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Infinite Strike | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "infinite strike"

Grand Disruption of Grand Prix, Montreal, Night 46


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–Ah, what an unexpectedly grand disruption of the Grand Prix, right in the middle of its own excessive and expensive street party, on night 46 of continual disobedient & always illegal streets demos! Or rather, grand disruptions, from crashing into the heart of the F1 festivities basically through a not-there-one-minute, but definitely-there-the-next “flash mob” casseroles; to later marching outward from the party that so many had disturbed and suddenly becoming not hundreds but thousands, who then seemed to disappear as quickly as they appeared when the cops shot rubber bullets and tear gas at us, only to reappear, reconverge, and retake the Grand Prix partiers’ streets. Hours of this self-controlled chaos meant that the massive amount of riot police were running every which way, often seemingly getting kettled between us, and it became nearly impossible multiple times to tell “protester” from the mobs of “other” people, because so many of those other people seemed to be joining in, or at least pretty clearly anti-cop, and often actively so. Surreal mix of huge amount of police in full gear, huge amounts of Grand Prix attendees in their own absurd full gear, and huge amounts of people with and without red squares contesting them both.

There’s so much I want to say about tonight, but it’s so late, and I can only muster a few thoughts.

For one, it was a joy to run for a bit with the CUTV crew, who are increasingly turning from livestreamers to live alter-newscasters, with good cheer and tenacity (even after, yet again, being attacked by police last night). If you haven’t watched, recommended, contributed to, said thanks to, or spoken with the CUTV folks, do all that and more soon.

Second, it was a delight to be in the streets, subversively and illegally, with so many who show such courage, calm, and grace under pressure, without fear and with the offensive, but tonight in particular, displayed an intuitive collective intelligence. It’s a mystery how people knew what to do when, where, and with whom; it was a pleasure to know that within all the spontaneity and unpredictably, people were making smart and strategic decisions. We were side by side with many expensive, fancy cars on display when we crashed the party, but no one trashed the cars; yet when we were side by side with many expensive, fascistic cops, people stood their ground, chanted “a-anti-anticapitalista,” and, say, threw eggs toward the police when tear gas came at us, but kept focused on the collective goal of making sure that “business as usual” (capitalism in the form of F1) can’t happen in the face of austerity measures and special laws making dissent a crime.

Third, it’s clearer than ever that maple spring has indeed become maple summer, and it’s deeper and wider than ever. Unlike any other protest or mass mobilization, or even occupy, that I’ve been to and participated in, this North American uprising isn’t an “us” versus “them,” or “protesters/occupiers” and “nonprotesters/occupiers.” Not everyone in Quebec is on the side of the student and social strike; that’s not what I’m arguing. But many, many, many people are–many people of all types–blurring the lines between protester and populace, because the maple summer has become popular. The police can’t police, because they can’t even tell who is or isn’t in a demonstration; who or who isn’t on a street “legally” or “illegally”; who or who isn’t in a big group walking around in evening to go to a festival or bar, or to bang pots & pans or engage in demonstration. Because it isn’t clear. I stood on various corners this evening along St.-Catherine, near Crescent and Bishop and other F1 party areas, and it was near impossible (save for some clear garish Grand Prix dress) to separate out the discontented from the drunk. It was a grand disruption of many more thousands than one could obviously “tag” by seeing a red square.

Maybe, increasingly, it could be said, “we are all wearing a red square.”

Unlike any other social movement or near-riot or other rupture I’ve personally experienced, there’s actual social power, because there’s a profound depth not simply of sympathy but also engaged support and even more engaged participation–often at a moment’s notice, like tonight, when the cops moved in en masse with batons and tear gas and rubber bullets, there were more people, not less.

It isn’t about the street fighting, although this evening, it felt totally right to upend this capitalist, patriarchal display of frivolity and uncaring–a sort of “let them eat cake” moment while the rich fill their bellies with liquor and power. Or try to. Because what this is about is, precisely, power–the hierarchical power that the elites and the police and the provincial government is losing, and tonight seemed to have lost, and the still-informal power-from-below that people have taken for themselves here in Montreal and environs. Street disruptions like this, where anyone or everyone could be (or is) on the side of popular power and social change, can only control the streets when there’s already been months and indeed years of organizing through student associations, general assemblies, anticapitalist convergences, and other groundwork; when people forget that they are scared and cowed, and instead believe that they are strong and have agency over their lives, since they can feel their own collective power in their bones and see it in the faces of so many around them, and know they aren’t alone anymore in wanting a far, far better society; and when little kids can hold pots & pans and become menaces, who just might grow up to be marvelously different people in a marvelously different world than we can imagine today.

– Cindy Milstein –

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Jail Solidarity in Chicago


Chicago, IL–Jail solidarity is one of those amazing things that has come out of Occupy but that you don’t hear talked about outside of the movement.  In case you aren’t familiar with the practice, when arrests happen at an Occupy protest, we gather outside the jail and hold vigil until our comrades are released.  This often involves staying overnight, but people bring food and a spirit of solidarity, making the most of the situation.

While working my second job of the day this past Wednesday, I was monitoring Twitter and feeling a bit guilty.  Some of my friends were in Wisconsin, marching against the failed Walker recall. Other friends were marching through downtown Chicago to the Canadian consulate in solidarity with the student protests in Quebec. And there was a memorial to a beloved mental health consumer and advocate who passed away in her sleep happening at both mental health clinic occupations.

I was missing all of the above because I was working, but I felt guilty because I had slept between jobs that afternoon instead of stopping by one of the mental health clinics or doing other Occupy activities.  I know that it’s a good idea to sleep on occasion, but with so much going on it’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough.  Or at least that I wish I could do more.

I’m a nanny, and I was cuddling with an adorable baby girl (who happens to also be my niece) that evening, checking Twitter between wiping her spit-up.  As I watched in horror, my Twitter feed started to blow up.  First I learned that one friend had been arrested in Milwaukee as others were trampled by police horses.  Within minutes I was seeing tweets from my friends in Chicago describing unprovoked police brutality and many violent arrests.  I saw pictures of police officers using metal batons on protesters and heard that one young female comrade was surrounded by six cops, beating her brutally before they arrested her.  I was in shock; I hadn’t expected a relatively ordinary march to end this way.  My heart sank as I read the names of my friends who were taken away by the CPD, seemingly targeted for being main organizers within Occupy Chicago, but some of the most sincerely peaceful people I have had the honor of meeting.

Until this week, I had not participated in jail solidarity actions because one of my nannying jobs starts very early in the morning.  As I watched the violence unfold, however, I did some quick mental calculations.  I had slept several hours during the day; I could probably stay awake through the night and head directly for my morning job, given enough coffee and adrenaline.  By canceling a couple of daytime appointments, I could even get a nice nap in later.  It was the least I could do for my friends (who were later joined by those violently arrested in NY).  So I went home to get a change of clothes, some snacks, a blanket and pillow, charged my devices, then headed back into the city toward the jail.

As I pulled up across the street, I could hear them still banging on pots and pans, making quite a ruckus through the otherwise still night.  There were about 25 people, with more arriving periodically.  I said my hellos, gave a brief statement on livestream, and found a spot to set up.

A short while later, a group of plainclothes cops came out of the station.  The leader of the pack approached us with a printed copy of the sound ordinance in hand, telling us we had to stop making all that noise.  I didn’t hear the rest of the confrontation because I was distracted by a plainclothes cop who had come around the side, where I was sitting.  The most polite way to describe him is “meathead.”  He was wearing a tshirt that said, I kid you not, NATO SUMMIT 2012 – WE WOKE UP EARLY TO BEAT THE CROWDS.  He spent the next several minutes trying to provoke us and shining his flashlight in our eyes and cameras when we tried to take his picture.  Luckily we did get a couple of photos, even if they aren’t as close or as clear as we would have liked.

After that confrontation, however, they mostly left us alone.  We settled into card games, conversations, food runs, and cuddle piles.  We were able to use the bathroom inside the station, but it meant walking a gauntlet past at least ten pissed off cops for the dubious privilege of using a metal jail toilet.

Photo by Rachel Allshiny

At about 2am, I bedded down.  I never quite got to sleep, but I spent the next few hours lying on the sidewalk, drifting in and out of the conversations around me.  When there was a lull in conversation, the rustling of the rats in the bushes took over.  At about 3:30am the first camera crews showed up, but once I saw another press liaison had it covered I hid from the bright lights under my blanket and tried to tune it all out.  I gave up at 5, accepted a donated cup of coffee, and started getting ready to head to work.  None of the arrestees were released until after I left, so I didn’t get to hug them, but I’m glad I spent the night regardless.

Those early morning hours were very meaningful to me, and I wish I had enough words to express what I felt.  I was aware that I had given up the comfort on my bed to not-really-sleep on concrete in solidarity with my friends in Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York who were doing the same inside jail cells.  I felt the warmth and camaraderie of my friends around me and those at home sending messages throughout the night.  I was overcome with the knowledge that if and when I got arrested for exercising my First Amendment rights, these same people would rally around me.  And I knew that I was part of something special, something that no cop in a stupid tshirt could take away.  We’re a family, and a community, and a force to be reckoned with.

Morning came and I went back to what I call my civilian life, but the experience of jail solidarity will always stay with me.  Unfortunately, it’s an experience I expect to have many opportunities to repeat in the near future.  But these arrests don’t weaken us; they make us stronger, individually and collectively.

