Thursday April 19, 2001 - Quebec City
The birds have not stopped singing. Spring proceeds.
The muscular men in black - little yellow wires beside their ears - now have cell phones clamped to their other ears. Motorcades - each preceded by about a dozen flashing police motorbikes - endlessly parade past our house. Venezuela just arrives, driving very fast. Between motorcades, the streets are silent.
At noon, police close the gates. I practise going in and out. At first, they just ask to see my security pass. Then they ask for a second piece of identification. I go shopping.
Up on the Plains of Abraham, a motley crowd of municipal workers lives in a mobile home. There are gasmen, hydro men and the drivers of ten giant tractors that are lined up under a large willow tree. "Just in case something bad happens," said the gas man, "we can rush down and fix it."
McDonald's is boarded up - it has even plucked its very name off the storefront. Saint Jean Street - by now almost uniformly boarded up - is an instant canvas for ad-hoc artists, as is the 3-metre fence surrounding the governmental summit. The paintings are alternately inspiring, ugly, violent, earnest, ingenious and derivative.
People stand along the fence reading. One sign says somewhat testily, "Things on this fence have been put here to be helpful to people. Please don't steal them." There are maps, balloons, t-shirts, banners, bras, pieces of cardboard, paintings, information sheets, tapestries, quilts.
The fence is becoming beautiful. Inside it are mostly men. The people gradually gathering outside are mostly women.
Women in blue plastic capes weave wool through the fence, using it as warp and weft. Thursday, they give me a ball of red wool. I weave for a while, too. Some of the women wail; some carry effigies of malnourished babies. Some dance with a string of bras. One man wears a gigantic golden spider on his head.
I am inside the fence, looking at the people on the outside. They have no passes. The feeling I have here is similar to the one I have about belonging to a rich country. I enjoy my privilege, feel guilty about it and start to mistrust the outsiders, even fear them. I rush out of the gate again to join the rabble, carrying my groceries.
I see three men from Saskatoon. They stayed inside the perimeter when the gates were closed. They were offering some outsiders chocolate Easter eggs, which they passed through the fence.
After school, my daughter and niece bike and tricycle down our street, past a hotel full of U.S. Marines. The children go to the utterly deserted wooden boardwalk in front of the Chateau Frontenac. For once, they didn't crash into a single tourist.
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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