We can report that the lawsuit student protester Katie Nelson brought against the Montreal Police (SPVM), certain officers and the City of Montreal has been settled. That’s pretty much all we can report as Nelson isn’t allowed to discuss the terms of the settlement.

During the 2012 Quebec Student Protests (aka Maple Spring), Nelson amassed over $6000 in tickets including for things as banal as spitting on the street and swearing. Realizing that she was being specifically targeted by police and singled out for fines (some officers even referred to her by name), she decided to take the cops and the city to court for political profiling. We had a chance to speak with her in 2013 shortly after she launched the suit.

Since then, she had continued to participate in protests and speak out against various forms of oppression and violence, both caused by police and the state and not. All the while, she made many court appearances fighting her many citations and preparing for her profiling case.

In December 2015, she was attacked from behind and briefly hospitalized during a nighttime protest after she identified some officers from her case undercover dressed as protesters. She claims it was one of the undercover agent provocateurs who knocked her to the ground, a claim that was not confirmed by police but verified by photos and videos and others at the scene. The December incident was not part of the 2013 motion.

While Nelson’s lawsuit didn’t end with a mass public shaming of the Police Department and heads rolling (figuratively, of course) at the SPVM as a new precedent set as many may have hoped, it also didn’t end with Nelson losing and another unfortunate precedent set. The suit was settled, and that’s all we can tell you.

* Featured image by Thien Vo

Donald Trump held a rally in Buffalo last night. More important than the Don remembering 7/11 was the fact that a group of protesters (both inside and out) got their message across. Only two arrests were made and no violence was harbored.

Buffalo was not happy about the arrival of Donald Trump. We did not shut down the hate monger’s rally, rather we celebrated what counts with a dance party: Love and Freedom. We told the world that Hate is not acceptable in our city or anywhere.

All of the beautiful energy of this event was captured by Buffalo photographer and activist Pierce McCleary

(CLICK ON THE FIRST IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY)

Donald Trump ProtestDonald Trump Protest

On April 17th Donald Trump will be at The First Niagara Center in Buffalo NY… lovely.

All of the hair on my body stood up, I had heard rumors that he was coming, I was ready for it, but still a wave of fury coursed through my body when I read the date.

I suddenly feel like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone, I want to start setting boobie traps to catch this man in the act like the Wet Bandits. What do you do when you know evil is about to knock on your front door?

I have never been more angry about a politician in my entire life, and believe me I am not a fan of politicians, in the current system we have in the United States they are pretty much all bad news, with very few bright spots (#FeelTheBern). Donald Trump is a black hole of stupid comments and even stupid-er faces, his hate filled agenda and ignorant stance on every topic that means anything to me is enough to make me want to scream. I am disappointed in the American people for allowing this to go on as long as it has, even most Republicans dislike him.

Never Trump

I am a calm and loving person, not wishing harm on any creature but like most people I want to charge and tackle him, shave that stupid comb over off his head, and tar and feather the pompous sonofabitch. He degrades women, supports racism and xenophobia, loves violence, wants to build a wall around us, and has no intent of doing anything but glorifying himself and big business.

He is a media king, he knows how to get the headlines, and stupid people support him, the same people that watch Nascar and hope for a crash, the same people who passed around the baby dolphin to take selfles with it until it died, the same people who don’t lend a hand to someone who has fallen into a subway but would rather take a video of them getting hit by the train, the same people who spit on those who are not like them, the ones who bash gays and blacks, the ones who watch Fox News, the people who date their cousins and expose themselves to kids at playgrounds, the same ones who drown puppies and put their grandparents in terrible retirement homes. These assholes have power in numbers too.

I would love to set up fake polling stations in U-Hauls in all of the Wal Mart parking lots across the country that say Vote for Trump Here, this way all of the Trump supporters will just cast their votes there and think that they done good. Any person who says they like Trump because he “speaks his mind” is a true idiot, sure he speaks his mind, but every word sucks! There is nothing good in there.

We cannot fight hate with more hate, life is about loving one another and spreading positivity. In order to make the world a better place we cannot feed the snarling monster.

I want to be the first person to hug him when he gets off the airplane, because honestly I feel sorry for anyone who harbors that much hate. He must have been abused as a child, people just don’t come out evil like that, it takes some wrong doing.