I’ll see you all out in the streets.

– Rachel Allshiny –

Editor’s note: This post is one of many recounting events on June 6th, in which cities all over the world marched in solidarity with protests in Quebec. You may read about New York’s march here, an arrestee’s account of the experience here, and multiple points of view of the same march’s first five minutes here. The photo for this post above is by Abel Mebratu.

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Anticapitalist Kickoff to Grand Prix, Montreal, Night 45


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–There’s nothing like walking for some 4 to 5 hours, yet again, through Montreal with hundreds and hundreds of riot cops in tow–rows and rows of police cars with lights on, squads and squads of heavily suited-up cops in formation and running every which way, lines of police guarding any and every street leading to Grand Prix festivities; white vans with “intervention” written on the side, empty city buses waiting to be filled with people like us, a cop helicopter looming above. But there’s also nothing like walking for those many hours and kilometers, for the first time during my maple spring-summer stay, with hundreds of “veteran” anarchists–from CLAC, a relatively longtime anarchist organization, and people who’ve been to many a mass mobilization and other mayhem, such as Quebec City during the alter-globalization days–along with lots of new anarchists–many clean-cut students, such as the ones pictured below, walking from the Metro to the 5 p.m. planned disruption of a fancy Grand Prix dinner by anticapitalists/anarchists. There’s nothing like being on the streets of a city where people, anarchist and otherwise, don’t seem to be afraid of the police anymore.

The police always try to find ways to make people feel afraid, of course. This morning at 6 a.m., at the start of this weekend’s Grand Prix grand battle, for instance, they targeted specific anticapitalist/anarchist organizers’ homes and made some arrests. And after only a few minutes of anarchists and other radicals meeting up at the appointed spot at 5 p.m. to attempt to block elites from eating together–with one anarchist contingent arriving in a bloc fronted by two banners (pictured just below)–riot police swooped in from all sides so fast we didn’t know what hit us, and suddenly, I and several hundred others were kettled, pushed together by heavily suited cops with batons racing toward us menacingly. Then just as suddenly, four riot cops ran into our packed kettle, snatched a person, and pulled them out for arrest.

All this did, however, was kick people into organizing gear. Some folks handed out bilingual flyers made by CLAC with a CLAC legal support number for this weekend. Someone else gave me and many others something to use if the police used tear gas. People shared water, and wrote friends’ numbers along with the legal number on their bodies, loaning out pens. I was supposed to meet up with a friend for this demo, but he got delayed, and some new Francophone acquaintances (swiftly turning into friends) took this Anglophone into their temporary affinity group.

Beyond organizing, the fear tactics only served to increase people’s resolve. As cops shoved into our imprisoned mass with batons and some pepper spray to grab other folks (we heard they wanted people in masks, or as one friend tweeted to us later, “people in black with umbrellas”), anarchists linked arms, stood their ground, and tried to repell the police–and actually managed to “unarrest” some folks within the confines of our kettle. People screamed at the police; police made fun of them; people looked them in the eye, up close, when they charged in. After some 10 to 15 arrests, the police pulled up a white van with “technology” written on the side, pulled out a microphone, and suddenly–after maybe an hour–declared our kettle an illegal assembly and that we should disperse. As one of my comrades yelled back, “It doesn’t look like your own police can follow orders,” since not a one of them moved to let us out. This only increased the sense of nonfear and courage among us. And then, oddly, the riot cops parted, and we raced out–quickly reforming into another, even bigger anarchist bloc–thanks to other folks waiting for us outside the kettle–taking over streets and heading toward Crescent Street, where other Grand Prix visitors were partying.

One of my new friends needed to get his bike, so we left the march for a bit, and on our way to find it again, we saw police cars whizzing by, and a random woman near us suddenly screamed at the police with all her might and gave them the finger, many times over. My new friend looked at me, and basically remarked, “See, people aren’t afraid anymore.” This happens a lot, increasingly, he told me. He himself hadn’t ever really gone to demos or done any organizing before this, but when the government decided not to negotiate with CLASSE, probably the most radical and articulate of the student organizations, and isolate it a couple months ago, he suddenly realized that he couldn’t stand on the sidelines. In our kettle, he was among the first to link arms and push back against the riot cops when they pushed in with batons & spray to grab person after person.

We found one of our comrades from the earlier kettle, and she told us that the police had again attacked the anarchists, much more heavyhandedly this time, and arrested some more people. But for a third time–or at least third to my knowledge, because there seem to be different illegal marches each night in several or many places at once–anarchists regrouped, this time for the 7:30 p.m. “naked” student march (as in, I presume, the government isn’t being transparent with us, so we’ll be transparent to them). The numbers of fearless folks increased dramatically, into the several or many thousands, in a park, where to start this Grand Prix disruption march, some students draped a huge statue with a red cloth, and then several male-bodied students climbed up to the statue’s pedestal and stripped off their clothes to the cheering crowd below–with one of them sporting a red square stuck just above their penis. (Here’s a nice panoramic view of that scene, courtesy of a twitter post.)

With enormous red flags on tall poles leading the way, our semi-clad, barely clad, and completely naked mass struck out to push our way into a section of the city where Grand Prix visitors were lavishly wining and dining on public streets set aside for that purpose. And fully and overly clad riot police were soon everywhere, diligently shadowing and hounding us, but the march only grew louder and prouder and more naked, until we reached a point where it seemed we’d been kettled again. My anarchist crew and a bunch of others darted into what appeared to be nearby escape areas (one of my new friends laughingly said, “You don’t want to be arrested again, do you?” and gestured for me to follow into a big parking lot filled with fancy cars). In a flash, big riot cops with batons raised were racing toward us, as we darted between cars, and I along with my friends got shoved away from the cars with those batons. Lots of chaos; still no fear; and yet another regrouping and massive march.

More fearless and illegal taking of street after street, and more riot cops chasing and blocking us, as we headed for the opening night of a big outdoor French-language music festival near the Place du Arts. Yet again, kettling seemed likely. Yet again, people dispersed and regrouped, and suddenly we ended up in front of the free festival’s free entrance, with a line of riot cops keeping thousands in and us out. Hundreds of people on the inside, right behind the police, waved red pieces of cloth, joined us in chants, waved their solidarity, raised their fists, and some folks inside the free music festival dropped a big “FUCK CAPITALISM” over the side of the Place du Arts, also waving to us. We stood by the police line, facing them, ignoring them, looking at our comrades–people, so many varied types of people, who seem to be supporting this day-after-day-after-day struggle with both less fear and heightened hopes.

We heard there was another demonstration on the other of the festival–the group that had met up at the usual 8:30 p.m. nightly rendezvous point. My impromptu affinity group (all publishers, writers, and editors, and all or most of them anarchists) had mostly gone home by this time, and the last to stick with me, another new friend, said she was tired and was going to call it a night. I headed off in a different direction, and instantly saw 50-75 or more police guarding their own police station, and then in another block, a city bus sat idling with the destination “special” illuminated on its front and its lit interior filled with police; it soon raced off, followed by dozens and dozens of cop cars with their sirens blaring, and I heard the helicopter moving off with them too–off quickly, toward what was likely the other demo a mile or so away.

I kept heading home–about a 45-minute walk–and soon came upon another street festival. St.-Laurent was closed for blocks, and its bars and restaurants were extended with tents onto the street. People were drinking and eating, as if the scenes of radicals and police engaged in far more confrontational and tense situations than usual had not happened. Were not still happening. It’s hard not to start disbelieving, I thought, as I trudged wearily; so much boldness, and talk of that only increasing as the summer wears on and especially the school year starts (or doesn’t!); so much talk of not simply striking students but widespread unrest and anti-austerity sentiments. Widespread politicization and radicalization, and it’s spreading, inspiring others in provinces outside Quebec and places outside Canada. As the rain started to lightly drizzle, and I turned onto yet another street–St.-Denis–closed for yet another summer festival, still filled with tourists and bar-goers and others seemingly oblivious to social strike, in the distance, I heard the faint sound of pots and pans, the faint sounds of now-familiar French-language chants. (These chants are spread far and wide across Montreal nightly with the casseroles and marches that they are hard to get out of your head; earlier today, for example, I heard what looked like a 4-year-old absentmindedly singing one of the chants while she waited near me for the Metro–here probably home to dinner, and me heading with dozens of others marked by a red square on their backpack, hat, or shirt to the 5 p.m. anarchist convergence/disruption.) The clamor quickly grew, and there on this Montreal summer festival street appeared about 100 people in an 10:30 p.m. casseroles, making this uprising a festival of their own, as the rain started to come down harder. Because likely it will get harder, this weekend of attempted Grand Prix disruption and in the weeks and months ahead. Yet it doesn’t seem like much of anyone fears the difficulty.

As I reached my temporary home, I heard sirens and a helicopter, switched on CUTV’s livestream and glanced at twitter, and realized, yet again, on this night and probably a whole bunch more, anarchists and would-be anarchists and people acting anarchistically were taking over other streets, in flagrant and increasingly fearless defiance of special law 78, even as the cops were probably trying to stop them.

– Cindy Milstein –

 

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NYC Casseroles March: Multiple POV’s from the Chaotic Start


Editor’s Note: This story is a collection of short first-person accounts from the same five minute time span at the chaotic start of last night’s Casserole march from Washington Square Park in NYC. We believe that the truth behind any story is shared by the many who lived it. If you were there, send us a short account (200-300 words) from your point of view.                                                         —-

Joe Sutton – This march was my friend Audrey’s first action, and as we began the march I warned her that it’s very easy to get separated—so I wasn’t surprised that I’d lost sight of my affinity group pretty much at the moment we left the park and moved east on Washington Square South, though I tried to stay by Audrey’s side as a first-timer.

