Friday April 20, 2001
I write with eyes burning from teargas. Not from mounting the barricades for democracy, but from playing ball in my neighbours' back yard on this most beautiful of spring days. Suddenly, we all felt pain in our eyes and throats, and gathered up the children to go inside. The beautiful day was suddenly sinister; we had no idea what was happening.
We turned on local radio, which was broadcasting a journalist's screams of pain as he got it full in the face. The fence was down. The war was on. No one was allowed in or out of the perimeter. We listened feverishly, while trying to prevent the older children from going out every five minutes on bikes and skateboards. They had already found some disposable dust masks. The riot squads amassing at the end of our street stopped being amused by children buzzing around them.
Where shall we hide? Should we be making a plan? Does anyone know there are children in here as well as heads of state? I don't feel brave at all.
My four-year-old daughter barely looks up from painting an Easter egg and explains to her cousin, "They don't agree with the bosses of the countries." I try to follow everything she says very closely: it calms me. We play dressing up. She dresses as a Viking with a shield and helmet. I try not to listen to the radio or the TV. I invite all the neighbours I know to be alone to come for supper - they don't have a four-year old to paint eggs with. Our local cat-lady tells stories about feline ailments and vets - also very calming. She has taped up her windows so that her cats won't get gassed.
I go for a bike ride. The neighbours I meet all have red eyes. They joke about it: "Lovely day."
The policeman on our corner asks me what's happening. He'd seen me riding my bike up to the top of the ramparts to look down at the Conference Centre, where the heads of state are meeting. There, the west wind blows gas back, at them. "They must have got gassed too," I said. "I hope so," he said. "This kind of business needs to stop. Maybe they'll realize that there's something happening here, that we need a bit more democracy."
Tonight, my brother and nephews and I go for a prowl. We see Dubya drive home to his hotel room in two limousines (he has two of everything - it keeps the enemy guessing) There is a a cortege of vehicles, bristling with men's faces pointing outwards. "Don't make sudden moves," we say to the boys. "Someone might shoot you."
We go up to the part of the fence that was pushed down earlier today. We talk to some people on the other side, mostly unsmiling young men. The police are standing in a rough column in black riot gear: gas masks, German Shepherds with little red lights on their harnesses, batons, shields. One comes up and tells us to get away from the fence. As soon as we back off, they lob some tear gas over it. They begin to march toward the fence, bashing their shields in rhythm.
I say, "I want to go home." A minute or two later, we stagger blindly, crying burning tears: we choke, yell in pain, we try to run away. My nephew bashes on the garage door of a government building. Some police let us in to wash our eyes.
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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