jean chretien said people were
going to Quebec City to have fun and protest. So I packed my Mexican wrestling mask (viva la lucha libre!), a bird whistle and a guitar. My Mexican doll compañera, Reina Luminosa, is dressed in a warm and snazzy outfit.
For weeks there's been a poster on my wall made by a friend for the Anti-Capitalist Carnival on 20 avril. "La protesta es fiesta." That's where I meant to go -- but didn't.
I find no "you are here" map in the gare at Quebec. The VIA counter man traces me a route and reminds me that much of the historic haute ville where my hotel is has been blockaded to protect the Summit from non-corporate-citizen gate-crashers.
To get to the 2nd annual People's Summit, I need to find the Old Port. At the moment, I'm in a quiet street overlooking the new fence the conquistadors have erected within the Old Fort. Couples are strolling by admiring graffiti and caricatures ($15 per sitting).
A black man with an earphone plugged into his head is inside the insecurity perimeter, chatting through the mesh. He's from DC, and warns of the danger of possible property damage by protestors.
"Is that all you care about?" I ask.
"What? You don't care?!" I reiterate my question and he tells me to run when things get ugly.
As to naming the source of the ugliness, we are obviously on opposite sides of the fence.
Down below, I walk a long way between the sheer shale cliff and the water, passing tonnes of huge, rusty buoys with bells in. I'm used to solitude, but this is eerie. Once in a while a car passes, and I expect to be stopped and questioned. Pure silence except for a crow knocking shale bits off the cliff just for fun. Crows are born anarchists. She probably knows where the party is.
I turn back. Miles of just me and the view across the river to Levis. Finally, I go up to the only person I can find and call into her parking booth, "For the love of Piaf! Où est le Sommet des peuples?"
Naturally, I missed the Council of Wise Women. At the People's Summit, the long list of what free trade covers -- everything including the circus -- is engrossing, but I'm afraid I must leave the Judy Rebick and Monique Simard talk show under the big top.
Friday, and instead of being at the creative street theatre joy parade, I'm at a people's press conference. Gloria Chicaiza informs us that Friends of the Earth in Ecuador have occupied the Canadian embassy in Quito. Ecuador has been given the prize of playing president of the Caribbean, Central and South American countries in the free trade game because Ecuador allowed the U.S. to install a military base there to carry out their Plan Colombia warfare. She tells of the removal of water from dried up Bolivia to send to Chile.
(It's easy to live on one bucket of water a day. At least keep your bath water for washing things or flushing with.)
The robbery of resources from the South for the North means that "no debemos nada. La deuda está pagada." (We owe nothing. The (foreign) debt is paid.)
The Sierra Club representatives complain about Bush reneging on the meaningless (oh, I'm just cynical) Kyoto accord on climate change and the reduction of greenhouse gases.
After all this talk of corporate polluters, I have to ask U.S. Sierra Club president Robert Cox if his 700,000 members believe the personal is political, or do they all drive cars? Have they an alternate transit policy?
His face turns red with anger and he answers very aggressively, implying that the subject is irrelevant, when really it's taboo. Time to walk the walk, literally.
Elizabeth May, head of the Canadian Sierra Club, responds quite differently. "Our biggest addiction in North America is to fossil fuel." She announces a climate caravan from Tofino, BC, to Newfoundland by bicycle starting May 7. It will be accompanied by a vehicle running on vegetable oil.
I kiss the hand of Rosario Ibarra, who speaks with passion and fire of the wake-up call of the Zapatistas. "We will rise up with the Indians or we won't rise up at all," wrote José Martí. "Somos todos Indios!"
When the fence comes down, I'm waiting for Eduardo Galeano -- on video. So articulate about the crimes of global economics. Everyone should read his Memory Of Fire.
Reina Luminosa poses on the fence with the museum of dolls locked in behind her. On Saturday, 250,000 people come to be seen and heard. (That's my estimate.)
I see two fellows get swifted off in a van on a quiet street.
The map in Le Soleil says the march will go up toward the fence behind which the devils are hiding. Who made the deal to lead all these people of good faith miles away? Union leaders? Couldn't be CUPE, whose scarf slogan is "On the front line. Locally and globally."
The strength of the march is effectively dissipated, too much like the good, quiet citizens going one way and the bad anarchists who are willing to fight for life on Earth going up the stairs. "Gas 'em!"
I get gassed just after meeting the old local gent who made left-handed violins and the twin who has agoraphobia after being held up three times at her caisse populaire job. My throat is still swollen.
Gas looks less harmful than truncheons. It's made for TV. I will be looking into the composition and lasting effects of tear gas. As well as getting my broker to buy stock in CS & Pepper.
Masks off to the wonderful work of the Winnipeg Free Kitchen for cooking big pots of delicious chow for the friendly "radicals."
At 2 am I hear on the radio that all force is coming down in the area. I drag my no-sleep-in-5-days (insomnia and head noise -- no fun, don't worry) self down to find calm Winnipegger Thor waiting to pack up the kitchen and am relieved that the radio announcer was just hysterical.
On Sunday, to celebrate Earth Day, buses and cars for those inside the fence sit running their motors from 5 am to noon. The pedestrian signals in Quebec have a big box that counts down in red numbers the seconds you have to run. When it gets to zero, car drivers can kill you, just like a video game. Wheelchairs, old people? Final solution?
It'll take more than a weekend to win back the streets.