Buffalo Feels The Bern
Buffalo Feels The Bern! #Bernlesque

The only way to protest this event is to be peaceful, anything but non-violence and positivity will be counterproductive. We are not like him, we don’t want to incite a riot.

Blocking roads and being disruptive will do nothing but fuel the fire, we cannot egg on or even engage the antagonists. We must make signs and artistic displays that show our dedication to community and freedom in general.

Like other Trump rallies I am sure there will be a designated area to protest, which I still think is ridiculous. I want to go inside, because I know I can as white person. Racial profiling at the gates and blatant abuse of anyone who “defies” Trump is rampant at these events. People are getting pepper sprayed and physically harmed due to the color of their skin or the clothes they are wearing.

This is the point where my white privilege can be allow me to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sure, I would love to dress in full drag and burst in with a super soaker full of fake blood and shower ol’ Donny with a Gwar style Buffalo welcome, but again we have to be smart about things.

We have to have power in numbers and create a positive environment of peace, tell him NO, this is not going down in my city, my country, my planet! Together we can stop him. Stay safe and stand together! Love is the only answer.

On Friday night, protesters successfully disrupted a rally for Republican presidential frontrunnner Donald Trump. When the race-baiting businessman realized that anti-Trump activists made up roughly half the crowd, he cancelled the event. Then he went on the offensive. Predictably Twitter moaning about freedom of speech:

First, Trump clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, that the right to free speech enshrined in the US Constitution (the states doesn’t have hate speech laws like we do in Canada, where Trump could probably be charged) doesn’t work that way. As this civil rights and constitutional lawyer pointed out:

What is really ironic, though, and what would really be tragic if Trump ever ended up in the White House, is that his recent rally rhetoric promotes an attack on the very constitutional right he claims he was denied on Friday.

Trump’s “Good Old Days” Were All About Suppressing Free Speech

Over the past few weeks, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to attack protesters more and more. As Rachel Maddow and others pointed out, this was most likely a deliberate attempt to provoke violence so he could claim he was the victim.

What is the most troubling about his rhetoric are his constant references to the “good old days” where there were “consequences” for protesting and protesters would most likely be “carried out on a stretcher.” To be clear, Trump misses the use of state violence to stifle dissent, to stifle free speech.

While his hypocrisy is palpable, so is the (perhaps willful) ignorance of his supporters. That they can claim to support a right while championing someone who seeks to repress it, most likely in a brutal manner, when in power, is stunning.

It’s About the People Rising Up, Not Politics

By Saturday, Trump had already named a culprit: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. This was based, at least on the surface, on the fact that some of the protestors inside the event were vocally supportive of the Vermont Senator and completely ignored all the other protestors inside and the thousands in the student-led demo outside.

For his part, Sanders responded the best way he possibly could:

“As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests. What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama.”

In response, Trump threatened to send his followers into a Sanders rally and now the story has basically turned into Trump versus Bernie, at least in the mainstream press. While this will help Sanders in the upcoming primaries, especially given Hillary Clinton’s lack of support for the protesters, it distracts from what is really at play here: that a group of protester, mostly people of colour, were able to stop a Donald Trump bigot love-in.

Maybe Trump can’t fathom or admit the truth, so blaming a well-organized political machine is the only way out. I think, though, that admitting it wasn’t a power play but rather a play against power makes it impossible to deny that it is the protesters who are on the side of freedom of speech.

Donald Trump’s rights were not violated Friday night, he was in the power position while seeking a greater power position. But if he becomes President, you can believe he will do his best to eliminate the right of free speech through protest for everyone.

Our 16th podcast is our holiday/2015 Year-in-Review Special. Regualr panelists Jerry Gabriel and Josh Davidson discuss some of the top events and stories of 2015 including the Canadian Election and the rise of Justin Trudeau, Just for Laughs, the Quebec anti-austerity movement and police repression, Bernie, Hillary and Trump, the Montreal music scene and more! Plus the Community Calendar, Sergakis Report and Predictions for 2016!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Josh DavidsonFTB food columnist

FTB Podcast also available on iTunes

FTB Podcast: 2015 Year-In-Review Special by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

It’s not a new thing, really. In fact, it’s something people who participate in protests with less than a hundred thousand marchers have known for a while. It’s also something that numerous people (frequently visible minorities) who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time have been painfully aware of. Montreal police are out of control.

