Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.
New York -For the past 101 days (and counting), students in Québec have been on strike and in the streets against a crumbling education system that seeks to burden them with more debt and restrict access to education for the 99%. In recent days, hundreds of thousands have been in the streets of Montreal. The state’s response: Bill 78 – a Draconian piece of legislation that essentially outlaws mass demonstrations and severely fines those who participate.
Enraged and inspired by the images from Montreal and the recent #noNato protests in Chicago, a small but militant group gathered in Washington Square Park. It was Occupy Wall Street’s second night in a row marching in solidarity with the Québec student movement. We spent a good amount of time talking about what we wanted to do. Should we march or have a rally? Should we be doing outreach about the student struggle as well as marching? And what do we do about the ever-increasing police presence in the park (one count put it at 50 cops for about as many occupiers).
So we did what occupy does best: break-out groups. In small groups around the park, some of us drafted a statement of solidarity in English & French while others came up with an action plan for the march. I joined the statement-writing group and we hammered out a poignant few paragraphs in a short time. Luckily, some French speakers were on hand to translate as well.
As we were discussing the statement, the action planning group wrapped up and told us the plan as clandestinely as possible. After we reconvened and read the statement, the plan was to go “civilian” and find each other again on the corner of Broadway & West 4th Street, then march to Union Square.
The solidarity statement was mic checked by everyone in English and French. It rang through the park:
“To our sisters and brothers in Québec as you enter the 101st day of the strike. For the second night in a row, we have assembled here to stand in solidarity with your fight for the human right to an education for all. Despite underrepresentation of your strength, your numbers, and your message in the mainstream media, we are watching. We at Occupy Wall Street honor your bravery, creativity and commitment to an organization built on direct democracy. You are an inspiration to us. You are not alone. Our grievances are connected. Your struggle is our struggle. We will continue to show our solidarity for as long as continue to fight in the face of the repressive laws of an illegitimate political regime. Stay strong and don’t give up the resistance! Thank you for fighting for all of us, and for future generations. We love you! Solidarity!”
Video via @diceytroop on Twitter:
And then we dispersed, jokingly saying “bye!” and “see you tomorrow at 4 on Broadway” and giving out hugs and kisses. 15 minutes later we were together again, only this this marching north on Broadway. There were no cops. It was jovial. We weaved through oncoming traffic chanting “From Montreal to NYC, education should be free!” Some people didn’t take too kindly to us. There were shouts of “Get a job!” and someone even threw a water balloon at us from their apartment window. But there were honks of support as well. We stayed on the street the whole time and were small enough to move quickly and avoid police.
When we arrived at Union Square, we read the statement again and cheered “SO SO SO, Solidarite!” After a while a group of occupiers, high off the adrenaline of the streets, decided to head to Astor Place for an impromptu party. I decided to hang back in the park. There was talk of another march tomorrow. People liked the idea, some even said we should be marching every night. Amongst the twinkling of fingers and nodding heads I heard someone say the perfect phrase for what we were all feeling: “infinite solidarity.”