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CLAC organizer calls for FTAA opponents to support ‘diversity’ of tactics

April 18, 2001- Details of a press conference given by Quebec City action organizers CLAC/CASA.

Quebec City, April 18: The FTAA is unreformable, and a diversity of strategies should and will -- be used to oppose it, according to Jaggi Singh of CLAC la Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes, or the Anti-Capitalist convergence one of the lead groups organizing protests at the Summit of the Americans in Quebec City this weekend.

Singh spoke on behalf of CLAC and CASA -- the Comite daccueil du Sommet des Ameriques, known in English as the Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee CLACs local counterpart in Quebec City, at a press scrum Wednesday morning, April 18. By Thursday afternoon, that commitment to a diversity of tactics had gone into motion. Protesters staged a banner hang inside the perimiter Thursday afternoon a potentially high-risk venture given the police commitment to bar protesters from within the walls of the old city at the same time that others were setting up festive staging areas to host weekend participants for CLACs and CASAs Carnival Against Capitalism. Thursday evening saw the staging of two major mobilizations, a womens march to the perimiter to challenge corporate globilizations assault on women workers and the environment, and a torchlight parade from Leval University to the Old City that received jubilant support from residents along the march route.

The FTAA is rotten to the core, said Singh, who detailed CLACs assessment that lobbying against the agreement is futile and stronger measures are called for. Its really difficult to ask for democratic input in a process thats already been determined without public input, so we work to show clear opposition in a variety of ways, from popular education in the Maritimes, the U.S. and all over Quebec, all the way to direct action.

The Carnival against Capitalism is decentralized by design, with affinity groups coming from all over North America and some participants traveling from well south of the Rio Grande. In the spirit of diversity in opposition, many affinity groups are planning to exercise assertive disruption, from blockades to more aggressive responses to possible police violence. Tactics that will disturb and disrupt the summit are anticipated on Saturday, April 20.

There ARE violent people coming to Quebec City the 34 leaders of the hemisphere who advocate the structural violence of poverty, the displacement of indigenous people from their lands, clearcutting of our forests many kinds of actions that far outweigh any violence that any of the groups coming to protest the FTAA could have in Quebec City.

This will be likely be one of the largest security operations in Canadian history, with the largest mobilization of activists in a long time, said Singh. But were thinking beyond the FTAA summit. This movement didnt start in Seattle and it wont stop in Quebec City.

Many protesters are assembling and moving out under a system of three color blocks, red, yellow, and red spaces and organizing themes. The green block territory serves as safe space for protestors who are not engaging in direct action, with two main zones: St. Jean Baptiste, a working class neighborhood directly south of the perimeter, and Le Ilot des Fleurs, under a nearby highway overpass.

The St. Jean Baptiste neighborhood has fought off gentrification and displacement since the 1970s and remains a locus for popular struggles, with many merchants and local residents supporting the protesters. The community is expected to face the brunt of the fallout of any police aggression during the protests, given its close proximity to the security perimiter around the Old City and the summit site. ComPop -- Le Comite Populaire de St-Jean-Baptiste, a solidly progressive community group with an emphasis on labor concerns, is located in this neighborhood and has worked closely with CASA to prepare for summit protests. The second declared green zone, Le Ilot des Fleurs -- the Isle of Flowers -- is located near the CMAQ offices, under a freeway overpass built in the 1970s over vigorous popular opposition as part of a government effort to modernize Quebec City. The area consists of several small buildings, sculptures, open space -- and much graffiti. CLAC/CASA hopes to use the area as a zone of free creation and it became the site of an impromptu and spirited rave on Thursday night, when protesters assembled at the conclusion of Thursday evenings torchlight march. Its an area we hope will be as safe and festive as possible, says Singh.

The yellow bloc is dedicated to advancing non-violent blockades and civil disobedience actions. Those may include a blockade of the highway entrance closest to the security perimeter. Red blocs are keyed to more assertive direct action, although CLAC/CASA are not formally organizing red zones.

Singh noted that politicians use a variety of means to counteract the efforts of activists, from outright lying, distorted media spin, and police repression to other strategies to co-opt struggles. For example, he says, Quebec government financial support for the Peoples Summit of the Americas represents a classic effort to coopt globilization opponents.

Quebec authorities use this strategy to impress civil society that isnt involved [in locking out the voices of those who oppose corporate globilization]. We think thats a sham. Its a public relations maneuver meant to give the appearance of democracy but [the Quebec government] is particpating in the summit, and we made it clear from the outset that we clearly oppose them.

We dont just see the FTAA as a problem, Singh emphasized. We dont just see foreign leaders as the problem, we see our own leaders and the political process as the problem, and we really question the extent to which we live in a real democracy. This assessment doesnt come from a vacuum it comes from our own experiences, he said, calling the political process a sham system which is based on money.

Direct action is certainly an important component of what were doing, but 90% of our work in the last

year has been popular education, workshops on what the FTAA is, what globalization is.analyzing and deconstructing political relationships that the media and politicians try to mystify, and we learned to sit down and explain it in an accessible way. We dont use a teacher-student hierarchical approach. We talk to people about how they can learn from these experiences. Singh stated that while street action plays an important role in raising awareness about the perils the FTAA, behind that effort lies extensive educational and organizing groundwork designed to raise awareness around the issues associated with corporate globalization.

Singh was asked why he thought the Canadian government is so eager to restrict its own ability to regulate corporations. He replied, Two answers. First, a lot of politicians dont know what the hell theyre doing. Theyre really just ignorant and in some cases theyre really, really stupid. People say it all the time and its true -- there are members of Parliament who have no idea whats going on. They simply stand up and vote and have no idea what theyre doing. The other part of it is that the major political parties in this country are controlled by the corporations. They literally get millions of dollars -- Canadian Prime Minister Jean Cretian is joined at the hip with the power corporations and all kinds of major political interests who are buying access to the summit. They buy access daily to politicians with fundraisers and junkets -- and the liberals and the tories and the reform party and unfortunately to a lesser extent the NDP [National Democratic Party] are all tied to these corporations and their interests, and its no surprise that these politicians then approve policies these corporations support.

Singh also had some interesting observations about the massive police mobilization in Quebec City. It looks like police are implementing the buddy system -- every protester gets a cop. 6,500 law enforcement officers have been called up to police the demonstrations, and CLAC/CASA expect protesters to outnumber them by at least a two to one ratio. Thats a pretty good ratio, Singh stated.

The buddy portion of the buddy system appeared to be breaking down by late Friday afternoon, with many reports coming in of teargassing and police attacks on protesters participating in Friday afternoons march to the security perimeter. People on the ground report that hundreds of feet of the perimeter fence have been torn down by protesters.




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