Katie Nelson is a Montreal-based activist and protest organizer. This post originally appeared on her blog Marois&Moi and is republished here with permission
When the municipal by-law P6 first came into legislation, our spirits were high and our fists still raised. Many of us spoke of the inevitable resistance to it, just as thousands had gathered to oppose its sister, Loi 78, just months before. I remember vividly the lectures hundreds would give to riot police while mass arrested on the anti-constitutionality of the by-law, on their impending doom and our uprising’s fate.
The struggle against P6 continues, now approaching court rooms and judges, and it still is an unconstitutional use of law, but our fists have weakened and our spirits lowered as the effects of anti-protest crack downs continue to repress more than just our ability to manifest, but most significantly our ability to organize together.
A protest planned for March 1st in coordination with several others across Canada, was organized against Harper. Although the two main organizers have insisted an over-seeing group, unnamed, were responsible, a decision within a small faction of people was made to collaborate with Montreal’s police, the SPVM, and cooperate under the legalities of P6.
Not long after the organizer posted the route and informed the attendees of their decision to cooperate with police, an enormous dissent grew on the event page. Most were simply asking why, while others inquiring on the decision-making process and their exclusion from it.
Within a few hours, organizers across Canada from other Anti-Harper Protest groups had stormed the page in disagreement with the persistent deletion of comments, censorship of opinions and vocal participants, the cooperation with police and the attitude of the organizers; most distancing themselves from the Montreal protest and those responsible for it.
The following evening the event page disappeared and a message was sent out explaining the organizers had cancelled the event due to bullying and intimidation. Fortunately, resistance is not owned by two individual people, nor can it be micro managed by political motive or liberal ideology. Several new events resurfaced, all calling for action in solidarity across Canada, non-compliant with P6 and anti-protest laws and open to vocalized opinions from the public.
The following few days, the true effects of police repression showed themselves, with even a sabotage attempt from the now ex-organizers on a few others, dividing groups and drawing lines in the sand of our struggle.
My position on P6, although public, remains the same as when I initially stated it: I stand strongly against anti-protest laws, including P6, C-309 and “Protest Insurance Policies” (as seen in Western Canada), relevant to political manifestation. I am indifferent, and unqualified to speak to the choices and decisions of protests which serve to platform the voices of Indigenous Rights, Solidarity Across Borders, Status for All and Immigrant Solidarity, as these struggles are not my own and I am only an ally within them, thus not a place for me to speak about the laws in which they choose or not choose to abide by.
That being said, if not now then when will we finally open the floors of discussion on police repression and the successful use of P6 in not only the streets, but in our abilities to organize effectively? When will we identify that repression and political prosecution has been an event for thousands in this city and continues to be insofar as we allow it?
Camus, in a speech given at the Labor Exchange of Saint-Etienne in May of 1953, said: “The contention was that we needed justice first and that we would come to freedom later on, as if slaves could ever hope to achieve justice. And forceful intellectuals announced to the worker that bread alone interested him rather than freedom, as if the worker didn’t know that his bread depends in part on his freedom.”
We cannot believe that by abiding by this law we will seek freedom soon thereafter. We cannot fall for the bread alone, in exchange for the nonexistent pensions of liberty.
P6 is but an adaptation of Loi 78 and this law in any form or of any name strips us of freedom, far before the thought of attaining it ever crosses our minds. The opposition to P6 is opposition from the very individuals in which the law represses. Abiding by P6 and giving a route without consulting the lambs in which these legislations serve to sacrifice is the purest and most insensitive form of non-solidarity our resistance and struggle has been victim to.
We cannot be surprised when the left pulls from calls to protest in which organizers collaborate with police, and we cannot shame those who boycott those organizers and protests. All of this leads to a much more significant question: why is this a surprise for so many organizers? Why do organizers take it personally when the very people they organize for refuse to associate with submission?
I suppose Burroughs said it properly when he said, “A functioning police state needs no police.” And with this, we must always remember: our opposition’s keepers stand in the streets with us, but only to stand across from us and never beside.
It is important that we have solidarity with allies. Cooperating with P6 and collaborating with the SPVM is not solidarity with anyone other than the state.
The question here is not do we give the route, it is how we arrive at that decision. Direct democracy is essential to the survival of the resistance, consensus should be sought and when dissent arrives over executive decisions, those organizers should acknowledge the opposition and work to compromise.
I boycotted this manifestation and these organizers not because of bruised pride or unacknowledged concerns, but because I stand in solidarity with the many thousands of people facing political prosecution daily in the courtrooms of Montreal, because these people stood with me during a six month strike and every day after, and they never compromised themselves or me in the process. We need to stand together against P6 if we ever hope of standing together against the state.
* photos by Chris Zacchia