Like last week, we’d taken the street immediately after leaving the park, but as the front of the march turned south on Sullivan there was a lot of commotion ahead of me. I couldn’t see from my vantage point what was going on, but it was simple to guess: police rushed in to push protesters to the sidewalk, arresting anyone in the street. There would be no repeating last week’s free exploration tonight. I rushed ahead to the corner of Washington Sq. S and Sullivan, where I saw my friend Danny. He told me our friend Nicole got arrested. Was John (her boyfriend) with her? Was he arrested as well? “I don’t know,” Danny told me. For a moment I saw Nicole, hands behind her back, pulled away by an officer; I saw other familiar faces from the solidarity marches in conversation and shouting matches with the police.

The march began to move on, and I turned around and noticed Audrey was no longer with me. I knew she couldn’t have been arrested, as she’d been on the sidewalk by me during all the confusion. But since I was the only person she really knew on the march, I worried where she might be now in all the chaos. I tried to call her, but no answer—and I saw that my phone would soon die. I also noticed a missed call from John, and sent him a text asking if he was okay. Danny had disappeared, and I was now meandering alone at the back of the march unsure of where my friends had gone.

 

John – We stepped out of the park and immediately took the street. Police on foot and scooters, who had mobilized across the park, raced toward the front of the march and we turned left onto Sullivan Street to try and avoid them.  From the east we poured onto Sullivan and from the west police ran in; there was a surreal moment when we all mixed together, racing south on the asphalt. I was near the front and heard a police officer next to me yell “Start grabbing people!” At the same moment he grabbed my shoulder and jerked me back toward him. I lunged toward some protesters on the sidewalk and they reached out, grabbed me and pulled me away from the officer’s grip. I ran through the few protesters and police ahead of me and turned the next corner. Fearing the officer who grabbed me may try again, I took off my sweatshirt and stuffed it into my backpack—the hood had partially ripped off in the struggle.

I doubled back to check on my friends, and saw my girlfriend Nicole handcuffed and surrounded by police. The march was already starting to move on but the scene was still hectic. I crossed the street and got right next to Nicole. Her arresting officer was very sympathetic and pulled her aside to let me take her bag and talk. She even allowed us a kiss and for a brief moment considered just letting Nicole go before a higher ranking officer yelled “Get her in the van!”

“I’m sorry I have to do this, I wish I didn’t” the officer said with genuine concern as she took Nicole away.

You can see the police and protesters seemingly marching together at the start of this video. For an angle from across the street with great footage of the arrests see the bottom of this post.

Nicole Rose – Pan held high, spoon in hand, we marched south to evade the wall of blue under Washington Square Arch. The mood was jubilant, skies had cleared and the clanging of pots and pans was so powerful it became difficult to decipher the chant that had begun. Still high off the fumes of last week’s NYC Casseroles Night we were ready to take our message to the city once more. By the time I was able to understand and join in the chanting (1..2..3..4 STUDENT DEBT IS CLASS WAR) I was being slammed against a car. Frantically, I tried to turn around to see what was happening, figure out why I was being arrested. I was greeted with the response of “we’ll get to that later” and cold, tight metal cuffs.

Blinded by flashbulbs, I scanned the crowd for my boyfriend. We were pretty close to each other when we left the park and I was worried he had been grabbed too. Thankfully, after being thrown against a few more cars and finally onto my knees, I saw him, free. I breathed a sigh of relief. After unloading my belongings and some phone numbers on him, we kissed as I made my way to the paddy wagon and my comrades. I was honored to be standing next to them.

 

Adam H. Becker – How wonderful after the rain with blue sky coming in from the west to start marching for our righteous cause. We passed the fountain and my girlfriend and I decided to walk up to the front. On the south side of the park we started west with the happy din of pots and pans and enthusiasm. Just as we turned down Sullivan Street, empty of any traffic, the police came up on foot and scooters. Most people were not around the corner yet and not many of us were on the street. I did my usual thing of ignoring the police behind me on their scooters. No police said anything to me. There was shouting. I turned around and I saw a guy, whom I have seen at other events, face down on the ground with police on top of him. I stood and watched while hitting my small frying pan with a wooden spoon. Everyone was yelling but I was just watching hitting the spoon so hard that it broke, the head flying off awkwardly onto the lap of the cop on the scooter next to me. Next thing I know someone grabbed me and said I was under arrest. I asked why and told him that no one had asked me to move. The younger cops did not even know the names of the streets or where they were (whereas I have lived in this neighborhood for many years). The angry white cops in white shirts were yelling at the young recruits, mostly of color, about how to do this and that. I told the police that I was in a lot of pain from the restraints they put on me and that they were being cruel. My left hand is still numb as I type this.

 

Julia Reinhart – I’ve attended many Occupy Wall Street marches and actions since last September, mostly working as a photographer, some very large, others on the smaller sides. This week’s casserole march however included a record in how quickly NYPD stepped in to crack down on marchers. We had just left Washington Square Park and entered into Thompson Street when a group of marchers took the street. I was still on the sidewalk when next to me a white shirt cop with a bull horn started shouting at protesters to get off the street. From that moment on it usually takes a few minutes for things to get heated, but other white shirts started grabbing marchers pretty much immediately. It seemed to me that the cops knew who they were after, as I saw them grab some but not others initially. Three arrests happened literally right next to me. Usually I have to muscle my way into a throng of people to get a good arrest shot. Now they were right there. And we hadn’t even marched further than 200 feet from the park … Editor’s note: All photos in this story by Julia Reinhart

Video by WeAreChange.org

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.

This post is also one of many recounting events on June 6th, in which cities all over the world marched in solidarity with protests in Quebec. You may read about an arrestee’s account of the march here, and a longer account on the progression of the march hereA story recounting jail support in Chicago may be found here.

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Montreal, Night 44: Some Short Notes on Another Long Evening


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC – Last night I joined about 9 people in a casseroles in Montreal; tonight [June 6], consecutive evening number 44, there were thousands, boisterous and carnivalesque, overtaking the streets to the cheers of people in houses and bars and cafes as we marched. I also stumbled across the Ecole de la Montagne Rouge crew at the start of the march. They were all wearing red coveralls with their collective name screened on the back, printing big posters on white paper in red ink to connect cuts to the arts to increases to education, as long lines of folks eagerly waited their turn for a fresh print, which many then pinned to their bodies for the march or took home as a revolutionary souvenir. A couple hours later, when the march passed the art students as they were packing up, I asked them if I could stop by their studio sometime in the coming week or so, and they said, “Come with us now!” reaching out a red-ink-stained hand to shake mine but quickly realizing a hello and smile was a better idea, as I trooped after them to their studio.

I want to write more on the culture & geography of resistance, and some of what I saw at Ecole de la Montagne Rouge’s giant 2-room studio, with their many screen-printed posters crawling up the high walls, and big cardboard posters leaning against walls, with sticks still attached so that two people can easily carry one sign in a demo. But for now, since it’s late yet again, seeing this space where striking students have been making art for months now–inspired by May 1968, Black Mountain, and Poland, as one of them told me, but also this movement and their excitement about it–only confirmed what I’ve felt on the streets when seeing art & revolution: that the two (movement & art) are hand in hand. Here, in this gorgeous studio, with the friendly group of artists happily showing me around, it was clear that their art is of and for the moments, the many moments, of maple spring. As one of them explained, they pull from the ongoing current events, quickly responding by quickly making a new design, trying to use French word plays and double meanings within images that, too, offer double or multiple meanings. We want to keep our art open, said one of the artists, so people can interpret it and make it their own.

One of the Ecole de la Montagne Rouge’s recent comrades, a sociology student this fall (“maybe,” he joked), went image by image with me, translating the varied meanings of words as well as art, and filling in some history, especially Quebec movement history, for me, such as the “Refus Global” (Total Refusal) manifesto by a group of 16 artists and intellectuals that is viewed as one of the influences for Quebec’s Quiet Revolution in the 1960s and, as my guide explained, for the students now. As he talked to me about the Total Refusal’s manifesto, he pointed to his arm with a finger, ran the finger up his arm, and smiled, “Look, I have goosebumps just talking about it.”

One of the red-outfitted artists, with ink spots decorating his coveralls, said that the student strike had always been about something larger than a tuition increase. The increase, he noted, wouldn’t even impact the current students, since it would take several years to go into effect. It was always about future students, he went on, but more than that, about anti-austerity and, indeed, the future. He gestured with his hands, drawing them from his sides upward, saying that this student strike has brought out what was underneath: the feelings, concerns, and desires of people generally. For him, that was also about Quebec removing itself from Canada, not being under Harper, but being, in his words, its own state instead of a province–and a French-speaking one.

He and my impromptu guide both indicated a phrase on one of their posters in particular: “le combat est avenir.” It was printed on cardboard, back when they used to print more of their posters in quantity on cardboard as signs for demonstrations (paper is now easier for them to carry and print on in larger quantities, my guide said). I hope I’m not doing an injustice to the translation that they described, but they said “avenir” offered the mixed meaning of “in the future” and “to have” or “with a future,” and if I understood correctly, “for a future”–all added to “le combat” or fight. One can then see the waves as moving toward a future or creating waves now to make a better future, or other interpretations. Again, that’s the intention, the artist said: that even if I am translating it incorrectly, I’m drawing out my own meaning, engaging with the art and its words through the lens of my (and thousands of others) participation in, to borrow a grammatical phrase in English, a “future perfect.”

