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Rain | Occupied Stories

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“Open the Window; There’s a World,” Montreal, Night 50

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 – The heavy, chilly midafternoon rain has subsided, but it’s a gloomy gray outside, and there’s a 70-80% chance of more rain this evening. I have slept something like 3-4 hours per night for a week, and am behind on my paid work too, not to mention email and anything remotely resembling “real life.” All I want to do is NOT walk downtown for the 8:30 p.m. rendezvous point for the nocturnal manif in Montreal, likely wet by the time I get there to Berri-UQAM, before we’ve even started walking illegally.

Then I pop a new, gifted CD into my computer, to listen while I try to focus on paid work, and words of other uprisings and rebellions, and defeats too begin to fill my head. I toggle between work and twitter on what’s happening in Montreal, between work and hoping CUTV is online early, between work and searching for stories and images of maple spring.

That leads to another maple-spring distraction: scrolling through the many photos I’ve snapped on my smartphone, while forever walking on the red streets of Montreal, and I stumble across this picture. It’s one of many images I haven’t yet posted, of public art painted within large rectangles on the pavement of the closed-off Mont-Royal street during last weekend’s sidewalk sale that stretched for blocks. I assume, in years past, this art, which also stretched for blocks, with the yellow divider line for traffic running through each big piece, was supposed to encourage shopping, not disobedience. But nearly every piece this year included red squares, sharp & blurry, large & small, playful & serious. And red. Lots and lots of red.

At first, in the 2:30 a.m. dim light from streetlamps, I thought this was an abstract piece. It was so much darker, furious even, than any other piece. Then the continents slowly took shape for me–continents in strong, angry black; continents we know, without the artist having to show it, divided into states, capitalism, racism, heteronormativity, and so many other enclosures of freedom. So many borders demeaning dignity and breaking bones.

Then the red. Angry, proud, on the move, bursting from the dark and even “darker nations,” as Vijay Prashad titled one of his books. Screaming, to me: Revolt in Quebec! Below, in a corner of this massive piece of art, are some words in French. I click a photo, and only now try to decipher it, likely badly, using an automatic translator program–ironically, since a fantastic human translator is loaning me her apartment now while she’s at a retreat. I may not be getting the French right, and at some point soon, I want to write a piece called “Lost (& Found) in Translation” to explore how I am experiencing this moment as someone who doesn’t speak French and isn’t a Canadian–and how that both masks things and reveals things. So while it should matter that I get the French right, for tonight, as the rain pours down heavily again and whips the trees wildly outside the third-floor window where I sit (trying, trying, failing to work), my translation speaks what I want this piece of street art to say:

“Open the window; there’s a world.”

There’s a world outside. A world that in a few minutes, I’ll walk out into, dry skies or not, because it’s night 50 in Montreal of marches that have illegally snaked, raced, rioted, marched, casseroled, chanted, trudged, danced, skipped, skateboarded, biked, walked, wheelchaired, strollered, and otherwise taken over, flagrantly, as every night the police say no. No, it’s illegal. No, you need to disperse. No. The illegalistas answer with their feet, unstoppable. For 50 nights.

There’s another kind of world outside. That world that we want to change. That world broken apart into separate things called nations, provinces, property. Millions of miles of enclosures, when all we see as we march through the streets of Montreal are millions of openings–that we’re taking and making. Maybe that’s why so many red squares, each one like a fire-engine-red spark. That red that’s breaking out of the black blocs of continents in this art piece is a red that can and must travel, to find others who “see red” when they see injustice, misery, exploitation, pain. Those others who answered all the police and military, dictators and presidents, who said “NO. A million times NO,” with one big global “ENOUGH,” small at first, like the initial pots and pans on that first night when they banged in Montreal, but suddenly bursting in a cacophony of casseroles, in the way that our “ENOUGH” connects from Chiapas to Cairo to Quebec, and so much in between.

