On April 18, 2011, rabble turns 10. Highlighting 10 important moments of rabble’s history over the course of our 10th year, current and former people who have been involved with rabble have been asked to share their personal highlights from their time with rabble. This monthly rabble history series elaborates on some of the most common highlights submitted.
We also know that many of you have your own ideas of what the highlights of rabble’s 10 years have been, and we want to know what you think. And if you have thoughts on how you’d like to see us grow, please share as well in the comments section below.
“We went from zero to 40,000 unique visitors in one day by launching rabble.ca in the middle of the Quebec City protests against the FTAA. I was reporting from the streets calling my reports into our editor Jude MacDonald who wrote them up. It was rough on the staff getting rabble off the ground that quickly but it was worth it.”
Against the backdrop of the third Summit of the Americas meeting and protests in Quebec City on April 18, 2001, rabble launched with unprecedented considerable immediate success. Kim Elliott, rabble’s current publisher, but at the time, an activist attending the FTAA protests, clearly remembers the context of the launch. “I met Judy Rebick at a demo at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas. She was passing out rabble.ca cards announcing rabble’s launch. There was no better coverage of the activist responses to the Summit than on rabble.”
As protesters brought down a section of the three metre high concrete and wire fence that surrounded the site of the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations, the infamous teddy bear catapult made an appearance. Krystalline Kraus, then intern and current feature writer and Activist Communique blogger, was also there and recalls the FTAA catapult well. “[It] ‘shot’ teddy bears at the FTAA security fence in Quebec City during the FTAA summit in April, 2001. I saw it first hand, and it was the saddest thing because teddy bears don’t weigh anything so they didn’t really have much impact. But, it was a beautiful thing to watch.”
Activist Jaggi Singh took a lot of the heat for the catapult after being arrested at the protest and held in jail for 17 days. He became the longest detained demonstrator from the FTAA protest. rabble, along with other organizations around the world, rallied for his release. Judy Rebick recounts the campaign to defend him. “Jaggi had been arrested and held without bail on a dangerous weapons charge for a catapult that threw teddy bears. I knew Jaggi had not been involved since I [personally] raised the money to finance it, so I felt responsible. Everyone agreed we would run the campaign off the pages of rabble. The greatest part was publishing the statement of the Surrealist Deconstruction League of Edmonton who took responsibility for the teddy bear catapult. Nevertheless, Jaggi was held and finally after an international campaign all charges were dropped. We learned what a powerful tool for campaigning rabble could be.”
Mike Gifford, part of the tech team that helped launched rabble, also remembers this situation well. “How could we forget Jaggi’s teddy bear petition? What a great way to start a news resource on social change. We developed the software that was used in that and distributed it to others working on social justice issues. It was in many ways the breaking point for the anti-globalization movement. Shortly after that 9/11 happened and the movement died away. The petition in 2001 was able to gather a great deal of support.”
There couldn’t have been a more appropriate time and place for rabble to come into the world. Frank Preyde, then babbler, and current volunteer babble moderator, succinctly explains: “rabble came to be against the backdrop of Quebec, and this set the standard of the sort of journalism we could do which contrasted us so much against the mainstream media.”
Although the Quebec City protests were a significant part of rabble’s launch, Tonya Surman, a rabble founder and the first (and only) business manager, also vividly remembers the Toronto launch event at Cameron House in Toronto organized by Gail Picco. She recalls the many, many names at the event, and says she probably still has the budget for it. There was also a simultaneous live launch of the site that Jane Will, rabble’s former webmistress, remembers well. “People from various parts of the country met virtually and in person to get the initial website up. After a huge combined effort, the live launch of the site at a spectacular party got rabble off to a great start.”
Noreen Mae Ritsema is an intern with rabble.ca.