As for the march itself, there were so many poignant scenes on tonight’s manif in Montreal, from hearing and then seeing small casseroles after casseroles at various intersections as I walked about 2 miles to the usual 8:30 p.m. march meet-up spot, including going down one whole block where people filled nearly all the balconies on both sides to bang their pots & pans (all of them cheering enthusiastically when I strolled by and banged on my lone pot in return below them), to finding thousands converging at 8:30 in costumes, with big banners & flags & signs, a variety of instruments, and so much cookware making so much noise it reverberated for blocks away as I approached, to whole open-air bars full of people who stood up to applaud and bang whatever they could when our march quickly & loudly went by.

I felt on a rollercoaster of emotions, propelled by the sense that this is what revolutionary social transformation really feels like. Night after night, and often day after day, people are engaging in widespread direct actions. It is not “just a march.” It is a walking toward the future, grabbing the future now. People are daily defying the laws of state–and have been now for months–to begin to make their own promises to each other, from students finding their voices and own education through blockades, pickets, making huge free meals during them, teach-ins and media (the art students showed me a weekly journal/booklet they’ve been designing for student writers and poets), to the populace now reshaping civic space and creating a people’s festival season (as I watch the Grand Prix start its build-up of a festival for the rich), to starting to meet more of one’s neighbors and also rethink neighborhoods via the beginning of assemblies. It’s hard to capture in words, but being on the street here each evening feels utterly distinct from the word used to describe it: “demonstration.” My reinterpretation or misinterpretation of the French word “manifestation” for that English-language term feels closer: something is continually being manifested on the streets.

So especially as the several-thousand-person march I was in almost ran the last long block of St.-Denis toward the Mont-Royal intersection (some 2 miles back right from where I’d originally come) where another thousand people “waited” for us with their march and a sit-in against arrests and repression–with the volume turning up so much I could barely hear myself think–I shed some tears at the beauty of it all. Equally, I felt the joy that accompanies the struggle of change, tonight in many forms, including several instances of anarchopanda echoes on hats, stuffed animals, and backpacks. And I felt awe at how doggedly determined this increasingly dispersed “refusal” and “reclaiming” is when, walking home after midnight from the Ecole de la Montagne Rouge folks–so awe-inspiring in themselves, already having produced this huge, living, useful, agitational, and remarkable body of work that continues to grow, alongside a movement that’s growing in similar ways–I ran across a small troop of extremely loud marchers-casseroles-chanters making their way along the bar area of St.-Denis, just as exuberant as when they likely headed toward the future some 4 to 5 hours ago, and some many weeks and months ago.

-Cindy Milstein- 

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Montreal, Night 43: Sometimes Less Is More


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC – This evening [June 5th], I returned to Montreal for another taste of maple spring, stepping out of the Metro at 7:45 p.m., just in time for a chilly rain to start falling in the Plateau, and then made it to where I’m staying by 7:55 p.m. After some 2.5 weeks of almost no sleep, exhaustion finally caught up with me. I had this notion that I’d be sensible and take it easy–on the 43rd night in a row of illegal street demonstrations in this city. But about 8 minutes later, in the distance, slowly growing louder: pots & pans.

Three days ago, while I was far away in Baltimore at the Mobilizing and Organizing from Below conference (where I heard a Quebec student striker, also at this conference, say that the key to this Canadian uprising was and is the assemblies), there was a daytime demonstration here in Montreal. It was raining then too, but several thousand people marched through the streets anyway–yet again–with their resolve seemingly only strengthened–yet again–by the government breaking off of negotiations with the students last Thursday. A banner at the front of this march read: “This isn’t a student strike, it’s a society waking up.”

 

So despite my weariness, I grabbed my now-trusty pot and what’s left of my metal spoon (sans the spoon, which decapitated itself after three nights of beating last week, and thus is now a metal stick), and headed out into the dark drizzle. I was glad to see a bright red fabric square hanging off the balcony of the apartment where I’ll be staying–added after I left last Thursday. At the same time, I felt sad not to have the apartment’s resident and my new friend by my side tonight. We met through an old friend, on much more riotous streets a couple weeks ago, before the casseroles began yet right after the “special law 78″ had passed, and she’s kindly been my host ever since. During my previous visit, we went out every evening together to the disobedient demonstrations, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of people, as well as on the enormous day-100 march, which saw something upward of 500,000 clogging the streets. Now, she’s away for a couple weeks, and is doing me the incredible “mutual aid” of loaning me her home; it felt funny to head to the casseroles without her.

The bustling intersection a couple blocks from her apartment had been a hot spot for pot and pan banging before, so I expected the same this evening. At 8:15 p.m., though, when I rounded the corner, there were only three women, hooded up in their rain jackets, banging away. They cheered as they saw me coming with my pot, raising their pots in unison and greeting me warmly–in French. I somehow explained that I don’t speak French, and they somehow explained that they don’t speak English, but that only increased all our smiles, as we all raised our pots and the volume together. Some other kind of language was happening in the intimacy of our tiny casseroles. And so perhaps 10 minutes later, after 1 more person joined us–again to happy cheers and raised pots–a police car also pulled up, and one of the women turned to me, laughing defiantly, and said in bad yet discernible English, “Cops!” She grinned widely, then banged her pot all that much more loudly, this time in the direction of the police car.

Still, not so disobediently, we walked back and forth across the intersection, in the crosswalk, when the red light stopped traffic for us. As the rain kept lightly falling, I felt the dampening of the magnificant and massive social strike I’d experienced on my prior recent visit. I kept glancing up the busy street in one direction and then the other, hoping that a large group of people would come marching down the street–in the street, illegally–to meet us, as had happened before, but no, not tonight. My 4 companions, strangers all but likely neighbors, chatted away happily with each other, in French, and kept smiling happily at me, and all the while kept banging away at their cookware. They didn’t seem to notice in the least that we were so few. I recognized half of them from earlier casseroles, and it was clear that they were glad for the chance to converse and glad, too, for the opportunity to keep up the momentum of these nocturnal manifestations of people power. I was just about to leave, because it felt so dispiriting, when in the distant we at last heard other pots, and then saw a loud and rebellious crew–of 4. They swiftly marched up to us, yelling happily at the tops of their voices, and that in turn dramatically increased our collective noise.

The 9 of us created metallic, grating music of solidarity, and I decided to stay. We weren’t exactly breaking the law–a small group of us on the sidewalk. But when our miniscule numbers converged, everyone’s spirits seemed to soar, as if there were indeed thousands of us, as if we were indeed holding down what’s almost become a tradition of nightly resistance, as if it mattered that we were offering ourselves along with our lungs and our arms and our legs to this uprising. Despite the language barrier, for now a few others spoke English-only, we all gestured that we needed to march, and I had the feeling that all of us suddenly thought that yes, of course, there must be many more people in other parts of the city doing the same as us. Perhaps we’d find them and become a large demonstration?

What we found instead were lone or small batches of wanderers, who afforded us an unending maze of individual acts of solidarity and rebellion as they crossed spontaneous paths with us.

Over the next couple hours or so that I marched, cars stopped to join us for a minute or two, repetitively honking their horns, or people pulled their car over to temporarily park so they could jump out with a pot and bang as we walked past. A passenger in one car waved an open umbrella out their window at us, with a red square hand-colored on its cloth. People walking by clapped in tune to our pots, or jangled keys, or used their umbrella against a lamppost to make noise; one person pulled a whistle out of their pocket and blew hard as their momentary contribution. Solitary folks leaned out windows as they heard us coming, ran back into their apartment, and then reappeared with kitchenware in hand. People sitting in restaurants tapped on their glasses with utensils as we raised our pots and pans to acknowledge their support. Workers ran out of stores and cafes to make whatever sound they could as we passed, and many who couldn’t come outside instead held up raised fists and offered us enormous smiles. Bicycles careened joyously toward us, so they could ring a bell or simply wave. And on and on.

Hundreds upon hundreds of separate people lent solidarity for short bursts. With each interaction there was a distinct acknowledgment of us as a tiny but hardy casseroles crew, and we in turn gave our impromptu collaborators a distinct recognition for pitching in, if only for a second or minute. Most of the time, we were able to make eye contact with those joining us, and then we all made eye contact with each other, and I don’t think there was a minute in all our marching when we stopped smiling and laughing–the language that was binding us this evening.

Over the course of our 2-plus hours of marching and sometimes skipping, always at a brisk pace, we’d subdivided a couple times, and added a person here or there–but always remained at 5 or 8 of us. One person who joined us was a woman who ran up with her backpack, indicating that she had a pot inside and was it OK to become part of our group, to which–yet again–everyone cheered and raised their pots in unison while banging them loud as hell. The women I’d started with went home after about 45 minutes of walking, and I then mostly spent time with the 4 people who’d originally joined us, which included a teenager who couldn’t get enough of shouting and laughing and banging as loud as she could whenever anyone acknowledged us–which was pretty much constantly–so I started shouting and laughing and banging as loud as I could too. We both spoke English, but for some reason, the shouting and laughing were far better and more accurate communication much of the time. Still, at one point she turned to me after we’d seen a man behind the plate-glass window of his gyro fast-food place raise his fist to us and grin, and she tossed back her head, wrapped in a red bandana, and laughed until I thought she’d burst: “You love this so much too!”

