My Day of Protest

Yesterday, as we well know, was a 'National Day of Action to Oppose the SPP' - While the major activity was in Ottawa Valley resort town of Montebello, Quebec where the Three Banditos held their North American Summit, events were held across the country in opposition to the secretive political-corporate discussions and study groups proposing a more extensive economic integration of the three North American countries.

I attended a rally in Vancouver which took place in the area on and near the front steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street.

Now available in Orange!

The rally was the second of two events taking place that day, the other being an assembly and march from Canada Place on the Burrard Inlet waterfront to the Art Gallery.

While I did not attend the 3:00pm march, you can read a summary and view pictures here. The march was organied by the local activist organization No One Is Illegal.

The protest route brought the loud and boisterous crowd first to the offices of Manulife Financial Canada where group leaders intended to enter the lobby and send a message about their displeasure to one of the Canadian participants in the negotiations, CEO Dominic D'Alessandro.

As the protestors attempted to enter the lobby, building security staff blocked the doors and a scuffle ensued between police, security and many of the protestors attempting to force their way in the entrance.  Though there was a lot of yelling, pushing and shoving the police showed restraint as they forced protestors out into the street.  No one was hurt and no arrests were made.

The march went on to loud but uneventful stops at the Mexican Embassy, the US Embassy, the Canadian Armed Forces Recruiting Center on West Georgia, the offices of Bell Canada to signal discontent to Michael Sabia, another Canadian representative on the thirty person S.P.P. panel, and then to the main offices of Scotia Bank where a stink bomb was set off in the lobby.  Rick Waugh of Scotia Bank is another Canadian representative participating in the process

Would seem then that the march was a much more raucous affiar than the Art gallery rally which began around 5:30pm. I arrived there just prior to the march's arrival.

The Art Gallery rally was organized in tandem by the local chapter of Council of Canadians and Vancouver's anti-war coalition Other groups in attendance including representative from labour coalitions, aboriginal groups, and members of the local Mexican community supporting the Zapatista resistance.

I would estimate the crowd to be in the neighbourhood of 600-700 people.

In comparison to both the protests in Montebello and the images from the local march, the rally was a rather tame and peaceful affair.

Alison from Creekside (and The Galloping Beaver) attended both teh march and rally. Seems she had the same assesment. Of the march:

..the police were exceptionally well-behaved, staying well back from the protesters at all times ... except for those incidents where they were called upon to evict protesters from the lobbies of NACC businesses enroute.

And of the rally:

In fact everyone was well behaved. So very Lotusland of us.
At one point during speeches outside the Art Gallery, I did see a very intense little huddle around two people on the ground under a chestnut tree so I went over to see what was going on. Just as I got there someone called out "Checkmate" and the little crowd dispersed.

Yes, this was not an APEC protest or a G-8 summit type of protest. Having experienced a few of those I did not expect one.
There wasn't much of a police presnece, and honestly, I did not expect much of one. Maybe six motocycle cops blocking off either end of the block of Robson between Howe and Hornby. A bit of incovenience and bother to traffic and bus commuters. I did notice that Coast Mountain Transit buses were stopped and lined up down Robson to near the corner of Thurlow. Shoppers, strollers and business people would occasionally stop to gawk and then wander off.

Oh, we did have two other law enforcement types, though not in close proximity to the event. They were standing on top of the roof of the big Sears outlet at Robson and Granville, obviously filming activities. Let's just saythey were hardly inconspicous. Most of us waved, most of us with five fingers. Heh!

So, they likely have my bearded mug somewhere. They likely have had it before. I already know they have my fingerprints.


The centrepiece on the steps of the art Gallery - and if you're an architecture buff the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was the former Provincial Court House, is a scaled down replica of the famous New York Public Library in Manhattan - was an effigy of the 'Three Banditos' behind a security perimeter/fence (dang, I should have brought a camera). Georgie Boy was the largest of the three looking like a giant pinata puppetmaster. Our 'Stevie' dangled below held by Bush's puppeteer's string, while Senor Calderon was seen clutching and holding on to Bush's right leg. They were being looked after by 'Gary, The Secret Service Man' (nice touch).

Both Council of Canadians and StopWar had info tables set up at either side of the portico. Picked up some reading material and a handful of 'Integrate This' stickers.

Integrate this

You know how protesters are stereotyped in the media? Wild-eyed, foaming at the mouth, radical anarchists? We may have had a few there. Dunno, everyone looked pretty normal to me, but then my concept of normal is most people's weird.

A truly diverse crowd - young, old, labour activists, aboriginal activists, Jews Against War, families, even some of the 911 Truth people - it takes all kinds - and FSM bless them, The Raging Grannies

I had a short chat with one woman (not a 'raging' granny) who must have been in her 70's who told me of her family's radical activist heritage. Her parents, her grandparents, her great-grandparents were all activists. Wow!

