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Nora Loreto's blog

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Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is the author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement and is the editor of the Canadian Association of Labour Media. She writes regularly for blogs and magazines, and wrote a chapter in Canada After Harper, released by Lorimer Publishers in August 2015.

Mass arrests in Québec signal start of Printemps 2015

| March 25, 2015
Mass arrests in Québec signal start of Printemps 2015

One hundred people were arrested outside of my house last night. Close to 300 were arrested throughout Québec City.

Students, mostly; the ones who take to the streets when it's dark and march around town to condemn the actions of government.

We've seen this before: in 2012, the serpentine night rallies were routine. As the protests progressed then, the police repression grew.

Now, the students are back. But this time, it's not just students who are angry. Fed up with the radical austerity measures of the Liberal government, there has nearly been a protest a day in this province in all of 2015. Even the police arresting the students were protesting the government, in their silly pants.

But the police have no sympathy for the students. Even though it's obvious that the fight for their pensions is the same fight waged by the students against education funding cuts, one cannot expect solidarity from a cop.

It was nearly 10:00 p.m. From our living room we heard a vicious barking dog and saw cops pour into our street. The police had set up a trap for the protesters: they would not advance in the streets, nor could they turn back. The famous image of a police kettle right outside my front door.

One hundred students with flags and banners. Once jammed into a human box, it was announced: they'd all be arrested. I was standing on my front steps, the only front steps in the perimeter.

Friends ran up to see me. Strangers asked for water, to use the bathroom, to escape.

It was cold too. And it would get colder.

By about 10:15, one of my friends said: ils viennent pour nous -- they're coming for us. I wasn't part of the protest; my days of endless night marching are long over. But it's my struggle too. In the safety of my property I told him it was OK. We aren't on the sidewalk.

We aren't on the sidewalk. It's OK. This is my doorstep. I have the right to stand on my doorstep.

A cop in riot gear walked up to my bottom steps and starts pulling people off of it. Ils sont avec nous I yell. It doesn't matter. He pushes more people away from my property. Ils sont avec nous. C'est pas le proprietaire de la ville, c'est chez nous.

C'est chez fucking nous.  And I'm reduced to fight for my private property rights. What the hell.

I'm grabbed by the cop. He pushes me down the steps as my new friends try to pull me back up. J'habite icitte I yell. Am I seriously about to be arrested for standing on my property at 10:00 p.m.?

The cop doesn't listen. I start yelling in English that he has no right to arrest me or anyone on my steps. We're doing nothing; literally nothing. My new friends yell the same thing. He relents and we're all forced inside.

I watched the rest of the evening from behind a riot cop stationed on the threshold of my house, where I drag my stroller in and out of twice a day. I post video and photos, unable to do much else.

The students danced in the streets. The cops took their sweet-ass time and the students organized a game of improv. The cops deliberately slowed down so as to force the maximum amount of discomfort on the students. The students sang.

Frostbite was starting to set into my fingers.

At about 11:15 p.m. the cop guarding my threshold asked me for ID to prove I lived there. He had already seen me go in and out. He had already seen me with my daughter who wouldn't sleep due to the flashing lights and noise outside her bedroom. I refused. He said he would have to talk to the man who was inside then.

Fine I said. Here's my damn license.

The students waited outside for three full hours while the cops processed about 100 people. Once processed, they sat aboard a city bus. The cops even had a portable table for the occasion. They closed a main artery of the Haute Ville for three hours. Metrobuses were re-routed. Cars were trapped. And for what?

A student march of 100 would have easily passed through the streets. They would not have shut down two intersections for three hours. They would not have kept babies awake. I would have caught a glimpse of a banner as they passed by.

Instead, we witnessed the new normal: detain, arrest. Hold people outside for hours. Refuse access to bathrooms. Point rubber-bullet cannons at them. Let police dogs loose on them. Let them know that protesting the deepest public sector cuts that Quebec has seen in over 40 years will be crushed by state repression.

If this is meant to send a message to Québec's youth that they should not protest, the strategy is wrong. Many of the students last night weren't even teenagers during the 2012 protests. Last night, they laughed in the face of riot police.

They weren't scared off protesting. Their political education is evolving; sharpening. And something important is emerging.

One hundred people were arrested outside of my house last night. Local CBC Radio didn't say a word about this, as if mass arrests like these happen all the time.

They will keep happening, that's true. We have to resist the new normal.





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