About halfway through our casseroles, one of our crew got the idea to start banging his pot against metal street-sign poles, and then it seemed as if there really were well over 49 of us, the legal limit under the new law for groups of people. So we began to stop and do this often, and my new-found comrades particularly took pleasure in doing this outside fancy restaurants in which the patrons weren’t paying us heed. Two of my posse started to scream chants as well, including the French version of “fascist” and some other insults in relation to Charest, and my comrades this evening began to take special delight in hollering at police cars when they passed by us. At one point, we came upon an intersection with a big street post that featured a handmade sign I’d seen last week: “FUCK C78 CHARESt.” The intensity of our participatory show of force for this sentiment grew to new heights, and silently (since at this point we could hardly hear each other anyway), we stood our ground by this sign and made a racket, gathering many onlookers.

Two new people had recently joined our tiny group, both quite mild-mannered looking, and each with two pans lids that they could bang together. They awkwardly hesitated for a minute, and I was convinced they were going to leave, because it was getting wildly loud. The 4 folks who had merged into my original group were now all banging their pots against the same metal post with the “FUCK” sign on it, and the noise was deafening. Their laughter also seemed to increase, if that were possible. Our 2 new companions were suddenly overcome with the exuberance of the moment, and it was like we were some big brassy band that couldn’t be contained or controlled, mostly because many of the onlookers were also just as eager to spontaneous add their nods or smiles or claps or cheers.

I did see more people this evening than before we ignored us or seemed displeased. Two or 3 folks took the time to complain about what we were doing–in French, but from their faces, the general content was plain enough. And we never did find any other casseroles, much less a large demonstration. We walked past groups of 2 to 3 with pots and pans, such as two punks, one with a Crass T-shirt, who asked me where the big march was, and when I invited them to join us, they ran off in search of bigger and better prospects, but again, our numbers never rose above 9 all night.

Perhaps this is the beginning of the end. Or the tiredness and routine that starts to set in when an uprising stretches past its initial upsurge and innovation. Perhaps people are becoming more polarized, drawing different lines in the sand, or maybe many are sick of the nightly noise (one man clearly yelled at us about being woken up evening after evening). Maybe it’s becoming difficult for students strikers and other social strikers to figure out a strategy to win something, or perhaps folks are resting up to contest the Grand Prix starting this Thursday (with its excess of wealth and power in contrast to the excess of social good that this strike is increasingly demanding).

I should have felt disappointed tonight. And I should be sleeping. But again, I’m awakened by what’s going on here, for in all the little interactions this evening, there was something that was thoroughly qualitative, thoroughly defiant, as our casseroles uncovered the many, many, many varied instances of shared solidarity–shared enthusiasm and a shared sense of injustice–made possible precisely because we were so few, yet nonetheless still so determined way beyond our numbers, as if we were many. For everywhere we went, individual by individual, there were many.

As we marched by the street where I’m staying, I waved goodnight with my pots to these strangers that now didn’t feel strange at all, thinking 2.5 hours was good for tonight. I also thought how odd it was that we felt comfortable, rather than odd, in creating a loud demonstration up and down busy streets; how odd that it didn’t feel weird to simply bang pots together with 4 or 5 people when no one else around you was doing the same thing. The teenager ran over to me, hugged me tight, and whispered in my ear, “What’s your name?” We both smiled, whispered our names in each other’s ear, and she leaned back to grin and then yelp, “It was so great to meet you!” then ran after the rude metallic orchestra continuing on, noisier–somehow!–than ever. Once home, I could still hear them, 4 blocks away, for another 5 minutes or so, as I perched on the balcony outside where I’m staying, on a quiet residential street in this yet-disquieted city.

-Cindy Milstein-

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Montreal’s Magical Manifestations


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–Whether during anticapitalist mass mobilizations, Republican and Democratic National Convention protests, reclaim the streets, occupy (everything or somewhere specific), or a host of other riot, riotous, or rebellious large-scale street situations (housing takeovers, antifascist actions, antiwar demos, and many more), there’s always a certain intensity, a certain adrenaline rush–a marathon of heightened emotions that race through everything from anger, fear, and euphoria to sorrow, exhaustion, and delirious happiness. Thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands) of people find themselves serendipitously together in these convergence spaces, collectively experiencing profound anxiety but also equally profound anticipation. There’s often a sense that we have everything to lose and everything to gain; that such spaces are completely fragile and temporary, yet also ours to shape, sustain, and nurture, offering a freshness that feels as if we’re the first to ever engage in such a grand experiment in self-organized consociation.

It becomes addictive. And usually, following such mobilizations or occupations, there’s a slew of criticism for those who remain addicts–who want more: more of those feelings, more of the highs (& even the lows), more of this community and belonging and pleasure, even if there’s also pain or trauma, even if the disappointment at what we can’t or couldn’t achieve in these extraordinary flare-ups of promise becomes more heartbreaking with each lose. The critics lash out with, say: “you shouldn’t summit hop! you should stay at home and do local organizing” (a familiar refrain during the heyday of the alter-globalization movement–as if this were the only choice, and the only rationale [that is, healthy, productive, nonaddictive] choice). Binary choices, though, rarely reflect the beautiful complexity of phenomena, and such beautiful complexity is usually precisely the overflowing stuff in our tool box against binaries like capitalism, the state, racism, heteronormative, and other debilitating divides.

But Montreal’s manifestations (demonstrations; marches; and now casseroles, or the banging of cookware and other usually ordinary metal household objects) are forging an extra magical addiction, thereby “troubling” the either/or binary so that it hardly makes sense as a critique or even personal dilemma. Whether one heads out nightly to the streets, walking for hours, far from one’s neighborhood; travels to Montreal from another city in the province to join in, especially on the gigantic demonstration days like May 22; or stays at home to lean off one’s own balcony to bang a pot when several thousand people clanging on pans as they pass by on the street below–the where, how, when, and who of resistance gets all mixed up, into the simmering start of a marvelous, miraculous stew of social strike that is equally social reconstruction.

No doubt this is the same magic felt in other moments, sadly few and far between, when people aren’t simply converging in mass numbers but also are constituting a counterpower: winning each other’s hearts and minds through their own doing and making of an alter-lifeworld that’s so much more compelling and convincing, that works to meet our own needs/desires so much better, that it has real power-together, and so masses of us begin to abandon that other world, the one composed of power-over. There’s a mass exodus, away from the current society of control and discipline that estranges us from each other, toward one where we no longer feel like we’re exiled from our own lives and each other, not to mention the ecosystem around us.

But for those experiencing it for the first time, here and now, in Montreal and across the coming-alive province of Quebec, the compulsion–the addiction–to come out night after night after night is also about wanting the world to feel this way again and again and again. The emotion running high is joy, festive joy, joy at the countering of power with self-made counterpower, a joy made manifest in the music of metal kitchenware.

And so a curious related phenomena has emerged from this: the desire to capture the casseroles on film, so as to relive them, share them, circulate them. This isn’t new per se. With the rise of indymedias and YouTube, among others, such mass mobilizations have and continue to generate their own cinematic memory. Oftentimes, however, such images are of the spectacular or “sexy,” with “riot porn” being perhaps the biggest DIY box-office hit, followed by at a close second police doing things both brutal and stupid. So much of what has been videotaped and shared in recent North American moments of large-scale resistance has been just that: fighting back, against powers that largely keep us on the defensive or only scratching the surface of moving toward the offensive, toward renewal.

What’s curious about the filmic gifting going on is that it’s an attempt–difficult as it is–to share the counterpower magic of Montreal’s streets and balconies right now via the simple yet powerful act of these casseroles–and the related courageous and/or carnivalesque illegal retaking of the streets. As someone wrote in an article in one of the worst (i.e., government-friendly) French-language newspaper in Montreal the other day, to paraphrase: when people threw rocks, the government wasn’t really worried; now that they are banging pots and pans, the government is scared. Or to put it more accurately: Montreal has become ungovernable for them.

It’s near impossible to use film or videotape to really offer an sense of the magic, but people try again and again and again–yet another addiction, or healthy addictions that are what keep people fighting for some better, still-unimaginable world. So far, there have been two broad categories of making short “movies” about the pots and pans:

1. The high aesthetic B&W depiction that went viral, which among other critiques that could and should be leveraged (such as focusing on white people as actors in this moment), wholly take the life out of the casseroles, making them seem at once a thing of the past, quiescent, and something already commodified as an ad campaign to sell jeans. (I would post a link here, for those who haven’t seen it, but I’m feeling cranky about adding to the viralness of its depoliticizing impact, even as the maple spring-summer becomes increasingly inspirational.)

2. The hundreds and probably thousands of fragments made from cell phones, cheap cameras, or whatever people can get their hands on to film themselves, to film their friends, to film the cute kid holding a small frying pan, to film the casseroles snaking its way past their house, to capture the pots and pans in a small town or suburb. Blurry, shaky, sometimes dark (it is nighttime, after all), sometimes too short or too long–most are awful.Yet nearly all share this seemingly desperate-passionate awareness that we need to hold these moments in our mind’s eye, not let them go, not give up.

