montreal -- an e-mail message i received last week gave me pause. "I would like to do a bit of work to help out the various anti-FTAA protests," my correspondent wrote, "but I do not want to do anything that would remotely risk getting me in jail or even near a cop."
Given the media coverage focusing on security concerns for April's Summit of the Americas in Quebec City (where the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations will be launched), the widely reported RCMP and CSIS harassment of mainstream activists and my own writing on the escalating police-state smear campaign, the message wasn't really a surprise.
But it made me think. Perhaps concentrating on the security angle is self-defeating; the protests could fizzle because of fears of police violence.
Then Tuesday's Gazette arrived on my doorstep. A flag across the top of the front page directing readers to an inside story was a shocker. "Anarchists arming for summit in Quebec: CSIS."
The story, by Southam News reporter Jim Bronskill, was based on a classified CSIS report he obtained under Access To Information laws. It quotes the report as saying, "The use of petrol bombs and similar disruptive instruments cannot be ruled out."
That "information" apparently justifies saying that anarchists (none of whom was quoted in the article) will be armed in Quebec City.
Bronskill was kind enough to fax me the heavily censored CSIS report, entitled Quebec City 2001: Radical Anti-Globalization Elements Organizing Protests, on which he based his story. Much of the information it contains can be found on the A-Infos Network, an anarchist news service, at www.ainfos.ca.
I found a message on the site, posted in October, describing a call for a Black Bloc formation in Quebec that was distributed in pamphlet form during last year's G20 demonstrations in Windsor. That information forms the basis of one section of the CSIS report, which goes on to say, "An unaligned activist, allegedly arrested during the G20 protest, had already posted an e-mail on an Internet anarchist news service encouraging individuals going to Quebec City to take 2-by-4s, projectiles, bricks and petrol bombs."
Despite two hours of combing through postings, I couldn't find that message. Indeed, its content is so unlike anything that does appear on the site that the CSIS report might appear to be disinformation.
Jaggi Singh, currently on an organizing caravan in New England, recognized the style. Says Singh, "Practically every week there's an e-mail I get on the CLAC account or my personal account that says, "Can you give me advice as to whether Molotov cocktails are legal up there?' Or, "Is it OK if I bring 2-by-4s?' I just assume that it's the police looking for a response, looking for a justification."
Bronskill, for his part, says he knows "there is a war of rhetoric. I'm conscious of that and I hope it came through in the stories. I asked them, "Why are you looking at this? Can't the RCMP do this?' But CSIS feels it has a role to play in this area and a legitimate interest in it."
But does Bronskill feel the reports are part of a disinformation campaign? "I tend to agree, in a sense," he responds. "I don't know where the truth lies. Part of the problem in these things is that they blank out a lot of stuff, and you don't know how much information is actually there. Based on what they released, they don't seem to have a lot of hard evidence."
It's also interesting that CSIS released the report. Bronskill says his Access To Information request didn't ask for reports specifically dealing with globalization protests.
CSIS spokesperson Dan Lambert denies, however, that the agency was looking to place news stories on the topic. As for solid proof that anarchists or anyone else will be armed in Quebec City, Lambert says the information wouldn't be in released reports "because that's information that would be considered protected for national-security reasons."
Still, he says, there are examples of fringe-group violence from other protests in the past couple of years. "Obviously, CSIS doesn't investigate lawful advocacy, protest or dissent," Lambert contends.
"We are prohibited from doing that by law. The fact remains, there is a precedent in North America as well as in Europe, that there are specific individuals -- a fringe element -- who may look to essentially hijack what would otherwise be a peaceful demonstration."
It's an explanation that doesn't wash with Singh. "When they say, "Anarchists arming for Quebec City,' what they're actually saying is that police are arming for Quebec City and they need justification," he says. *
From Hour Magazine