Volume 95, Issue 1
Thursday, May 24, 2001
Diverse agendas with a common purpose
A month has passed since the tear gas dissipated and although it's hard to know exactly how many protesters were in Quebec City during the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Summit and protest, one thing is for sure: they were there to be counted.
Everyone it seemed had different issues and different agendas. Some were concerned about the environment and the effects of globalization, while others were concerned about working conditions in developing countries and the lessening of democracy. Some thought Che Guevara looked cool on a t-shirt, while others carried autographed copies of Naomi Klein's best-selling anti-globalization study, No Logo. Some were there in peace, while others were there in war.
Yet in each agenda, there existed a commonalty and a unity of purpose – every protester wanted to speak up and be heard and no fence was going to prevent them from doing just that.
Aaron was a student from Laval University. I met him while he was waiting for his girlfriend to return from buying goggles. He was studying to become an "environment cop" as he put it. He wore a dust mask, custom made with a piece of terry cloth doused in lemon juice to protect him from the tear gas. He said he was at the front line on the previous night and he had watched the fence collapse. He said off the cuff that he had a premonition it would happen again.
Rick and Sue were postal workers. They were part of the large union contingent and they were most concerned about Chapter 11 of the FTAA, which allows foreign nations to sue the Canadian government for subsidizing certain organizations like Canada Post. They believed Crown Corporations were part of our national heritage and no free trade agreement should be able to take them away.
Dennis was an international comparative studies student. He spoke eloquently about the environment and the urgent need for sustainable development. He had Maalox residue on his eyelids; a stranger had doused his eyes with it following a heavy gassing.
Isaac was a member of the notorious Black Bloc. He said he was not interested in talking about politics. When I asked him if he was frightened by the solid line of riot police, he said nothing. He didn't need to, for the look in his eyes told the whole story.
Dianne was a middle-aged activist. She had wispy hair and a gentle, motherly affection for weary protesters from younger generations. On our way to the bus at the day's end, she spoke with a considerable optimism which was far more refreshing than the tear gas. She said this was only the beginning. She said the movement was gaining strength and legitimacy. She said there was no turning back.
I couldn't agree more.
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