Neither high art nor low art, professional or homemade, has yet, to my mind, been able to contain this uprising, nor make it history (yet), nor sadly, translate why it’s been so crucial to the maple spring (and thus, not something that can be simply replicated by banging a pot in the United States, for instance, in feeble hopes of the cookware itself catalyzing the magic of ungovernability).

Today, a dear new friend I made in Montreal–my constant street affinity grouplet and constant obsessive-compulsion comrade in seeking out news when we weren’t in the streets–shared a third filmic category. It too falls short of making you feel what it feels like to be there. At the same time, it comes closer than anything else to illustrating the magic, via fantasy as well as taking real-life characters from the streets and making them extra fantastical. What is gets at, rather than offering a mirror to the joyous reality, is the reality of joy–an additive, rebel joy and mutual acknowledgment of what people are doing collectively in this part of the world that too often gets ignored by much of the world, especially those of us in the United States (witness how global and U.S. media basically only “discovered” this uprising within the past week!). And I will share this one–so finish reading this blog post (or not!), and then watch it (again and again), or rather follow it along, like you too are on a nightly march through the streets of Montreal. You’ll need to scroll to the right, past joyous participant after joyous participant, after you click on this link:

http://manif.aencre.org/

Joy.

If we have any hopes–and hope at these moments is both key and also, sadly, likely temporary–of sustaining such magical manifestations of counterpower, toward some society that doesn’t replicate domination and oppression, but tries its best to experiment with other ways of living and being, joy and its rightfully addictive quality have to remain front and center. Have to remain lived, felt, common and common sense collective experiences, something that no YouTube moment can grasp.

Joy isn’t going to be enough. And the underside of the pots and pans of joy is the nagging, perplexing, so hard and heartbreaking question: How do we really transform society? How do we move from street counterpower and making our cities ungovernable, to figuring how ways to shape a society of plenty, self-governed by us all, still with joy? If anarchists or anyone else thinks they know the answer, this year and then some of uprisings hopscotching around the globe is showing us that the answers are even more confusing and distant then ever.

Hence the need, as people fan out in haphazard, ragtag casseroles going every which way throughout Montreal’s street and balconies, to become addicted to the joy of trying, again and again, to begin to see and hear and share in person what it feels like to experience the noise of uprising, sans ear plugs, at least metaphorically, because uprisings also have their fair share of pain too.

– Cindy Milstein –

Author’s Note: If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it’s a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circlecbmilstein.wordpress.com/

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Good Ingredients in a Casseroles


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–As is true with occupy, time has its own logic with the Maple Spring–a logic outside that of capitalist time.

So much that’s extraordinary happens in such a short time, it creates a dissonance in how we’re used to understanding the temporal experience of daily life, or a way in which it’s hard to process all that seems different from week to week, day to day, and often hour by hour because it’s simply moving too fast. Faster, that is, than the sped-up logic of contemporary capitalism, which seems to be increasingly producing “attention-deficient disorder” in nearly everyone as another way to ensure we’re too distracted to defy its social order.

Yet oddly, the rapid speed of transformation in moments of uprising–with their spontaneity, surprise, and solidarity–seems to also to slow time down. Each day can feel like a week because of all that’s compacted within it. Interactions can appear luxurious and leisurely, and filled with a depth that usually takes years to forge. We notice things–many things–details large and small, things about ourselves and our neighborhoods and comrades and new friends, things about what is suddenly, inexplicably possible. Our attention, highly charged and accelerated–like the racing heartbeat of new love–isn’t deficient at all, but extremely focused.

The weeks, days, hours, and sometimes even seconds, like the seconds when the police appear from nowhere to kettle hundreds, operate on a different clock from capitalism, faster and slower, jumbled and nonlinear, pulling the past into the present which is already the future.

It isn’t that we’ve stopped capitalist time, even if we’re basically hitting the button on our alarm clocks at the same instant and then throwing the clock soundly against the wall across from our beds. It’s that we’re putting that time on notice, not clocking into the work of capitalism; it’s that we’re contesting and contrasting the time of capitalism, waking people up–ourselves first and foremost–with our own communal timepieces. Here in Montreal this past week, the uprising alarm goes off at 8 pm, with pots and pans (paint cans, cheese graters, garbage can lids, you name it) asking people to wake up to what’s going on, but also wake up to what’s inside them. What kind of time they can take and make.

For all the many other reasons that time has a different logic during an uprising, there is the enormous one: we’re making history, writing ourselves into time. But equally enormous in my mind is this: we’re making the minutes our own, writing our own narratives, learning what we’d do with time when it is, truly, our own. Uprisings only begin to give us a taste, and here’s where rebellious time perhaps gets most interesting: in the slow savoring of each second, as if it’s in ultra-slow motion.

Here I have to pause–within what should be the capitalist work time of my day–to thank some lovely folks in Montreal for inviting me to lunch. In savoring a banquet of homemade delicacies beautifully laid out on a long wooden table, enough food for a week, and each dish tastier than next, ending with a heaping bowl of tiny red squares of watermelon lightly tossed in yogurt, during a lunch that stretched four hours, much of what I’m blogging about here was part of what we touched on–and hence, my gratitude. We talked about this time of casseroles over our luxurious and leisurely time of breaking bread and enjoying conversation together. None of us “had time” for this lunch; but because of what’s going on, we “made time.”

And just like thousands upon thousands of other people, night after night for what’s now night 36, we’ve also “made time” to stand with the student strike and, now, to defy law 78 openly (I think it’s night 36; fortunately, I’ve lost track of the quantitativeness of number of nights in favor of the qualitativeness of being on streets each evening, even for only my 8 or so evening visiting here).

The wake-up call of casseroles is part of that time of ours. For instance, a bit over a week ago, when marching through Montreal’s wealthy Westmount neighborhood with some 10,000 others to attempt to reach Premier Charest’s house–marching for hours to get there, finally to scale the hills past castle-like buildings with flags waving in some new version of a rebel commune that was part storming the Bastille and part May ’68, as I already posted on a Facebook status right afterward–a young woman came storming out of her fancy house to scream at me and my friend: “Why don’t you go make noise in your own neighborhood? Why are you waking us up? You woke up my 7-year-old niece!” While that particular women probably still doesn’t like the now-much-louder noise of the casseroles, I now see household after household bringing their little 7-year-olds and 3-year-olds and babies out to join in the noise making, and as the hours pass, as we walk through sleepy residential streets, people spill out on to their balconies and the street, bringing their little kids with them, in their little pajamas and bathrobes, holding onto their teddy bears or tiny tin drums or saucepan, sometimes rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Bedtime isn’t by the clock, it’s after the casserole, for these kids and their families.

I’m sure the noise of the casseroles annoys some, disrupts their capitalism time, but night after night, street after street, one sees the joy of this taking and making of a new time. Besides simply displacing bedtime for some, cars have to slow down, and you’ll see people get out of their stuck-in-casseroles-traffic car (many, many, many cars, buses, trucks, taxis, stuck, night after night–an inconvenience, one could say, or a lovely intervention in disturbing capitalist time by slowing business as usual, often with obvious monetary impact) to wave, cheer, and sometimes even pull out their own pot and ladle to join in the noise.

In this din, a different temporal space of engagement is created. Neighbors meet neighbors, whether because at 8 pm they come to the same corner, or because they appear on their balconies to see the casseroles march by at 10 pm, and turn, smile at each other, and one can imagine or dream (as I am), that this is the start of more interactions, political conversations, perhaps assemblies or shared projects like organizing to improve their nearby park.

There is the time of finding each other, the simple beauty of a time of sociality outside commodification or contrivance. Again and again, on the streets, you experience the far more genuine smiles of acknowledment: that we’re here, together, making this time of illegality, yes, but also a new way of seeing, participating in, and reclaiming the city. It’s only a start; the city still functions, seemingly normally, by day. But the next night, those smiles seem to acknowledge more–like, “yes, I remember seeing you yesterday!” “Oh, you live down the street from me?” “Ah, the police don’t know what to do! We’re the ones determining where we want to go!”

Then there is the time of resistance, where people are “promising” themselves and each other to be there, night after night, in the streets until they win. What the “win” will be is increasingly unclear. It seems clear that the people have the upper hand, that it’s the government “negotiating” and the students and society that has the power to ask for things, perhaps a whole lot more than they imagined. That might not happen. And as I wrote yesterday and likely the day before, each minute of our time, they (police & government & the wealthy & elites) are using their time to determine countermoves. For now, our unpredictable maneuverings and differing temporality from theirs is giving this social movement a time of its own, and the the powers-that-be one hell of a time trying to keep up.

So in the time, two of the best ingredients in the casseroles appear (here’s where I’m especially thankful to my lunchmates for noting this together):

First, the casseroles may start at 8 pm, but there’s no telling when they will stop, where they will go, how many bands large and small there will be, when you’ll be on your own with 4 friends and 3 pots between you, or suddenly hear the walk-up call of the metal din growing louder in the nearby distance. It must look amazing from a bird’s-eye view, a time-defying swirl of people and noise going every which way, looping around, running into each other, breaking apart into smaller groups, diverging and converging. A sea. That red sea of red squares and silvery metal objects. And smiles. So many miles (er, kilometers) of smiles. People take so much time for that.

