Going to the Fence

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It's not easy to upstage the opening of meeting with thirty-four leaders including U.S. President George Bush. Despite what seemed like endless volleys of tear gas, mostly peaceful protesters came back and back to Rene Levesque Boulevard to face down the police.

The battle lasted almost two hours. Police chased demonstrators off the plateau with the heavy use of tear gas. Demonstrators came back after recovering from the stinging pain in their eyes and throats. The most poignant moment was a sit-down of about twenty people, flashing peace signs in the midst of a fog of tear gas.

Most media attention is on the perimeter breach, and it was an impressive action. First a few, then more, climbed up the chain-link fence and, in a rocking action, pushed it down. By my watch it took less than five minutes for it to come down.

The amazing thing was that only about a hundred people rushed through the fence. The rest held back. The protesters - not the police - controlled the crowd. This reporter was astounded at the discipline.

The march wound its way along ten kilometres, from Laval University to the perimeter. There were ten or twenty people out of about 3,000 throwing stones and bottles. These few were the Black Bloc. While the rest of the protest was noisy and colourful, the members of this Bloc were sombre, solemn, dressed all in black. Several were armed with sticks and stones, and wore masks from the beginning of the march.

No doubt, there will be debates about the Black Bloc tactics. The creativity of the other demonstrators was lost in the confrontation. One group calling itself the Medieval Bloc had built a 6-metre long catapult and managed to manoeuvre it up to police lines. Then they hurled three stuffed toys into the police.

One woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty walked all the way from Laval on stilts. Another group of women calling themselves The Dandelions wore t-shirts with painted slogans like "the persistent radical blossom that will always bloom." A young man painted his t-shirt with the phrase, "It's hard to hit a movement target."

Once the perimeter went down, all attention was on the intensity of the confrontation. And it was intense. As demonstrators approached the perimeter, marshals announced that people wanting to go to the safe zone should turn left. No one did. Thousands approached the perimeter. They ran when the tear gas exploded, but they came back, time after time.

Friday was the day for direct action. Today - Saturday - is to be the mass action day. More than 5,000 people showed up at Laval University for the march to the perimeter, knowing that it would almost certainly lead to confrontation with the police.

Judy Rebick is the publisher of rabble.ca. This article can also be found on Znet.

For more rabble news coverage of the Quebec Summit and its aftermath, please click here.

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