On Friday night, we got more proof that this, sadly, is very much the case.

Agent Provocateurs Get Identified and Violent

Katie Nelson (photo Sophia Sahrane)
Katie Nelson (photo Sophia Sahrane)

It was a night time anti-austerity demo. Montreal Police (SPVM), as usual, were out in full force. This time, though, some of them were part of the crowd, dressed as hardcore protesters ready to employ Black Bloc tactics. The police even admitted, after the fact, that there were undercover officers present.

One protester, Katie Nelson, who is well known to police because she is suing the department, the city and certain officers for political profiling, saw some of these fake activists trying to stir things up and make the crowd more rowdy and violent. A standard agent provocateur tactic: give the uniformed police and riot squad a justification to stop the protest and make arrests.

The thing is, Nelson recognized one of the undercover officers as someone who is a defendant in her lawsuit. As she told The Gazette, she confronted him with this and started to let her fellow protesters know that this man was a cop. He has since been identified by people who were there as Phillip Touchette, badge number 5886 (see featured image).

A few minutes later, she was on the ground. Someone wearing a mask had pushed her from behind before joining a group of police officers. She was released from the hospital early in the morning after suffering a concussion, a knee injury and a large contusion to the left arm which is now in a splint.

There are also reports of an officer brandishing a service revolver in front of a group of protesters.

A Threat to Society

One thing is clear. A police officer who decides to seriously injure someone who poses no threat to them physically and is not behaving in a violent manner clearly has unresolved rage issues. You get called out as an undercover cop, you walk over to the uniformed riot squad officers and disappear behind their shields. You don’t lash out or have your colleague lash out for you.

Maybe it was out of fear of looking like a failure to superiors or maybe anger over Nelson’s case. It doesn’t matter really. These cops should be given counselling at best, not a badge and a gun.

But is it really that simple? Can we simply chalk this up to a few bad apples? Will taking away their authority solve the problem? No, not at all. Though for the sake of society as a whole, they should be stripped of any authority.

Bad Choices at the Top: Laziness or Intimidation?

Forget for a moment the systemic problems inherent in an oppressive, militarized force used as defenders of the state. Instead take a look at the specific case of the SPVM and the decisions at the upper levels that went into what happened on Friday.

Nelson was able to identify the undercover officers because they were defendants in her case. The defendants in her case are all officers who were regular uniformed fixtures during the 2012 student protests in Montreal.

Think about that for a moment. Someone part of the SPVM brass thought it would be a good idea to use police whose faces are known to protestors as undercovers among those very same protestors. Can they really be surprised that someone identified one of them?

Are they really that careless? It’s possible. After all, the reason all those P-6 tickets got thrown out of court wasn’t because of the unconstitutional nature of the law itself, but the grossly unprofessional way the SPVM decided to issue the tickets.

Maybe they disrespect the protestors so much that they don’t think any of them will remember the faces that were wearing uniforms the other time they marched. Wouldn’t surprise me considering the kind of officers they hire.

This corner-cutting, half-assed attempt at a police state seems to be the Hallmark of the SPVM. Guess no one told them that totalitarianism is an all or nothing sort of thing. The word itself even starts with the word total.

Or, possibly, is there something else at play here. Something intentional. A special kind of asshole bravado, an intimidation tactic that boasts: “We don’t care if you can identify our undercovers, we’re going to send them anyways and if you call them out, you will be dealt with. Complain to the media all you want, people will ignore you.”

It seemed like that was going to be the case this time. Original reports from all media, except Concordia’s The Link (which did some really good on the spot reporting this time) treated Friday night’s events as routine: some violence, some arrests. It was only after Nelson’s story started making the rounds on social media that they started reporting the real story: undercover cops physically assaulting protesters for identifying them.

Whether the SPVM brass’ decision came from a place of laziness or arrogance, our response, as a public should come from a place of outrage. They let officers who clearly had violent tendencies they could not contain work undercover at a protest and as a result, someone ended up with serious injuries for merely performing a community service by identifying police who were in the protest to cause trouble.

The Montreal Police are out of control and something needs to be done.

