Saturday April 21, 2001
We eat our morning pancakes, looking wearily at the paper. My eyes and skin still hurt from yesterday's tear gas, like bad sunburn.
I go down the hill to a church service being held in four American languages. I carry a radio with headphones, and a facemask soaked in water and cider vinegar, which is in a Ziploc bag. The radio will help me figure out how to get home again through the perimeter fence; I'm hoping that they won't close it entirely. The vinegar is for gas attacks.
In the vast church of Saint Roch, people in red capes walk down the aisle carrying a long coil of barbed wire. They drape it around a giant candle, and then sing Amazing Grace. Children come and stick flowers in it. We beg forgiveness for our complacency. A framed picture of Our Lady of Guadeloupe is hoisted up into the rafters. Everyone claps.
I join the march afterwards, but don't stay long. I want to be with my family. Up the hill toward home, the staircases and road going up the cliff are jammed with people. A cloud of gas rolls down. I put on my mask. Demonstrators with children rush down side streets in a panic, throwing coats over their children. I get back through the fence just before they close all the gates again. I make it, thanks to my radio.
The neighbours are all out in the street, exchanging getting-in-and-out stories. No one can stay inside for long.
My daughter plays with her blocks on the sidewalk. She builds a fence with people inside it, and puts some more outside it. "We don't agree with what you are saying," she shouts in her demonstration voice, and breaks the fence down. The fence breakers get carried off to prison, but they break free and jump on the heads of the bosses of the countries. Finally, they get shipped off down the river in boats, still shouting their slogan.
The muscular men wearing black, bibs and yellow wires have to step over this scene as they patrol up and down the street. Their minds seem to be elsewhere.
At night, I make another sortie to the battle lines, armed with my mask. The ground is littered with rocks, stones and bottles thrown by protestors There are, of course, tear-gas canisters also. Rivers of water snake down the hill - evidence of the water canons. Nothing new, but it makes me sick to my soul to see and hear the hate. I run home past riot police sitting on a step fast asleep.
Images, smells, noises, and questions: Violence? Fear? Justice? Evil? Testosterone? Power? Mercy? Not intellectual questions, just questions shouted hoarsely at helicopters.
For more rabble news coverage of the Quebec Summit and its aftermath, please click here.
Louisa Blair is a mother and writer who lives in Quebec City. The Journal of Citizen #R7263 will be a daily account of her life behind the fence during the Summit of the Americas and the People's Summit of the Americas.
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