Sisters in the Struggle

Ok, so maybe pulling out my compact to check my make-up in the middle of a riot was a bit self-centred, but sweat, tear-gas and mascara were dripping into my eyes. What’s a riot girl to do!

In this age of protest, being a woman and running with the black bloc means having to pad places other than your bra. Dodging tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, some of the black bloc members you see are women. Once a rare breed of super-femmes, “grrls” are now entering into the black fold in greater numbers than ever.

On the eve of another summit spectacle with the Group of Eight (G8) meeting next week in the wilderness of Kananaskis, Alberta, different social justice groups are preparing to do battle against the eight most powerful — at least in name — leaders of the Western world. And women will be on the front lines.

You Throw Like a Girl

“Blocking up” to become the black bloc is a great equalizer. With everyone looking the same — everyone’s hair tucked away, our faces obscured by masks, I’m nothing less and nothing more than one entity moving with the whole. Everyone is capable of the same. And the politics of “nice girls don’t throw stones” is suspended, and I’m free to act outside of the traditional:“serve tea, not Molotov cocktails.” rules.

It’s once the mask comes off, the problems begin. And it's no surprise that in public debates around violence/non-violence it’s always two men yelling their heads off at each other, while women can’t get a word in edge-wise.

Sure, women are gaining popular ground in the movement, but some topics are still taboo for us. And with machismo still ruling the streets — especially during a riot — what women have to say, often gets lost in the tear gas fog.

Super-Heroines

Two awesome role model activists to keep an eye out for are Radical Cheerleaders and the Living River.

They were both on the streets of Quebec protests last year, and will be on the streets again against the G8 in June.

Radical Cheerleaders are groups of women (although not exclusively) who rage against the government using pom-poms and rhymes, instead of sticks and stones. At demonstrations, they resist creatively against capitalism, imperialism and the existing neo-liberal order through words

The Living River (again, not exclusive to females) is another creative force on the front lines. With a pledge to protect the world’s water, through ritual singing and swaying, these pagans create a “living river” to focus energy at demonstrations into a positive form.

Great Expectations

As great as my expectations are for the up-coming G8 protests across Canada, the outcome is hard to predict.

Much has been said about September 11 and the impact of the terrorist attacks on the social justice movement — and fearing terrorists might disguise themselves as protesters — especially the black bloc — has given Calgary authorities cart-blanche to use deadly force against activists.

Either way, it looks like it’s open season on the bloc.

Ottawa Rematch

The last time anti-globalization activists took the capital was after September 11, with a daring snake-march through the streets of Ottawa, November 17, 2001.

There, with hell breaking loose — facing a police force anxious to show off their live armaments, and unleash their attack dogs into the crowd — the women of direct action, including the Living River, created an enchanted circle of solidarity around the black bloc to protect them from police targeting.

The kind of solidarity shown by such groups as is crucial among groups if the movement is to continue.

What demonstrators faced in Ottawa, they’ll likely face again — whether in Kananaskis or Ottawa, either way there’ll be guns, dogs and tazers (used recently at an anti-G7 demonstration in Halifax, Nova Scotia) so we’d better be prepared.

As we stand together to take apart the current system we all oppose, we must stand united to create an alternative to that system.

And within those alternatives, remember that machismo can never replace solidarity, dignity or respect, and ushering in alternatives is as essential as tearing the master’s house down.

In the upcoming days, come what may in Kananaskis, we are honoured to be your sisters and to fight at your side.

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