* Featured image by Martin Ouellet

* UPDATE: Katie Nelson has launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover her legal and medical expenses related to the attack. You can donate via Generosity.com

Panelists Niall Ricardo, Rich James and Jerry Gabriel discuss the terror attacks in Paris, the Quebec Superior Court ruling that using the Highway Code to kettle protesters is unconstitutional and the Mayor of Verdun lying to City Councillor Sterling Downey to prove a point (includes an interview with Downey). Plus another Sergakis Update, the Community Calendar and Predictions.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

Niall Ricardo: FTB contributor, student, political operative

Rich James: Self-taught legal ninja, songwriter

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

The full Sterling Downey interview up soon on ForgetTheBox.net

FTB Podcast #14: Paris Attacks, 500.1 Protest Ruling and Fake Skateboarding Injury in Verdun by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

FTB Podcast also available on iTunes

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

In the days following 9/11, then-US President George W. Bush urged Americans to go out and shop. If not, then the terrorists win.

His premise was that the goal of terrorists is to disrupt a culture they hate. It’s simplistic and ignores several mitigating factors and reinforces the Us Versus Them narrative. It was also clearly a pitch to keep American capitalism from falling in the toilet.

However, if you accept his premise and ignore his motivations, then his logic is sound. That is probably the only time I will say that about the most duplicitous and ridiculous President in American history, but if the shoe fits…

(sorry, had to)
(sorry, had to)

If you accept that the goal of terrorists is to disrupt Western culture, then shying away from a key aspect of it does, in fact, mean that they accomplished their goal or that they won.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not bringing this up to justify or agree with anything Dubya did or said. Instead I’m trying to point out that his simplistic logic may give progressives a way to preserve the fundamental right to protest in a time of increased political repression operating under the guise of security.

Paris Attacks and the Climate Change Summit

Fourteen years and a few months after Bush urged Americans to shop, the Western World was rocked by another major terrorist attack. The assault on Paris last Friday, while not near the bodycount of 9/11, had a similar jarring effect on the culture in France and around the world.

Now that we are in the initial stages of rebounding from such a tragic assault, we’re getting images of Parisians going out to cafes and other public places, determined to show that their lifestyle, the Western lifestyle, will not be interrupted. Also, the Paris International Climate Summit, or COP21, will go on as scheduled.

Well, not all of it will. The heads of state and their entourages will show up. They will talk, form panels and talk some more and, of course, talk to the press. What we won’t get will be the marches, protests and other “outdoor activities” that usually accompany such global events. The French Government said that such events will not be authorized out of security concerns.

Outrage and Strong Arguments Preached to the Choir

This decision by the Hollande Government, understandably, wasn’t well received by pretty much everyone on the left of the political spectrum. There were social media comments on how this was nothing more than an opportunistic police state taking advantage of a horrible event. There were very intelligent op-ed pieces from people like Naomi Klein on how this would muzzle those most affected by climate change.

paris riot squad

I agree with all of it. The problem is, me and people who think like me or close to how I think aren’t the people that need to be reached. Shouting in the echo chamber that is the political left just won’t cut it this time, no matter how well-formulated and reasonable the arguments are.

When terrorists strike, quite a few otherwise reasonable and intelligent people are, understandably, scared shitless. Nuanced arguments don’t hold the way they do in normal times. Those hoping to establish a police state know this and are always ready.

Time to Dumb it Down, Bush-Style

It’s time for a new tactic. A new argument. One that will stick even with those temporarily thinking with their gut or their fear. The good news is we already have one.

If you want to know why blocking the right to protest at the Paris Climate Summit is terribly wrong, read Naomi Klein. If you want to convince pretty much everyone of this fact, even those on the right or the far right of the political spectrum, look to George W. Bush for inspiration.

The best part is, in this case, it is not just strategy, but the absolute truth. What is more fundamental to our culture than the right to free expression, the right to assembly and the right to dissent from and express your displeasure with the powers that be?

If the terrorists hate “our way of life” then they surely hate our rallies, our solidarity with fellow activists, our ability to protest the government (or multiple governments) in a very vocal and public way and our “freedom” to dissent loud and proud.

