(FWD) (en) MONTREAL: 100 arrested as globalisation confe

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Tue, 26 May 1998 12:32:26 -0400


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MONTREAL: 100 arrested as globalisation conference delayed several hrs

On the morning of Monday 25th of May, civil disobedience activists from
across Quebec and Canada converged on the Sheraton Centre Hotel in downto=
wn
Montreal and blocked access to several hundred business people and high
level politicians who were planning to open the Montreal Conference on
Globalized Economies.=20

The action, called =93Operation SalAmi=94 (the MAI trade-deal is known as=
 =93AMI=94
in French, which means =93friend=94, hence =93dirty MAI/ friend) was orga=
nized
from an activist network developed over the last year. Persons doing the
civil disobedience action underwent training in nonviolent direct action,
and grouped themselves into affinity groups based on student movements,
universities, regions, or other activist projects, like Food Not Bombs. T=
he
affinity groups were responsible for blocking specific entrances into the
hotel, which covers a city block along Rene-Levesque boulevard. Other
affinity group members and demonstrators took care of communication,
logistics, and entertainment.=20

Some 400 demonstrators showed their support  by monitoring police violenc=
e,
and keeping activists=92 morale high. They witnessed some 120 civil
disobedience activists risk arrest as they placed their bodies in the way
of the hotel=92s various entrances.=20

The action began at 6:30 a.m., as the CD activists began assembling in
nearby Dorchester square. The police were already onsight in large number=
s;
dozens of police vans and cars were massed behind the hotel. The police d=
id
not physically intervene at first. They videotaped activists, or did
patrols. However, one motorcycle pig could not keep himself from hurling
insults at one activist. Shortly after 8 a.m., the first SalAmi =93slice=94=
 of
about 75 activists were guarding their chosen entrances. For the next fou=
r
hours, none of the 500+ capitalist brown-nosers registered for the
conference were able to enter the hotel.

The globalisation conference was supposed to open at 9:30 am, and taxis
were arriving with their well-to-do clients after 9 am, only to find thei=
r
way blocked. The business people milled about confused,  surprised and
irritated. =93Are there other ways to get in?=94 and similar whines could=
 be
heard. =93They could try the sewers=94 some of the activists sneered. Pol=
ice
paddy wagons began arriving soon after 9:30 am. Accompanied by pigs on
motorbikes, a couple hundred business people massed in Dorchester Square,=
 a
block away from the Sheraton Hotel. The weather was sunny and getting
warmer as the morning wore on. What a sight they were, all
dressed-to-oppress and standing stiffly in the grass.=20

By 10:15 am, the police and business people had something of a plan: They
would try to cross through a one-block bank building, and break through o=
ne
of the larger blockades across the street, at the Sheraton Hotel. Some of
the activists swiftly moved to form blockades at the bank building. The
result: the bank building was also sealed off to business-as-usual, as
nervous security personnel in the bank choose to seal off the whole
building! The plan failed, and business people had to return to the park.
One activist told a business woman that they could go ahead with their
meeting; they just need to hold an open assembly in the park, where anyon=
e
could listen in!

By about 10:25 a.m., dozens of riot police formed lines around the taxi
entrance on the east side of the Sheraton Hotel. The riot squad pushed th=
e
support demo away from the CD activists, who were now being arrested and
dragged away. The police operation was overseen by top-cop Sgt.-detective
Alain Richard.=20

At nearly 11 am, several police officers unexpectedly charged into the
crowd, causing a small panic as they chased a hapless demonstrator that h=
ad
apparently spat on a cop. The officers returned empty-handed. Within a fe=
w
minutes, several undercover police men went into the crowd and approached
the anarchist activist Alexandre Popovic, who was then standing at the
periphery of the demo. The pigs announced that they were placing him unde=
r
arrest for supposedly violating a bail condition that states that if he i=
s
present in a demonstration that becomes violent, he must leave immediatel=
y.
Seven plain-clothes cops carried out this order, after top-dog Richard
pointed out Popovic in the crowd. Apart from the police=92s actions, had =
the
demonstration becoming violent?

Around noon, business people were getting into the hotel in small groups.=
 A
number of them seem to have also left the area earlier, perhaps in order =
to
get lunch in the downtown area.=20

Also around noon, an episode of police brutality took place when a number
of demonstrators and journalists were sandwiched by riot cops, and severa=
l
people were beaten with Billy clubs, or were grabbed by their faces. A
journalist with the newspaper Le Devoir was present, saying that several
media were there and witnessed or bore the brunt of what he described as
=93the police=92s ...excessive use of force against young people.=94


Around the various entrances to the hotel, police arrested and dragged aw=
ay
activists, some were injured in the process. In total, some 100 persons
were in jail early Monday evening.=20

By 1:30-2 p.m., the blockades were not only growing thin, they were also
ineffective. Police had cleared at least one opening for the business
people. The demo moved westward along Rene-Levesque boulevard, towards
Police Operations Centre South, on Guy street. The arrested activists wer=
e
brought here, and plans are to keep a vigil during the night. It is quite=
 a
morale-booster to be greeted by comrades when the police decide to releas=
e
you after the last metro (subway) has passed. At 2:30 p.m., a demonstrato=
r
from the UK, Craig Meulen, was arrested in front of this police HQ. His
crime: juggling on side stairs right next to the police HQ. He had to be
dragged off by two officers, and since he does not understand French, he
could be heard saying "I didn't understand the order..."

Some of the arrested will likely be released during the course of this
evening, others may be arraigned in court in the morning. Even if they
contest unconstitutional bail conditions (as has been done successfully i=
n
the past), they must have a bail review hearing within 48 hours of their
arrest. In the case of Alexandre Popovic, who was arrested for a supposed
breach of bail conditions, things are less straightforward. He could
potentially spend much more time behind bars. But in the opinion of
constitutional  and civil rights lawyer Julius Grey, the authorities must
be able to show that that in Popovic=92s case, the demonstration was no
longer peaceful, and that he did not leave a demonstration that was
supposedly turning violent. =20

On the six o=92clock TV news, all the media considered the action its top
news story, and made a fair effort to consider the ideas and motivations
behind the action. The footage they showed was unflattering to the police=
,
and generally favourable to the demonstrators. Quotes from the demo=92s
spokespersons were also not overly clipped, out of context, or meaningles=
s.
The 11 p.m. CTV national news also treated it as their top news story, an=
d
they also looked at some of the provisions in the MAI. Other stations als=
o
gave it considerable coverage.=20



=20


***********************
Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's origin=
al
virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through
disobedience and rebellion.=20
-Oscar Wilde





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