An Activist's Guide To Quebec City, Part 1

An Activist's Guide to Quebec City, Part 1

Quebec City has, over the last couple of decades, embarked on a process of
"re-vitalization." This "re-vitalization" is in fact nothing more than the
gentrification of the city. It has involved demolishing sectors of popular
neighborhoods to build highways, building massive hotels and other
structures aimed at tourism which are also completely out of line with the
architecture of the neighborhoods (such as the congress center), the
elimination of the last remaining green areas in the city to make way for
luxury homes, the destruction of nearly 50 percent of the homes in the St.
Jean Baptiste neighborhood between 1966 and 1976, and the gentrification of
the centric Place D'Youville, replacing local stores with upper class
businesses, and street youths and marginals with tourists.

Yet, all this pales in comparison with what the city of Quebec has in store
for those who come to oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), or
for it's citizens who happen to be unfortunate enough to live in the area
near where the "Summit of the Americas" is to be held.

Among other
draconian measures planned for April are the banning of all demonstrations
on the upper part of the city (where the Summit is to be held), the banning
of cell phones for the duration of
the Summit (to avoid congestion they tell us), the emptying of the local
jail in order to make room for massive arrests, surveillance and harassment
of local activist organizers (which has already begun as several activists
were arrested early February for fliering, though they were later released
as the police claimed that they had "made a mistake"), the systematic denial
of entry into Canada of foreign activists, the preparation of a vast array
of "less-than-lethal" weapons, and, finally, the icing on the cake, the
mobilization of over 5,000 policemen (including 800 riot police) and the
construction of a 3.8 kilometer long "security perimeter" around the summit
which only delegates, journalists, and residents with passes will have
access to.

All this to defend a meeting of the ruling elites of the Americas, gathered
behind closed doors to discuss, essentially, our future. In a nutshell the
FTAA is nothing more than a further expansion of NAFTA, bringing with it the
same consequences that NAFTA did, but on a larger scale. The proposed
deadline for the implementation of the FTAA is in 2005, and it is intended
to be fully WTO-compatible, with all that that means for the already grossly
deficient laws that protect labor, the environment, etc. All in the name of
free trade.

The FTAA is yet another example of the "democracy" in which we live. We
are told that we are free to decide our fates when we pick a new face for
the puppet of the elite every 4 years, and thus pacified. Yet the real
decisions that affect our lives are taken behind closed doors and based on
documents which we are not even allowed to read, drafted by upper-class
economists who we did not elect, and who do not represent our interests. It
is yet another attack on the people of the Americas and a demonstration of
the fact that we live not in a democracy, but in a dictatorship of capital. Yet, as the last few years have shown, just as capital has sought to
establish and affirm itself, so has the growing movement of anti-capitalist
resistance. This movement has been active every day and every night through
community and workplace organizing and through direct action, coming
together on occasion to show it's numbers, flex it's proverbial muscle, and
demonstrate to the enemies of the people that as long as they insist on
exploiting and oppressing us, there will be no peace.

The "Summit of the
Americas" in Quebec City, which, through the establishment of the security
perimeter, has laid bare the contradictions of the dictatorship of capital
in which we live, with police, military, and the economic and political
ruling elite on one side, and the people on the other, will be the next such
occasion.

Thousands upon thousands of organizations, groups, and individuals are
already organizing to converge on Quebec City to oppose the FTAA. However,
the success of a mobilization depends to a large extent on how well prepared
those who take part are. We by no means presume to know everything there is
to know about these things, but we can do our best to spread what we do
know. So, if you are one of those thousands planning to head to Quebec
City, here is part one of our special "guide" to the Quebec City
mobilization. Part two, with info on the times and places of the different
marches and actions, meeting places, convergence centers, and other such
information which is not yet available will follow in Barricada April.

Don't let the state scare tactics stop you. No border will stop us and we
will be thousands in Quebec.

Quebec City: Getting There

Needless to say, the first evident hurdle for those not from Canada headed
to Quebec City will be crossing the Canadian border. Even now, two months
before the Summit, activists are being denied entry into Canada (such as
several groups headed to the CLAC/CASA consulta in late January or Lorenzo
Komboa Ervin), so it is quite safe to assume that getting past the border is
likely to be a tricky issue. So here are some evident, and not so evident,
tips.