The right to protest is far too important to let slide in the face of so-called security concerns. While your anger, and my anger, may be currently directed at those who choose to use public fear to stifle dissent, making them the proverbial bad guy in this case doesn’t help.

It is a far more effective tactic to look beyond and remind those who would seek to cut off protest just who will ultimately benefit from such an action. The right to public dissent is, after all, far more integral to open and democratic culture than people shopping.

If you agree and want to make sure that everyone gets the message, then push aside your loathing for simplistic arguments and repeat after me:

“If we can’t assemble in opposition to the government, then the terrorists win!”

“If we lose our freedom of expression, then the terrorists win!”

“If we can’t protest, then the terrorists win!”

Panelists Jordan Arseneault and Cem Ertekin discuss the potential ramifications of Bill C-51 becoming law, summer protests in Montreal and what artistic events they’re looking forward to. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

    Panelists

 

Jordan Arseneault: Séro.Syndicat // Blood.Union, It Could Get Worse, freelance journalist, FTB contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor

Sit-in protest segment by Cem Ertekin

FTB PODCAST #6: C-51 Becomes Law, Summer Protest in Montreal & Community Calendar by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer Hannah Besseau
Sit-in protest segment by Cem Ertekin

In our second FTB Podcast, we discuss Printemps 2015, Quebec’s new student protest against austerity. Also, the role of the US, the UN and austerity in the coup in Ukraine. Plus, our first Montreal Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

    Panelists

Katie Nelson: anarchist, student, #manifencours participant

Der Kosmonaut: poet, political philosopher, geopolitical analyst, blogger @ der-kosmonaut.blogspot.com

Drew Wolfson Bell: sports Editor at the McGill Daily, third-year Education student

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Last Saturday on October 4, over a thousand people gathered under the rain to commemorate the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada. Gathering at Place Émilie-Gamelin, the demonstrators then marched on Sainte Catherine, and then on Saint Laurent, and then all the way to Parc des Amériques.

On the way, the demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Solidarité avec les femmes autochtones!”, “How many missing, until you start listening?”, “Break the silence, end the violence!”, and “Bring our sisters home!”

In case you really wanted to be there at the march, but weren’t able to make it, or if you are simply curious as to what happened on Saturday, below you will be able to find a gallery of pictures taken there.

Missing and Murdered IndigenouMissing and Murdered Indigenou

Click on the picture above to open the gallery. All photography is by Isabel Lee.

 

 

I didn’t go to the Montreal Anti Monsanto March Saturday. It’s not because I’m lazy and it’s not because I support Monsanto, far from it. They’re a horrible company and protesting them is necessary.

I didn’t go because the organizers decided to follow the wholly unconstitutional bylaw P6 and provide the SPVM with their route. It’s not as though they didn’t know it was a problem.

For weeks, activists posted on their Facebook event page letting them know why this is wrong. They even started polls and event attendees voted almost unanimously not to provide a route. Instead of taking potential participants’ wishes to heart, organizers deleted the posts and kept with their line.

They cited security concerns. Now while I can understand someone not wanting to bring their kids or themselves into a mini war zone, that wouldn’t have been the case with this march.

The SPVM have made it crystal clear, in action though not in speech, that they’re not shutting down protests like this one, route or no. They didn’t enforce P6 at the anti-Harper rally after activists convinced organizers to not follow P6 and don’t get me started on Habs victory celebrations.

Montreal Anti-Monsanto March 2014 (7)

No, the SPVM have made it clear that they’re only kettling, fining, arresting and even injuring protestors at marches they deem undesirable like student protests, the Anti-Police Brutality March and May Day to name a few. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

It’s also why all activists, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, need to, at least symbolically, oppose P6. If the SPVM can decide what protests are okay and which ones can’t happen (don’t kid yourself, submitting a route for their approval gives them that power) then we’re all screwed.

Whether you’re fighting for immigration reform, against police brutality, against whatever it is the right wing protests or against Monsanto, it’s your right. If you let the SPVM take that away from some people then they could very easily take it away from you, too.

If you’re against Monsanto then you should be against P6. When enforcing this horrid law, the SPVM are acting like Monsanto.

Monsanto genetically engineers our food supply so we get Franken-foods. P6 gives us Franken-rights.

It’s just a route, a simple request. Well, it’s just corn, GMO corn, a simple alteration.

