Quebec City turned into a war zone during the Summit of the Americas. Thousands of people marched to the gate where they were met by the RCMP and the Surete Du Quebec armed with tear gas, plastic bullets, German shepherds and high pressure hoses.
The younger protesters taunt police through the fence who answer with tear gas. Some of the protesters throw the smoking canisters back towards the police. A man is dressed to look like Fidel Castro walks by the fence taunting the police. Alex Roslin calls in the middle of a heated battle at another part of the city. “They’re tearing down the fence over here!” That was only the first day of fighting.
The People’s Summit took place just minutes from the other summit. National Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and Dr. David Suzuki spoke at the People’s Summit Environmentalists Forum.
“We are not opposed to the use of resources in a self-sustaining and responsible manner,” Coon Come told the gathering. “These FTAA discussions bring fear to our people because we know they will not benefit us but will bring us great harm. We are hunters and farmers and miners…. We are not anti-trade or development, but we are if it doesn’t take into consideration our livelihood and the health of our people. There’s a Spanish saying: If you want gold, go where the Natives are. In our case, the gold is fur, minerals, salmon, plants, soil, the air itself. Indigenous people are everywhere where there are resources that others want to take.”
Later, Coon Come was asked what Native people could gain from participating in the People’s summit. “We no longer live in isolation. There are forces at work that fuel the economy. Corporations owned by outsiders sign agreements that will take out resources. They talk about water, forestry. What they do will effect oxygen, will affect animals. This is not our doing. The problem is we are outside of the wall. We don’t have a say in the way these things will be developed.”
Suzuki spoke of the incredible speed at which the human race has managed to overwhelm the planet with development and pollution. “Nature provides all sorts of services for humans, but yet economists refer to ecosystems as external elements. You might as well be on Mars – economics has nothing to do with life on Earth. The feeling among business people and economists is that if the economy isn’t growing, it’s dying.”
On Saturday I got inside the perimeter without meaning to. Security seemed lax and the ROMP didn’t bother to check if I had a pass. Inside, The police had dogs who barked incessantly and yelped when stung by gas. A sniper sat atop a truck ready to shoot real bullets. Other policemen reloaded their tear gas launchers.
One young man screamed through the fence, “What are you going to tell your families when you get home?!?” A Mountie walked slowly towards him and fired a canister through the fence. A protester fastened a hook with a rope attached and they tried to pull down the fence. The water hose truck came out and sprayed the crowd.
Finally the gas was too much for me. I went into a café and had a drink. A young man sat at another table. He told me he worked as a parking valet inside the perimeter. I asked him if he could smuggle our video camera inside for me. “Sure man.” He said. I will go back to the battle zone with the video camera.
The protesters have already been driven far back. A line of RCMP are outside still firing. I go towards the fence and a Mountie tells me to stay back or he will arrest me.
Two helicopters hover over the fighting with powerful spotlights.
It is getting dark and all the action is outside. I leave the perimeter and a small crowd of protesters are sitting in a circle with candles, singing, “We’ve got the whole world in our hands, we’ve got George Bush in our hands.”
I walk home to Rudi and Genevieve’s and the air is full of tear gas. What a day..