*There are essentially four ways to get across the border. It is important
to pick the one most suited to your personal, or your group's, situation.

These four are:

-The "low key" approach: This means going in small groups, preferably by
car, and trying to enter discreetly. Remember, college students head north
all the time to drink, families go on vacation, people have friends or
relatives there, etc. Thus, one could easily pick a role and go with it.
If one is going to be a college student it would be a good idea to pick up a
bumper sticker of a college and mimic a "college student look." Plus, there
is no reason to be going to Quebec City when Canada has so many other
destinations of interest. However, keep in mind that giving false
information to customs officials is indeed a crime, which we are of course
not encouraging, and you do so at your own risk.

-The "commercial" approach: A probably more effective, but also more
expensive, approach to getting into Canada is to go, preferably alone or in
a small group, via a commercial bus or airplane line. Entering by air is
probably the surest way to get into Canada, but unfortunately economically
impossible for many. However, if you can afford it, it is suggested.

-The "Mass" approach: Ya Basta! And other activists will be converging in
Burlington, Vermont before attempting to cross the border at Cornwall, New
York en masse. They are likely to be backed by several unions who also
intend to cross into Canada via Cornwall.
These activists, primarily Ya Basta! and other direct action oriented
groups, are looking to use the force of their numbers to pressure the
Canadian authorities into allowing everybody to cross the border. By going
there you swell the ranks and thus increase the possibility of success
(meaning everybody gets through). And, if authorities refuse, then you
would be a likely participant in what would probably become the "battle of
the border."
Finally, also keep in mind that if the Cornwall initiative fails, you can
simply head over to another border crossing. However, on the down side, the
Cornwall crossing is likely to take place close to the 20th, making it not a
possibility for those intending to arrive early and also possibly not
leaving much time to explore other options of entry in case of failure.

-The "Do So at Your Own Risk" Approach: US citizens entering Canada do not
have their passports stamped (as they do not need them to enter) and they
are usually not registered anywhere. Thus, once you are inside Canada the
authorities have no way of knowing how it is that you entered, and it is
also not an issue when re-entering the US.
All this said, people should be aware that the US/Canada border is
enormous, and has many unmanned border crossings, wooded areas, and other
such discreet ways of entering the country.
This is something that people might want to keep in mind if all else has
failed or if they have been previously arrested at large demonstrations and
it becomes apparent that the authorities have a "black list" (such as the
one they had in Prague).
However, we would again like to remind everybody that crossing the border
illegally is indeed a crime and you must be prepared to take the risks that
that implies. We are, of course, in no way, shape, or form encouraging
people to do such a thing.

*Regardless of how one chooses to enter Canada, there are several common
sense matters to keep in mind.

-Arrive Early: The Canadian authorities are not going to shut down the
entire border for a week. The earlier you arrive the better your chances of
getting through will be, both because they will be less on alert and because
you will have more time to explore other options in case of trouble.
Furthermore, the earlier you arrive in Quebec, the better. You can help out
as well as familiarize yourself with the city.

-Think About Where People are Sitting in the Car: If you are relatively
good at looking inconspicuous then they might not even ask for
identification from everybody in the car. Therefore, if there is somebody
with an arrest record or any other reason to fear that the border
authorities would not let them pass, have them in the back, possibly asleep.
Of course, people with records should definitely try to avoid being behind
the wheel.

-VISAS: This is extremely important. If you are not a US citizen call the
nearest Canadian embassy or consulate, or check the web, to see whether or
not you need a visa. If you do, then get on it right now! Prepare yourself
well for that, know where you are going, when, how, etc.

-Take Nothing: If there are propaganda materials, banners, signs, or
anything else even remotely related to activism that you absolutely must
have in Quebec City, mail them to a contact in Canada beforehand. By no
means should you have any of this on you. It is very probable, although not
certain, that you will be searched, and if they find any such thing you will
most certainly be denied entry into Canada.