Monsanto pits neighbour against neighbour. The SPVM pits activist against activist. It’s working on both fronts.

Montreal Anti-Monsanto March 2014 (6)

Monsanto forces farmers to buy their terminator seeds by selling them to the farmer’s neighbour and then threatening legal action when the wind blows a few patented seeds from one property to the other. The SPVM sells one group of activists the idea that they’ll be fine if they take one simple step and submit a route and then uses that group’s acquiescence as justification to both physical and legally attack another group who didn’t buy their rights-terminating bylaw.

In both cases a foreign body is introduced into an ecosystem that doesn’t need it or want it. Terminator seeds and P6 are both poison.

If you want to think local, think about not staying silent when the SPVM and P6’s political supporters, our own local Monsanto genetically engineer our rights. Then protesting the conglomerate will make sense.

Photos by Iana Kazakova.

 

Stephen Harper doesn’t usually visit Montreal and you can understand why. He doesn’t have any elected representation on the island or even near it, he only gets invited to speak at small private and expensive gatherings of the business community and when he does show up, there’s always a welcoming committee that he would rather do without and does his best to avoid.

Yesterday was no different. When Harper showed up at the Palais des congrès to speak on the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement at the invitation of the Montreal Board of Trade, who was charging $1000 a plate for this lunch, there was a protest outside to greet him.

Organizers at Concordia’s Quebec Public Research Interest Group had less than a week to prepare, but still managed to mobilize a decent crowd to show up at 11:30 am on a Friday. There was also another protest marching through the east end at the same time protesting Harper’s cuts to Employment Insurance and a much larger anti-austerity demo with more planning time scheduled for 2pm.

Protesters assembled in the fake green space across the street from the main entrance of the Palais, signs and banners in tow. While I don’t know what this pseudo grass was doing there, it made the spot look like one of those designated protest areas, which the assembled activists soon grew tired of.

Anti Harper protest Montreal Nov 15 2013 a

When it looked like most people had arrived, the group headed across the street, Jaggi Singh of QPIRG spoke on the megaphone and the crowd had generally jovial interactions with the SPVM officers flanking the building. One activist even started chanting “This is what a moustache looks like” to one of the cops who looked like Tom Selleck, presumably for Movember.

As this scene transpired, a group of riot cops assembled around the corner, an ominous though small reminder that there was still a police state in effect. When half of them broke off and marched right in front of the protest to station themselves around the other corner, the protestors started singing the Imperial Death March (Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars).

I have to admit, I like Star Wars references in popular culture but when I see (or hear) one at a political demonstration and it’s an accurate assessment of the situation, I think it’s perfect and in this case it was. Despite the nonviolent approach the police were employing, I can’t forget that this is the same SPVM riot squad that kettled some of these same people for hours with no good reason just a few months ago.

I have to admit, I was a bit concerned that recent history would repeat itself when I heard that chant that anyone who’s been to a protest in Montreal in the past decade knows very well: “A qui la rue? A nous la rue!” But it didn’t.

Anti Harper protest Montreal Nov 15 2013 b

The group started marching in the street, circling the Palais a few times and even reversing direction once. The best part was when we passed under the building, with tunnel-like acoustics giving protesters’ voices a beautiful echo.

At one point during the march, two bike cops were riding on the sidewalk and a few protestors decided to use their voices to remind them that bikes belong in the street. The officers listened to the makeshift traffic cops and stopped breaking the law.

Expert provocatrice Katie Nelson, known for exposing police political profiling through a lawsuit, today exposed a security flaw with side doors to the Palais de Congres. Although a cop thwarted her first attempt, she succeeded the second time, opening a door that led to the inside and Harper, then stood there and let the SPVM know that they had failed. Admitteldy, if most of the protest hadn’t already been forced to the opposite sidewalk, she may just have ushered a bunch of them inside the building.

This playful competition between activists and police took me back to protests I had attended years ago, before the unwarranted crackdown during the Maple Spring and the ensuing repressive P6 kettles. It seemed like activism was alive and well in Montreal once again.

There was no teargass, no new armored tank-like thingy the SPVM just purchased, just peaceful protest and a nonviolent police response. Exhilarating feeling aside, I wonder why this was the case.