The events schedule featured a number of speakers, all bright and well-spoken, who did a terrific job of tying all the disparete viewpoints together in relation to globalization - aboriginal rights, workers rights, immigrants rights, anti-war activism etc..

Among them were
- Charlie (sorry didn't catch the last name) from StopWar and Carleen Pickard from the local Council of Canadians chapter, who were the main rally organizers
- An aboriginal representative who name unfortunately I can not recall
- Francisco Juarez, a former Canadian Armed Forces reservist who refused to serve in Afghanistan.
- Harsha from No One Is Illegal
- Former Vancouver City Councillor (from the Larry Campbell team, 2003-2005) Ellen Woodsworth who read a text message from Council of Canadians head Maud Barlow and NDP MP Libby Davies about how they were, despite prior arrangements, prevented from delivering to a 10,000-signature petition from Canadians opposed to the SPP process to the gates at Montebello

The Raging Grannies sang. Wonderful satire.

raging grannies

And for the finale, Shrubya spoke to the crowd. A hilarious edit of several speeches put together by Everyone booed loudly and it was over. The whole thing lasted about an hour and a half.

I can't leave this thing without a bit of meta.

Was it worthwhile? On a personal level, yes. I'm doing something, not being apathetic. Apathy = defeat.

In the grand scheme of things, likely no. I mean that in the sense that the world wasn't changed in any grand fashion by our presence or our activities.
There were likely no opposing minds changed by anything we did or said or heard. Media coverage, as expected, would be brief. But it is exposure.

But, anytime I attend a rally like this questions of validity rattle through my mind. Do these types of protests have any real meaning in today's world. Are they effective? Do they have any real meaning anymore?

If we look back to the era of civil rights marches, and the anti-war movement of the 60's and 70's, those were things of positive which did have a significant impact and helped push things forward.

Today, it's so much more difficult. I'm no different than most, if not all, of us. We have busy lives, we're dog paddling furiously to keep our heads above water one or two paycheques from being out on the streets. We're bombarded with media unimagined 40-50 years ago. People are easily distracted by shiny things (Ooooh, Britney! Lindsay! Brangelina!).

But also isn't what we do here, and at other places like Daily Kos, a form of protest? A way of getting information out? Does it have value and meaning?
We're here, we can think for ourselves, and hey, have you heard of this? Did you know that? If you touch just one person and turn then on to something is it worthwhile.

I sincerely don't know if that was happening at the rally yesterday. It may likely have been a 'captive' audience already aware of and familiar with all that was expressed and articulated. But I did have that feeling of getting somewhere and letting people in on things via pale excellent DKOs diary. It felt good, nay great, to witness the illumination of some already very bright minds. A sense of accomplishment, though they are but baby steps. But people are going to run and do things with that information.

So, I leave you with a question and ask for your thoughts.

Are political protests still meaningful to the public discourse? Do they mean anything to you?


Look for my picture

At the post office. I'm the guy between Chico and Harpo.

Everything's cheaper than it looks.

Just saw this at dKos...

... and thought "wow, I can go ask some people who may know what's up..." heh heh...

Police accused of using provocateurs at North American summit

I'm not really a veteran of a lot of protest action. But I've heard a few stories about police using provocateurs to disrupt peaceful protests, to give them an excuse to break out the hats and bats and bust the entire event.

Guess what. Near the North American integration summit in Montebello, Quebec, three cops were caught dead to rights attempting to turn a peaceful protest into a riot.

[quote from linked article]
A video, posted on YouTube, shows three young men, their faces masked by bandannas, mingling Monday with protesters in front of a line of police in riot gear. At least one of the masked men is holding a rock in his hand.

The three are confronted by protest organizer Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. Coles makes it clear the masked men are not welcome among his group of protesters, whom he describes as mainly grandparents. He urges them to leave and find their own protest location.

Coles also demands that they put down their rocks. Other protesters begin to chime in that the three are really police agents. Several try to snatch the bandanas from their faces.

Rather than leave, the three actually start edging closer to the police line, where they appear to engage in discussions. They eventually push their way past an officer, whereupon other police shove them to the ground and handcuff them.

Late Tuesday, photographs taken by another protester surfaced, showing the trio lying prone on the ground. The photos show the soles of their boots adorned by yellow triangles. A police officer kneeling beside the men has an identical yellow triangle on the sole of his boot.

[end quote of article] Police accused of using provocateurs at North American summit

I came here to see if this was a credible story, not really knowing which press outlets are more or less believed... Then I read this from the link from runesmith in your diary/journal (?) here:

When I first decided to go to the protests this weekend, a friend warned me to "stay away from the kids wearing the handkerchiefs". I had no idea what he was talking about, but from further reading I gathered he meant the semi-professional anti-globalization, anti-corporate, anti-capitalist activists who have become a fixture at pretty much every left-leaning demonstration for the past decade.

The kerchiefs are for the tear gas. [...]