-Do not look like a demonstrator: We know that demonstrators come in all
sorts of different shapes, sizes, colors, and fashion styles. Authorities
however tend to look for certain things that fit their stereotypes of a
demonstrator, such as dreadlocks, patches, strange haircuts, and what not.
Your politics will in no way, shape, or form be affected by your looking
like a "normal" person for a few days, so do so!

-Wash and tidy up your car: Authorities also tend to think that activists
are lawbreaking malcontents who drive dirty cars, whereas "normal" people
drive clean and tidy cars and are good, law-abiding, citizens. So, it is
suggested to try to look like the latter.

-Familiarize yourself beforehand with the border area: In case you run into
trouble getting through the border and would like to look for alternate
routes, it is probably not very discreet to start asking around border towns
for directions. In order to avoid this. Get a map, study it, and know where
you are going.

This may all seem mundane and self-evident, but it is the little things
like this that can make the difference between entering Canada and being
stuck at the border.

At the Border

*Have your Story Straight: Know where it is that you are suposedly going,
have a story, have contacts, real or otherwise, and be ready for the
questions of the border authorities.

*Know your 'Rights': At a border crossing the sad fact is that you have
few rights. You might have them in theory, but the reality of it tends to
be quit different. There are many things that the border patrol can do to
you which you cannot impede. These include, but are not limited to,
searching you and your vehicle, refusing you entry into the country,
detaining you for as long as they please, dismantling your car, and asking
you any question they want. You can refuse to answer, however, if you do,
chances are you won't be allowed to enter the country.
Therefore, remember that the principal objective is to reach Quebec, not to
be turned back for arguing with border authorities, so be intelligent about
it.

*Be Quiet: Only give them the information they ask you for, don't volunteer
it. Respond, courteously and calmly, to what they ask you, but don't speak
more than necessary.

*Have Money: Even if you don't plan to spend use them, if you can get your
hands on money, or credit cards, or bank cards, have them with you. The
border authorities love to hear that you have a lot of money and that you
are going to Canada to spend it.

Once in Quebec City

For housing and other such concerns contact CLAC at clac@tao.ca, however,
here are some things to keep in mind.

*Dress Appropriately: Quebec in late April can be relatively warm, but
chances are it won't be. Of all the things to be worrying about during the
actions and demonstrations, the temperature is one worry to avoid, so be
sure to check the weather forecasts in advance and dress appropriately.

*Beware of the Water: The police have been quite secretive as to what
'less-than-lethal' weapons they will employ against the demonstrators.
However, rumor has it that they will use water-cannons, not to disperse
people, but simply because given the cold, a wet demonstrator can be put out
of action quite quickly. Therefore, it is important to have water-proof
clothes or a poncho.

*Layer your Clothing: Try to wear several layers, of black and other
colors, for two main reasons. The first is the usual scenario of having to
'de-bloc'. The second is that it has also been hinted that police will use
paint to tag demonstrators for later arrest. It is therefore important to
be able to shed clothes.

*Know the City: As soon as you arrive familiarize yourself with the area.
Go beforehand to the designated meeting places (discreetly!), get yourself a
map, study the fence area, know where you are in relation to the cliffs,
etc. Quebec City can be complicated, with it's cliffs, small streets, and
other peculiarities. However, if we are well prepared this will be an
advantage for us, not them.

*Know Your Rights: There is no excuse for getting oneself in trouble due to
not knowing what you can and can't do when faced with police. The CLAC
website has a lot of useful legal advice, so read it! 'I can't access the
internet,' is not an excuse. There is always a public library with net
access around somewhere.

*Know What you Need and Where to Get It: There are a lot of things that
people may need for the actions an demos which shouldn't be taken to the
border and will have to be obtained in Quebec. Try to find out in advance
where in Quebec City you can get what you need in order to spare yourself
the hassle and avoid last minute inconveniences.

Part two of Quebec, Spring 2001: Information on times and locations of
demonstrations and actions, a map of Quebec City, Housing information,
spokescouncils, convergence areas, and more. Coming in the Next issue of
BARRICADA.

Severino
The Barricada Collective