This wasn’t a protest made up of senior citizens and children in strollers, the bulk of those in attendance were pretty hardcore, including the CLAC. These are the same people the police targeted both during the student protests and later, when there was an attempted resurgence after Marois came up with her own tuition increase.

Maybe it has to do with Harper. In fact, I’m sure it has to do with Harper.

Anti Harper protest Montreal Nov 15 2013 c

Nobody ’round these parts likes the guy and I think that includes the cops. So, while they will do their job and protect him, they clearly don’t have the same gusto and desire to quash the peaceful rebellion they do when it’s a provincial leader, be it Charest or Marois, in the activist crosshairs.

If this had been, say, a student protest, with the same protestors in attendance behaving the same way, things would have ended differently. In fact, within minutes of activists taking the streets, there would have been a police kettle.

It is widely known that most Montreal police don’t live in the city, but they do live in Quebec and that is where their loyalty is. I only hope they realize soon and en masse that their provincial masters in Quebec City are just as pro-austerity, anti-worker and for an elite class that doesn’t include them as Harper is.

I also hope that they realize opposition to Harper means standing up for Idle No More-affiliated Native activists as they stand against Harper’s devastating ecological policies which affect us all while asserting their own self determination. The SPVM embarrassed themselves when they tore down a tipi recently and even compared the Native activists to occupiers, apparently irony isn’t something they teach police trainees.

There are a long list of reasons to oppose Harper, the group who organised this protest outlined a few on the Facebook event page. I can only hope the SPVM officers realize that its those reasons that got people to the streets and not the fact that Harper is some douche from Calgary (or Toronto) that none of their friends voted for.

Harper is a figurehead, as is Marois and Charest before her. If the SPVM are cool with activists protesting one, then they should be cool with the same people protesting the others.

The state is the state. As agents of the state, SPVM officers should learn that and realize that they actually don’t work for the state, in theory, but the people, the same people they kettle for protesting one leader and exchange jokes with when they are targeting another.

We need more vibratnt and fun protests like this one in Montreal that aren’t crushed before they have a chance to get going. I hope we don’t have to wait until Stephen Harper returns for that to happen.

* photos by Jay Manafest, you can see the full album on our Facebook page

Can a military coup ever be a good thing? Well, until Wednesday, I didn’t think so. Now, I think that there is one and only one set of circumstances where a country’s armed forces ousting a democratically elected government is both positive and democratic change: when those forces are following the will of the people.

No one can tell what the future will bring in Egypt, so I’d like to clarify that my opinion is based on my current understanding of the situation. My perhaps oversimplified understanding breaks down like this:

1. Fed up with decades of oppression, the people of Egypt rise up and demand dictator Hosni Mubarak step down. The military eventually backs the protesters. Mubarak resigns.

2. The people vote in Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the country’s first democratic elections ever.

3. The people are unhappy with Morsi’s performance and even less so with his restrictions on their personal freedoms, despite promises that he wouldn’t restrict freedom of expression (best summation of this I’ve heard comes from The Daily Show).

4. They rise up en masse. Some call it the largest protest in human history, while others deny that claim, they all admit it was damn big.

5. The military backs the people and removes Morsi from office, temporarily putting Adly Mansour, the head of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, in charge until new elections can be held.

Basically, the people elect someone, they’re not happy with his performance, they want him removed and he gets removed and there will be new elections. I don’t have a problem with that.

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Barack Obama has a problem with it, he says he is “deeply concerned.” So do some Republicans in Congress. Some are even urging him to withhold the aid the U.S. sends Egypt every year.

The American response is expected. They were already rattled when the people forced their close ally Mubarak out and now the new guy they also don’t mind working with is gone as well. No one knows who they’ll have to deal with next.

Their response is also quite hypocritical given the number of times they have looked the other way when democratically elected governments fell to armies. There’s also all those times the states engineered coups themselves through the CIA.

Rhetoric aside, this isn’t really about whether or not it’s okay for the military to take power, something that should never be acceptable. Egypt’s military didn’t seize control and install a dictator, they followed the wishes of the masses, removed a leader from office and made way for new elections.

True, Morsi hadn’t served his full term. But Egyptian democracy is still a work in progress, the details will come with time. We just got one procedure of democracy in Egypt.

