to him Tuesday (May 8), the day after his release. Singh speaks at the Whose Economy? conference Friday (May 11), 7:30 pm, at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto.
On getting out of prison and arriving back in Montreal:
I slept in a bit. I'm doing my laundry, and I spent most of today making phone calls thanking people and getting back into the activist rhythm. There's an anarchist book fair next weekend in Montreal, we can't forget there are still five people left in jail.
On rediscovering creature comforts:
It was great just sitting down with friends at a cafe in Quebec City and being able to talk to my mother on the phone -- she was upset through this. It wasn't easy. I'm not the kind of person who thinks activism is asceticism, and I don't believe in creating a new class of people who deny themselves basic needs. I have friends. It's spring in Montreal. But I combine that with other cravings, and part of that is to be involved in organizing.
On surviving in prison:
I made lots of collect calls to the outside and developed a reputation in my block as a phone hog. You couldn't get books or newspapers. The only stuff in the prison library was Cold War trash novels you could go through in two hours. I managed to get my hands on some of Kafka's shorter pieces, like In The Penal Colony. Someone tried to bring in a book of Rimbaud poems, but they wouldn't let her, so she ripped out pages and put them in envelopes.
On his supporters:
I really, really appreciate the solidarity expressed by all kinds of people -- the well-known people and the hundreds who do day-to-day work and don't have famous names. A lot of this reminds me of the solidarity of June 15 in Toronto when activists were targeted. There were a lot of lessons learned there in the face of criticism over violence and non-violence, but OCAP tried to stay focused. It was inspiring.
On the conditions of his release:
Luckily, I'm not forbidden to attend demonstrations. My conditions say, "No megaphone anywhere in Canada.' The translation from the French says, "Forbidden that he is a leader.' I don't know how they're going to enforce who is and isn't a leader. If I organize a demonstration myself, am I leading myself? It's ludicrous.
On how he feels about being singled out by the media:
I wasn't a leader -- nobody was a leader. I'm ill at ease at the personalization of what happened. Hundreds of people had organizing roles.
On organizing styles:
I'm an anarchist and an anti-authoritarian. It's essential to create that spirit of organization that doesn't just replicate hierarchies. I believe in open assemblies and spokescouncils and affinity. We have a long way to go on this kind of stuff. We should be thinking of years and years, and not just months and months.