It’s 7:45, and it looks like the rain is only a drizzle. I’m wondering if I should take a black umbrella along, for rain and because police recently targeted them as another symbol of illegality, as something seen as suspect and subversive. That kind of targeted happened “long ago” in the United States, when following 9/11, the US government and its police created their own menacing categories: toothpaste, backpacks, Swiss Army knives, bottled water, shoes.

This is why people go out here. Against tuition increases and US-style “higher education,” yes. Against austerity, yes. Against repressing dissent with new laws and too many police, too tired from 50 nights on the street and so more dangerous than usual, yes. But, I think, simply to reclaim the common sense of life–where toothpaste cleans our teeth, shoes protect our foot, and little red squares make us happy.

Rain or not, night 50, all out.

-Cindy Milstein-

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Goldman Sachs Shareholder Meeting Protest in Jersey City

Jersey City, NJ- I arrived at 8am and was the first one there. The river was foggy and the top of the Goldman skyscraper was hidden in clouds. Some light rain fell on and off for the first hour. The ferrys to various parts of the city arrived every five minutes or so and discharged their passengers. I decided to stay on the prominade where more arriving workers were walking from the Path train station four blocks north up river. I had painted some signs on the red velvet backs of thrown away old theater seats that I had saved from a dumpster. They read:
Goldman Sachs: Serial Bubble Blower
No Ethical Principles !
Moral Hazard= Goldman Sachs
99% Reject Green
Goldman Sachs cooked Greece’s Books
Debt hidden by Debt Swaps
EURO Depression caused by Deception
People’s Pain+ Goldman Sachs

No Investing in Sex slavery of Girls
Goldman Sachs owned 16% of
Village Voice Media owner of
Child prostitution site

There were other signs on some other red velvet  shields. About eight signs in all, which some people who came later carried around as workers walked by on the way to work. Some people stopped to talk to us, but most just kept on walking and read the signs in passing without comment.

Jeff was the second OWS protester to arrive and then Mike from New Jersey. Soon more people came from the direction of the Path train station up the river.

About 9:30 even more protestors came. Some police showed up after about an hour, and stood around smiling and joking among themselves at a wall where private Goldman security guards were checking IDs of people going past.Everything was low key, and the Guitarmy guys came, Kevin, Henry, and a few others whose names I forget.  They added a lot of zest to the protest as they sang some great songs- a few of which were specific to Goldman Sachs.  Thanks to Guitarmy group for showing up, as their music always adds to the atmosphere in a very positive way. I played the drums a little before the rain started.  After the group had reached about 50 people we started walking in a circle, singing and chanting, outside the marine terminal where the Goldman property began. A New Jersey property rights group showed up in yellow tee shirts numbering about 20 or more. So all told about 70 people showed up on this foggy day.

Kevin Jones read from a book called Preditor Nation, and Jeff  read information about Goldman Sachs amoral investment history and cheating of their own clients. Some other people also made statements about Goldman Sachs, and the addition of Michaele Burns to the Goldman Audit committee. Michaele Burns was with Walmart Audit Committee in 2006 when the store chain bribed Mexican officials to get quick approval for building some Walmarts in Mexico.  Goldman must have found out about this recently and decided she is the best possible person they want to audit for them…… Another interesting decision from Goldman that reflects so much more than they intended.

Around 11:45 the rain really started. We huddled under a Barclays Bank portico until some New Jersey police showed up and they said the bank had complained and we had to go. It was pouring rain and the police were very sorry to have to ask us to leave due to the heavy rain. But the Barclays Bank portico was private property and the Bank didn’t want us all huddled around under their front door. They had called the police after 15 minutes. It was obvious the police were as miserable in the rain as we all were.  So we all left.

To sum up- it was a good gathering of high spirited protesters, and we made our presence felt. Some media were there, Bloomberg, a Japanese reporter from some overseas newspaper, Reuters, NPR, etc.(No local New Jersey paper bothered to show up)- and took pictures, so hopefully Goldman executives will know we haven’t forgotten their amoral and unethical financial practices.
Thats a wrap-

   -Tommy Fox-

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