there's so much to be done whenyou're planning to disrupt the confab of heads of state that Canada hosts in April.The latest general assembly of Toronto Mobilization for Global Justice (or Mob4Glob, as it's often called) draws more than 100 people to a six-hour meeting at OISE on Sunday. The talk is of buses, accommodation, legal help and all the other details that are going into the operation to turn the Quebec City summit of 34 heads of state in April into an international news story about citizen resistance to liberalized free trade.
"It's the largest security operation in Canadian history," says Jean-François Hamilton,visiting from Quebec, who reports that the first lengths of the 10-foot-high perimeter fence that will shield the 9,000 delegates from protestors are already going up near the Plains of Abraham.
Participants include the usual suspects from protests at Seattle, Windsor and points beyond, together with reps from neighbourhood groups in Riverdale, Parkdale and Bloor West who are doing their own prep for the Quebec City showdown. People are here from as far away as Kingston and Kitchener to get a heads-up on protest plans.
Toronto activists who were in Quebec recently are rolling their eyes over the perennial debate that's becoming ever more bitter among protest organizers in la belle province over how much emphasis should be put on direct action.
In Toronto, on the other hand, it appears to be much less so. Perhaps the best illustration of the more comradely mood here is the breakout session on direct action. The afternoon gathering draws the most participants -- so many that the classroom that's been chosen isn't big enough and the discussion has to move to the hallway, where we sit in a circle in yoga poses.
The discussion facilitators, members of Anti-Racist-Action (ARA), are less known for their interest in international trade issues than for protesting in front of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel's Cabbagetown house and staging rumbles against racist skinheads.
Their approach is summed up on a 2-by-5-inch slip of paper illustrated by a series of fists holding mean-looking wrenches and asking the question, "Do you feel that waving placards and reciting boring chants is not enough?"
It's a mixed group taking part in the discussion -- not only hardcore street militants but also mild-mannered members of the Council of Canadians. But the only discord comes not from the more far-out ideas floated -- for example, trying to haul down a section of the perimeter fence in order to gain access to the secure area, clearly impossible considering the intense police security that the feds will put on -- but from what some regard as the ineffectual chairing of the meeting. What's the agenda? What's the objective?
Among the other ideas proposed is to borrow from the Italian group Ya Basta!, whose members have sometimes dressed up in heavily padded outfits that make them impervious to the whack of police batons.
When time's up, the only conclusion is to try to meet again in a space where people feel more secure than here, where some fear undercover cops may be present.
What ARA would like to see is a network of affinity groups that head to Quebec City having coordinated their intentions beforehand. Who knows? Maybe the Council of Canadians contingent in sensible shoes will be laying their bodies on the street to fight corporate rule.
Anything's possible. After all, at the weekend workshop March 16-18 on civil disobedience training, one of the sessions is on climbing and banner-waving. Guess where's it's being held? In an Anglican church (Holy Trinity, behind the Eaton Centre).
At today's session on logistics, participants are told that 10 bus coaches from T.O. are already confirmed, plus another 10 probable. That's in addition to buses that unions will send and the rent-a-van, carpooling and other arrangements other pilgrims are making.
Round-trip tickets of $60 to $100 (sliding scale) are available. Organizers encourage early purchase because the buses don't have to be paid for immediately, so ticket sales will be used by Quebec organizers as seed money to secure accommodation, which will be available for $10 a night, spartan though it may be. (For ticket info, e-mail email@example.com or phone 416-208-0785. Coaches leave Toronto the evening of April 19 and return the evening of April 22.)