Second, and my lunchmates and I all agreed that this was the most beautiful moment of the casseroles nights, is that time when one casseroles crew turns a corner and sees another crew–perhaps 1,000 in one group, and maybe 3,000 in around. For some unexplainable reason, one group will speed up, rushing toward the other, with bigger smiles than ever. And the other group will slow down, oh so slow, until stopping, then a euphoric cheer nearly as loud as the pans will rise up as everyone raises their pots higher still, beating on them loudly. Suddenly, for what’s probably only a couple minutes, it’s as if the two groups meet in molasses-like slow motion. People look in each other’s eyes, really look at each other, turning this moment over in their minds that are trying to comprehend this new time, the time they are taking and making to take and then maybe make some new world that no one has quite put words to yet here.

These nights on the street here feel so out of the ordinary, out of the routine of capitalist time, that these moments of convergence when one casseroles meets another seem like something everyone–without quite knowing it–wants to hold in a stop-action, freeze-frame embrace, like our lunch today, to savor for many more hours than they have time for. So they will remember this feeling, later, when it’s gone. When this moment of uprising has passed, or perhaps fallen short, or failed altogether.

The best I can understand–being a “foreign” correspondent from the place south of here still called the United States–is that by and large, people think they want to not become like the United States, where education is a high-priced commodity that’s more about universities as economic engines (R&D, construction, endowments, etc.) than learning or wisdom; where health care isn’t care at all, but insurance, and more often than not, not even insurance; and the list could go on. There’s “austerity” here, of course, but it is far less austere (impoverished and inhumane) than what’s going on in the United States. But in this demand for somehow trying to hold back time, so that neoliberalism somehow doesn’t touch this place called Canada and unravel the time of a certain type of “safety net” or certain sensibility that there should be “social goods” like free or cheap education for all, a new time is emerging, hinting at a wholly different logic of how we count what’s valuable, or as one of my lunch friends said, how we move from a world of things that are judged by price to one where the whole of our time is filled with the priceless.

(Photo, taken on my cell phone last night: Tail end of Mont-Royal casseroles: tree-bike w/red leaves & red blinking lights, & anarchopanda wannabe kid w/tiny pot)

Author’s Note: If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it’s a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/

–  Cindy Milstein –

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Night Falls, Power Rises in Montreal


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–A week ago last Sunday night, I was sitting around a table at a friend’s house with two other friends in the Plateau East neighborhood of Montreal, having a quiet & delicious dinner after the Anarchist Bookfair weekend, when at 8 pm we heard the singular noise of someone banging on a pot in the nearby distance, then two, and maybe three or four. My friend got up to peek around the corner, to see which of  his neighbors was making the noise, telling us that there was a Facebook call to bang pots & pans in solidarity with the student strike (as it turns out, it was a professor’s idea, and he did indeed post a FB page for it).

Last night, May 27, that same friend and I met up with other friends at the “usual” corner on Mont-Royal near St-Denis on the Plateau West side of this Montreal neighborhood. At first a handful came, right at 8 pm, like us, and then dozens, growing quickly to hundreds. It was my second night at this intersection, near to the home of another friend, and already I recognized most of the faces, and people nodded at each other, and more of them talked to each other (and my two friends and others are busily organizing toward their first neighborhood popular assembly this coming Saturday).

As we moved from crossing with the light, to crossing at the traffic light, to finally taking the intersection, a group of young children–barely teens–among the many young children on the streets with us, decided to lead a breakaway march, skirting past the police car that had now arrived to “help” us manage the traffic. We adults quickly ran after them, laughing, as our children at the front lead us for some 15 minutes away from that cop car again and again, turning a corner at the last minute to allude the police, and when we got to a big road, the kids took over the other side too, at one point nearly encircling a second police car to ensure we could all get ahead of the police! And soon we turned a corner and that, voile, was another band of casserolers, and soon we ran across another, and then our big casserole met another huge casserole at a main intersection, and everyone raised their pots & pans in unison to joyfully greet each other. The police couldn’t keep up with us, neither children or adults, or bikes or dogs, wheelchairs or skateboards.

Hours later, after marching with thousands and thousands of people who never stopped banging on the asundry metal noisemakers as we snaked our way for miles through Montreal, past tiny stickers of red or with words on street signs and lampposts, or big swathes of radical graffiti slogans, it was hard to tell whether our legs or ears hurt more–or as my Plateau East friend said, Emma Goldman may have wanted a revolution to dance to, but this “walking” revolution is hard on the feet! Then we looked at each other and marveled how, just a mere week ago, there were four lone pots beating out a tune of solidarity & disobedience & freedom in his neighborhood, and now, so few days later, young children are teaching themselves rebellion, and as another friend said to me on the street, we anarchists are struggling to catch up to what the tens of thousands of people are doing here in Montreal. He too marveled: “And to think I was thinking of moving away from Montreal a year ago. This has been the best year of my life already!”

Of course, much as the police and politicians have, for the time being, lost control of this city; they struggle each night to figure out new ways to police and control their out-of-their-control uprising. Last night, that involved this unusually tall and lengthy, sparkling-white oversize van–nearly a truck–with few windows, and those windows blackened so we couldn’t see inside it. This truck-van appeared out of nowhere behind us, swerved toward a building wall, and equally oversize riot-type police jumped out, pushing someone against the wall, grabbing him, throwing him in the van, and whisking away. Some cops next to us on horses (we were, at that point, at the back of the thousands-of-people casseroles-march) said something about a new “Intervention” unit, and then “helpfully” told us to move in front of him, so he could “protect us” in case of “an explosion.”

Some 20 minutes or so later, as the demonstration was nearing a point that would signal the end for many of us–near a Metro, for some, and near our still-long-walk home for us–that van-truck appeared again. I tried to capture a photo of it, but my cell phone isn’t the best of cameras, especially as the van-truck started speeding toward us, flying past another new police vehicle labeled “technical.” We conjectured about whether they were gathering “intelligence” on us, listening in to cell phones, tracking people via their cell phone GPS, or putting out incorrect info.

For instance, the SPVM police maintain a “friendly” lie-filled Twitter, with the supposedly calming slogan “Always closer,” and they used it last night to deny nearly beating a man to death, also just over a week ago, when people took control of a stretch of St. Denis to build barricades and fend off the cops. Counter reports from witnesses and those involved in this uprising are that this man is still in a hospital, in a coma, potentially paralyzed and brain damaged. People used this Twitter access to the police to last night ask them again and again about this beating, and the police again and again assured people everything was OK. But there are video images of the man being beaten, first to the ground by one cop, and then again by another, after he’s on the ground. And an eyewitness mentioned she saw the second cop use his bike as a weapon in the beating. Indeed, last week, when we were on the street during the St. Denis uprising on that evening, a woman came up to us to say a man had died; that she herself had seen him lying on the ground, not moving, for 20 minutes. We were skeptical, thinking the street takeover would have turned into an outright riot, if someone had died. Now, a mere week later, it seems the police have potentially destroyed yet another life.

All to say, the joy of watching preteens defy the authority of the state, so adroitly and swiftly, with such confidence, under the approving eye of thousands of us adults, has to be balanced by the presence of that same authority, even if cowed for the moment, lurking in vans and shadows, strategizing somewhere in bureaucratic offices, trying to figure out how to win this cat-and-mouse (or cat-and-anarchopanda) game of communizing Montreal, whether they end up using brute force or carrot-and-stick for the students–or both.

It’s 7 pm, an hour before this evening’s casseroles slowly but surely but noisely begins again, at the “usual” corner of Mont-Royal, where tonight my friend will hand out flyers about the popular assembly to be held in a neighborhood park this weekend (for the parks here are still far less “privatized,” and much more anarchic and community oriented than many in the United States). Tomorrow another friend, the one who is glad he didn’t move away, is helping to initiate “Nos-Casseroles for justice for low-wage immigrant and placement-agency (day-laborer) workers” in another neighborhood, and a day or two ago, the Rosemont neighborhood held its first assembly–150 people, who broke into four working groups.

Last night, a friend mentioned how it was important that we go to these street manifestations, night after night, because they evidence the determination and anger, and hopefully the dreams too, of this movement that currently has power-together in its grasp. I realized, as I walked for another five hours last night, how cynical I’ve grown about marches in the United States. We scream in front of banks, chant as we walk, proudly hold banners and signs, make noise and reclaim the streets and sidewalks temporarily–but the contrast here is: there’s really social power behind those same acts now, and everyone knows it. The question, which everyone also seems to know, is what to do with that power–hence the move to kick off neighborhood assemblies and put out calls for people to come greet, meet, and disrupt the impending, lucrative Gran Prix in early June. Meanwhile, the power seems to just keep growing.

Each night here, I see the differences, even if subtle, from people walking by on the streets at 5 pm with pots and pans clearly in their backpacks; stores putting red squares on their merchandise on display in the windows; indeed, more and more red squares, large and small, hanging off more and more balconies; restaurant workers and others stuck in dreary low-paid jobs come out of those jobs to bang pots for a few minutes as the big casseroles marches pass by; and last night, we saw people in an expensive hotel in downtown Montreal holding big red squares in the windows high above us, raising their arms in silent cheer to our noisy answer from the street below.