In some countries, there are highly bureaucratic ways to remove an elected official who has broken the public trust and become autocratic before their term is up. In Egypt the process is simple: get enough people into the streets.

This is an experiment in instant democracy. It sets a precedent and that’s why western leaders are scared.

Say a politician in the west gets elected on the promise of more jobs, but neglects to mention that those jobs will all be prison guards ’cause he’s gonna build more jails and throw a bunch of people in them. Now imagine this is a parliamentary democracy like Canada and this leader has a majority government and can’t be removed for four years.

By then, the damage might be done. What if there was a way to call bullshit and force a new election?

You’d better believe that politicians would think twice about doing something that may cost them their job sooner rather than later. They’d also think twice about gerrymandering or caving to lobbyists, because they can be fired by their real bosses, the electorate, in an instant.

Stephen Harper isn’t afraid of a robocall scandal, Toronto can’t even get Rob Ford out of office. But if what just happened in Egypt inspires a form of instant democracy in the west, minus the military aspect (I don’t for a second believe our armies or police work for the people), then we could be in for some real change.

If political office ceases to be long term contract work and democracy can happen in an instant, politics will change forever. The most important democratic movement yet may have been made possible by a military coup.

 

As I clicked on yet another internet petition, this time designed to stop the reckless destruction of Oceanic Eco-systems ( AAVAZ.ORG “24 hours to end Ocean clear-cuts”), I realized that I was participating in what has become an increasingly alarming or encouraging trend, depending on how you look at it, in political activism: the internet social network driven protest. In a 2007 interview with CNN, Canadian celebrity lefty and best-selling author Naomi Klein made the following observation about this novel form of registering one’s anger over alleged injustices: “It’s safer to mouth off in a blog than put your body on the line. The Internet is an amazing organizing tool but it also acts as a release, with the ability to rant and get instant catharsis. It’s taken that sense of urgency away.”

Despite her quasi-celebrity status, Ms. Klein has no time for what she calls “Bono-ization” of the protest movement. A phenomenon whereby celebrities take on popular cause célèbre (i.e. developing world debt) and lobby governments (I.e. Paul Martin) to take action. This may alleviate some of our guilt in the developed world over the seemingly horrible social and economic inequities that have been caused, in part, by the globalization of the economy, but it is, in her view, a kind of vicarious protest, at best, and very unlikely to put serious pressure on politicians or cause any substantive changes at the policy level.

In the interview, Ms. No Logo goes on to urge us to take our protest to the next level by leaving the comfort of our homes and getting involved in confrontational, and indeed, potentially dangerous direct action type protests. “We have had mass social movements that are messy — and that leads to some kind of negotiation and some kind of representation. What I see from the Bono camp is that they dismiss street protest as a bunch of gripers, whereas they (Bono) are being constructive because they are engaging with power”

While I would concede that online petitions lack the drama of street protests and direct action, I’m also skeptical about the possibility of finding causes that will truly bring people out on to the streets in an effort to change the hearts & minds of our leadership and the general public. The cynicism with which most people view mass demonstrations is unfortunate but understandable, and is related to the inability of recent movements to reverse the course of governments in certain highly controversial cases. Take the anti Iraq war protests, for instance. Massive protests were held all over the world, including Canada, against this war (over a million turned up in London alone!). The result of this: In Britain, at least, absolutely nothing. The Blair government had already crossed the Rubicon, and decided to join the US on its inexorable path to war. In the face of such appalling disregard for the voices of protesters, can anyone really blame people for being less and less likely to take to the streets? Bono may look ridiculous sometimes, mugging for the international press in the company of war criminal and buffoons like former president George W. Bush, but there is little doubt that his heart is in the right place as he attempts to persuade world leaders to address the issues of poverty and the growing disparity between haves & have nots.

But the greatest rebuttal to this plea for less internet activism and more traditional forms of protests must surely be the recent examples of internet activism that led to actual revolutions in places such as Egypt and Tunisia. Let’s never forget that so many of these protesters were able to co-ordinate their actions through the social networks (i.e. Twitter). Not to mention, disseminate the latest news from the street to the whole world using internet activism, giving us all the vicarious thrill of participating in a bona-fide old school revolutionary movement! The likes of which hasn’t been seen since the end of the cold war.