All of these people had done this before, and knew exactly what was going to happen and what was expected of them. The police expected to be subjected to some sort of physical provocation, to which they were expected to respond with a slowly escalating sequence of counter measures. The ‘kerchief kids’ were expected to provoke the police, at first verbally and then by more physical means until the police responded, at which point they fully expected to be gassed, clubbed, and / or pepper-sprayed.

This is, of course, exactly what happened. The ‘kids’ yelled a lot, and the drums and music got louder. There may have been some pushing, although I couldn’t see from where I was. Every once in a while something went flying towards the police, mostly water bottles and fruit although I did see a couple of small rocks. Still, given the extent of the riot gear these fellows were wearing, the gesture was purely symbolic.
[...] I heard that some of the folks at the front had been pepper-sprayed. This was verified a little later when the victims were brought out, water being poured over their eyes, their faces red and nearly blistered.

Any thoughts on the story? Is it tin-foil-hattery or really plausible, in your opinions?

Totally plausible

There's precedent.

We're all over at that diary commenting right now. 

Everything's cheaper than it looks.

Do they mean anything to you?

I would like to think so, yes.
I to was awed by the wave of energy yesterday, and I was just following the whole thing without writing a word.
What is happening on this site and so many others is, to me, more of community-building, it's beyond protesting.
And that is exactly (again, in my opinion)the very foundation of change.

And yes, praise where praise is due; you people her on acr are an amazing team :-)
Can we go again? please? hehe

Now that you're being watched, are you paranoid yet?

Thanks Greenman!

And I do savour the community building.

Paranoia? Nah, won't let it get to me. I've slept in a jail cell before (no charges for that one)  they already have my prints.

I might shave the beard off, tho. Heh!Wink

Everything's cheaper than it looks.

Some optimistic sentiment

from article cowritten by CP's Jim Bronskill who is one the best damned journalists in Canada - he's an access to Infomation specialist.

Opponents of continental integration say issue gaining steam despite modest protests.

Barlow said she feels the sort of interest that helped scuttle the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in the 1990s is now building around the SPP.

"It took two, two-and-a-half years before suddenly it exploded," she said Tuesday. "We can't keep up with the huge demand for information, with the hits on our website, requests from journalists around the world. It feels to me like the MAI, where something pretty esoteric that we had a hard time getting out there, suddenly people are talking about."


South of the border, anti-SPP sentiment has spread among more conservative elements, who fear greater immigration, laxer security and a loss of jobs. Progress on some of the stated goals of the SPP has been slow and in some cases non-existent, as the appetite for the plan seems to wane in Washington.

In Canada, the New Democrats, Greens and Bloc Quebecois have jumped on the bandwagon and have been highly critical of the lack of detailed information about the SPP.

Barlow finds that encouraging.

"It's moving into the political realm and the parliamentary realm, and that's our goal," she said.

"We're thrilled that it's moving into the political arena."

Everything's cheaper than it looks.

Boots on the ground

Kudos to you. Attending a rally is certainly more than being a ' fighting keyboardist '. And a damn fine write-up also.
Political protests certainly mean something to me and are meaningful to the public discourse. Government actions and plans should be visible to the public and protests grab the news, and the publics attention. Perhaps the public will become more aware and even more, become educated about the real issues. If they can avoid the fluff and he said / she said direction of media reports there could be real awareness. From that there could be real pressure on politicians to do the right thing.

Sliding into a tangent I bring you the Hill of ( jelly ) Beans. Harper used jelly beans as an illustration of the kind of things that are to be addressed by SPP. ( Looks like a clumsy attempt at re-direction to me ).
The real deal, from The Gazette (Montreal).

"He said, 'You know, the rules for jelly bean contents are different in Canada and the United States.' They have to maintain two separate inventories," Harper told reporters. "Is the sovereignty of Canada going to fall apart if we standardize the jelly bean? I don't think so." However, Ganong says the problem lies in regulations governing nutritional labelling - not in any difference in what's in the colourful confections he makes.
"The product is not any different from what would be eaten by an American consumer or a Canadian consumer." The problem, said [ David ] Ganong [ New Brunswick candy maker ] is in the bureaucracy that surrounds the labels he affixes to his product. Small differences in the rules in each country mean he has to keep two separate inventories and pay for two separate sets of packaging.

A bit of a lame argument - Canadian labels will always be different than American labels because of they will be bi-lingual.
Harper didn't even get his facts straight. He was not likely briefed on jelly beans and was speaking off the cuff.

Other spins from The Vancouver Sun and the Ottawa Citizen.
Oh, there's more. The Nation Post spins the story as a slam on the Left. Big surprise. I have not seen many news stories as ' smarmy ' as that one. Skip reading it, it is poor journalism.

I find it hard to believe that the leaders of North America and 30 blue-chip business leaders meet and discuss mundane trade details like jelly beans. And just who will profit from solving a labeling problem. Consumers will pay a quarter cent less to satisfy their sweet tooth - big whoop.

It's a circus. A circus with an ulterior motive, IMO.