– Cindy Milstein –

Author’s Note: If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it’s a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circlecbmilstein.wordpress.com/

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Je t’Adore Montreal


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. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–Revolutionary times are so hard for getting any “real-world” work done, but Montreal is making that extra difficult, because increasingly the real-world social power is in the hands of the people–quite literally, hands now holding & banging on pots, pans, & anything that will make noise. It’s not that pot banging started this uprising. Months of dogged, determined blockades, pickets, organizing, propaganda, and other actions by students created such a social force that the government made a huge miscalculation, passing law 78 to try to compell students back into school  and quell dissent. As the friend I’m staying with commented this morning, the government believed its own lies (basically, made-up polls) that there wasn’t popular support for the student strike. But instead of applauding the government’s heavy hand both with law 78 and heavy-baton-handed policing tactics, the populace stood shoulder to shoulder with the students on day 100 of the strike, May 22, and some half-a-million people filled the streets while bringing much of business as usual to a standstill (that generalized strike we’ve been dreaming of in the United States), transforming this into a social strike, which has been further transformed by a small idea by one person: voice your solidarity with your pots & pans, or casseroles demonstrations each night at 8, as complement to the 8:30 pm nocturnal demonstrations.

And here’s why I’m having an especially hard time focusing, whether to do my paid work or concentrate on an essay about this exceptional moment that’s far outstripped the government’s emergency law: the city is both “ungovernable,” to repeat Mostafa Henaway’s tweet last night, and also spontaneously self-governing with its feet, bodies, voices, and casseroles. It was difficult to fully take in what was happening last night, as some 50,000 or more, given the multiple demos, big and small, merging and converging, as well as the thousands and perhaps tens of thousands perched all over the city on their balconies, front steps, rooftops, and so on, banging pots or flicking on/off their porch lights or waving red flags. Well, not difficult. Simply beautiful. Overwhelming in the best of ways. I wish I could have taken a photo of nearly each and every one of the tens of thousands, since nearly each and every one was “self-determining” how they wanted to add to the noise. I noticed many posts this morning of proud photos of dented metal objects, made into impromptu street instruments. Last night was this manifestation of imagination–bringing alive the “all power to the imagination” phrase in a new way for me. People appreciated each other’s imaginative ways of making noise–a “simple” pot & ladle wasn’t enough for most! At the same time, that very imagination, that it’s possible to change the world, is bringing people into the streets, and in the streets, people really have the power in a way I’ve never experienced. This happens elsewhere, in my revolutionary imagination, but not in North America. In Greece, say, anarchists have forged a police no-go neighborhood.

I knew last night that the police were lurking in the distance and that they also probably were both too tired and too confused/overpowered to really be able to do anything. This morning, my generous-of-spirit anarchist host told me about a French-language interview in the Le Journal de Montreal newspaper where a cop not only noted how much he and other cops adore attacking demonstrators, he also commented on how it’s too late for police to control the situation. That really sunk in this morning. Last night, tens of thousands of us doggedly, determinedly escalated the strike far beyond students–there were so many babies, toddlers, young kids, teens, young people, and all the way up to people of many decades, or every type, in everything from strollers to wheelchairs, naked and dressed as a panda, a gigantic unstoppable “red sea” of red squares. We used our feet to bring neighborhood after neighborhood to standstills for hours, stopping traffic and commerce, closing bridges and confounding the police. Charest has “disappeared” into silence; Montreal’s mayor asked people to limit their casseroles to balconies; the police want a law passed that says people can’t say mean things to them. No matter the powers-that-be response, the people are only listening to themselves, to their pots & pans, to student strike spokespeople and anarchopanda, to the truly leaderless but shared responsibility of us all spontaneously moving through the city at night in all directions, and perhaps soon to neighborhood assemblies alongside the already-existence student assemblies.

The people are in power now, but a dispersed, joyous, neighborly power, an imaginatively beautiful display of horizontal solidarity. It’s a display that affirms people can reclaim their lives, their cities, in a way I never dreamed possible–through yes, reclaiming their streets and taking their productive labor away from commodified study, say, and into “educating ourselves for freedom” (thank you, yet again, Malatesta). I wish I could translate how “diversity of tactics” is working not as something on paper or that allows for someone people to do allegedly more militant things at the potential expense of others. No, there’s a lived practice of having each other’s backs here, and making it feel “safer” and “safer” for everyone to disobey in ways festive and fierce, but self-controlled, together, if that makes sense. And that more individuated creativity and social solidarity function, voluntarily, together on the streets and in organizing here, the more additional people seem to join in–like it’s opened their door to what’s possible, because what’s possible, astonishingly, is that people can create a social power that far beyond a slogan, is at the moment unstoppable. There are too many people disobeying, collectively. And increasingly, it feels like people could “demand the impossible” and, due to their social power, perhaps “realize the impossible,” or some of it, too.

I hope to write soon, in a more coherent and less typo-filled manner, about the relation (or not) of this maple spring-into-summer to and for occupy, and its relation (or not) to anarchism. Quickly, for now, a few random thoughts:

As an anarchist who usually cringes when I see people waving big red flags at demonstrations, it’s been a surprise to see how relatively quickly this student movement and its red square image have seemingly banished the horrible associations of authoritarianism and murderous regimes with that red flag. I’m typing way too fast in a cafe here in Montreal, looking out on a busy street, as people of all shapes, sizes, and ages stroll by with their red squares–often also imaginatively placed, decorated, handmade, etc. It functions as a sort of secret and not-so-secret sign of solidarity and shared disobedience with a thoroughly anarchistic movement, binding people in a thoroughly qualitative way (i.e., pushing past capitalist “value”), unlike the quantitative sense of the somewhat-similar 99% image (i.e., affirming the meaningless measurement of people as all somehow equivalent, and thus masking meaningful distinctions between, say, a young man of color or person without papers and, for instance, cop).

Like occupy, this movement wasn’t anarchist initiated or driven, even if there were and are anarchists involved. But it has created many thousands of anarchists (probably far more here than occupy has in the United States; for instance, at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair this past weekend, happily, booksellers French and English-speaking said they sold out of “intro to anarchism” books quickly!). It’s also anarchistic, whether people become anarchists or not. But far beyond occupy, it’s not “simply” the anarchistic forms of self-organization that are intriguing; it’s the widespread, mass defiance of authority that’s so anarchistic too. And best of all, in my mind, this movement–far, far beyond occupy–is seemingly making anarchism “warm and fuzzy,” literally in the figure of anarchopanda!

The diversity, and increasingly so, of who is joining into the maple spring-turned-hot-summer also far outstrips occupy, but so too does the inventiveness of the personal creativity of how people are implementing its symbols–whether the red square or the casseroles–as I’ve already mentioned. It might be in tiny ways, but people seem to be taking such pride in how they’ve made their particular red square: from a tiny glittery red fabric square, to a big red square sewn on the back of someone’s pants, to slogans penned on red-felt squares, to square-red earrings…. And again, that translates into this marvelous diversity of tactics where although there’s continuity between marches, day and night, each one I’ve been to so far feels distinct, and impromptu innovation seems to be widely applauded. It’s not just the marches; that same drive for imaginatively diverse tactics and strategies is, and has been, playing itself out in how the strike has been implemented and maintained, and now this growing social strike is unfolding. The only people, tactics, and strategies–and increasingly aspirations–that seem tired are the police (and likely the governmental officials, but it’s clear how tired the police are because you see them nightly on the streets.)

As a last random comment: CUTV. CUTV. CUTV. I’m in love with Montreal, with the maple spring, with how lovely it is to be alive at this moment and fortunate enough to participate in it, but I’m also in love with CUTV. Watch it. Or rather, watch them. Like anarchopanda, the rabbit crew and the naked lady (figures on the street that I haven’t written about yet), and Classe spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (a phenomenon in his own right, and based on some Facebook posts, becoming a meme), the sweet personalization that also defies cult of personality, or leaders with power-over, of this movement is striking. More than that, though, the charming personalities of the main CUTV “reporters” night after night livestreaming is part of the very story of this social movement. Their commentary, from enthusiasm, to “fuck you fuck you fuck you” screaming at the cops, during hours of livestreaming shows the very human face of the movement as well as how we might begin to create a people’s media that shapes the story in a smart way. For instance, they’ve lost two cameras to police batons and one cameraperson now has two broken ribs; they’ve reported while walking and also running, talking into the livestream with panting breath; they’ve kept livestreaming through rain and teargas, including pepper spray on their camera lens. The only critique, besides wishing they were on air longer, is that they talk their way out of arrest situations with “we’re media”–but even their fear, anger, anxiety, and media privilege are part of this human face. Je t’adore CUTV.

I need to turn to my livelihood, not Facebook or this blogging. I keep meaning to also turn to writing something more focused about this remarkable maple spring. But before I put my nose to the compulsory grindstone–which I wish would be washed out in the sea of red, for me and millions of others, by this implicitly and perhaps explicitly anticapitalist moment–I want to offer a caveat to my exuberant commentary: unbelievable as this student strike/social strike/red square/casseroles revolution is, it’s hard to understand what it could or should ask for, or more precisely, how it could or should translate the fact that this city is ungovernable into a city that’s livable, sans hierarchical government, police, and capitalism, in ways that also account for legacies of colonization, for one. At best, though, if this movement manages to oust a provincial government (in North America!), establish completely free education (still public, since that’s starting to disappear in the U.S., and perhaps increasingly “free, not as in free beer, but as in freedom”), and serve as a beacon (not one to be simply copied, because the context is quite specific) for what’s possible if people doggedly strike, occupy, struggle day after day after day after night after night after night, that is more than enough. It’s already been enough; if “occupy” pushed the envelope, the maple spring completely shreds it into thousands of bits of bright red paper squares to be tossed into air. People are not just winning here; they’ve already won. And for now, the city is theirs.

– Cindy Milstein –

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