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Women March Peacefully on A19, Hang Banners on Wall in Quebec

19 April 01-- 300 women gathered and marched through Quebec City to the Wall of Shame. There they hung banners representing their hopes, fears, and political beliefs.
18 April, Quebec City—“I am the goddess of just anger…” the voice behind a twenty-foot tall puppet of a red-haired woman announced. “I am here to welcome you to the women’s action of solidarity!”

The crowd of 300 activists—where women held a vast majority over men—whooped and yelled their approval. With swift microphone handoffs by protest emcees yielding a speech in French, English, and Spanish, the goddess continued: “Women bear the brunt of globalization around the world…. With the FTAA, there will be different clauses that affect women, namely the… opening of borders to transnational corporations. We know that since NAFTA… thirteen million people have fallen from the middle class to below the poverty line. How can we be certain this won’t happen under the FTAA?”

After the puppet ( who was named Nemesis) concluded her “speech”, several women from around the world got a chance to control the microphone. Included in the impassioned group of speakers was an organizer from the Coordination of Indigenous People of Honduras (herself a member of the Lanka tribe’s indigenous Honduran minority), an activist from the Dominican Republic, and one of the Argentine group the Mothers of the Disappeared. In addition, the emcee (herself a member of the Canadian protest group SalAMI) read statistics about the number of women worldwide who are illiterate (two-thirds of a billion) and the dollar amount unpaid women’s work is worth (over $200 billion Canadian yearly), among other facts, to the crowd. The women, in response, yelled, “SHAME!” in both English and French.

Starhawk, the legendary New Age pagan and teacher of magic, announced the simple song that the women sang as they marched from the convergence point behind the women’s space down the road. The lyrics, a repetition of the phrase “Si se puede” (from Spanish, it translates roughly to “yes, it’s possible”), was sung by protestors who varied in age from babes in arms to senior citizens.

The final destination of the protest was the security perimeter fence, where the protesters planned to hang banners with messages expressing solidarity, hope, and fear of a world under FTAA. Throughout the half-hour walk through the city of Quebec, the mood was one of joy, as Radical Cheerleaders cheered (“Riot Don’t Diet! Get up get up and try it!”), women sang and chanted trilingually, and cheers went up from the crowd. As the group approached the security perimeter, one woman grabbed the megaphone and announced, “I’ve got a megaphone—and I’m not afraid to use it against patriarchy!”

When the group reached the wall, the theme of the protest—Weaving a Web of Solidarity—took form. Affinity groups of women participating in the march had made quilts, flags, signs, and webs of string in advance of the protest to hang on the wall. These woman were asked to come forward and hang their artwork on the wall. Slowly and calmly, the groups began to approach the wall, climb the fence and hang their signs. The makeshift art gallery soon stretched more than fifty feet. During the banner hanging, the police stationed nearby remain passive, watching silently.

A drum circle formed and the people began to hold hands and dance in a spiral formation, singing. Within the spiral, a web was quickly woven of lengths of ribbon. When the web was complete, the women stopped, joined in humming wordlessly for a brief period, and then sat down. Starhawk lead a prayer of hope—hope for women worldwide, hope for the safety of all the activists in anti-globalization protests this weekend, and hope for love, peace and justice. The prayer ended in a call of “Presente!” (“Present!” in Spanish), and the web was taken to the wall and hung with the cooperation of many hands.

When asked why she had come to the march, Starhawk told Indymedia reporters that she wanted to draw attention to women’s issues within the FTAA, citing the damage to the health, family and livelihoods of women who work in maquiladoras, and the fact that ten million women and children are involved with the international sex trade. Her life-long commitment to activism and beliefs that life and nature are sacred and that all human beings are the embodiment of the goddess have drawn her to begin teaching direct action. She has been focussing heavily on the anti-globalization movement for over a year now.

Dominique Lebrun, a Canadian activist who identified herself as a member of protest sponsors Resisterre (a combination of the French words for “resist” and “land”) spoke on the reason this march was important and more than symbolic: “It’s our lives, it’s our sisters, our planet Earth that’s being destroyed.... It’s real because it [the banners] is there for everyone to see.” She continued: “We need to impose change,” making reference to the way undemocratic fashion in which the FTAA meetings are being conducted. The next step towards gaining women’s rights is to call a general strike, she stated, citing the statistic that 90% of the world’s work is done by women—who control 1% of the total world’s income. She also believes that there should be a political party specifically for women.

But the women by the wall on Thursday night did nto devote themselves to strategizing and polemics; rather, the group began to dance and sing again, peacefully celebrating their womenhood under the moonlight.




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