April 25th, 2001
By Naomi Klein
Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, is condemned for not calling off Maude’s Mob. Activist Jaggi Singh is in jail for allegedly possessing a weapon that he never owned or useda theatrical catapult that shot stuffed animals over the infamous fence in Quebec City during last weekend’s Summit of the Americas.
It’s not just that the police didn’t get the joke, it’s that they don’t get the new era of political protest, one adapted to our postmodern times. There was no one person, or group, who could call off "their people," because the tens of thousands who came out to protest against the Free Trade Area of the Americas are part of a movement that doesn’t have a leader, a centre, or even an agreed-on name. Yet it exists, undeniably, nonetheless.
What is difficult to convey in media reports is that there weren’t two protests that took place in Quebec Cityone a "peaceful" labour march, the other a "violent" anarchist riot. There were hundreds of protests. One was organized by a mother and daughter from Montreal. Another by a vanload of grad students from Edmonton. Another by three friends from ...
April 21st, 2001
By Naomi Klein
"Where are you," I screamed from my cellphone into his. There was a pause and then, "A Green ZoneSt. Jean and St. Claire."
Green Zone is protest speak for an area free of tear gas or police clashes. There are no fences to storm, only sanctioned marches. Green zones are safe, you’re supposed to be able to bring your kids to them.
"Okay," I said. "See you in 15 minutes."
I had barely put on my coat when I got another call: "Jaggi’s been arrested. Well, not exactly arrested. More like kidnapped." My first thought was that it was my fault: I had asked Mr. Singh to tell me his whereabouts over a cellphone. Our call must have been monitored, that’s how they found him.
If that sounds paranoid, welcome to Summit City.
Less than an hour later, at the ComitÃ© Populaire St-Jean Baptiste community centre, a group of six swollen-eyed eyewitnesses read me their hand-written accounts of how the most visible organizer of Friday’s direct action protest against the free-trade area of the Americas was snatched from under their noses.
All say Mr. Singh was standing around ...
April 18th, 2001
By Naomi Klein
Brian Mulroney thinks the numbers are his friends. He proudly points to the percentage of Canada’s gross domestic product now made up by exports to the United States40 per cent! The number of jobs created by tradefour in five! And Mexico’s status as an important U.S. trading partnersecond only to Canada! These numbers are a vindication, our former prime minister believes, for the free-trade deals he negotiated first with the United States, then with Mexico.
He still doesn’t get it: Those numbers aren’t his friends; they’re his worst enemy. Opposition to free trade has grown, and grown more vocal, precisely because private wealth has soared without translating into anything that can be clearly identified as the public good. It’s not that critics don’t know how much money is being made under free tradeit’s that we know all too well.
While there’s no shortage of numbers pointing to increases in exports and investment, the trickle-down effects promised as the political incentive for deregulationtougher environmental standards, higher wages, better working conditions, less povertyhave either been pitifully incremental or non-existent.
The labour and environmental side agreements tacked on to the North American free-trade agreement ...
April 11th, 2001
By Naomi Klein
As soon as I wrote the sentence, I deleted it: "Is this really what we wanta movement of meeting stalkers, following the trade bureaucrats like they’re the Grateful Dead?"
It could be taken out of context, I thought; better take it out. Then I put it back in: The context was clear, and I was being paranoid. If you let your critics steal your sense of humour, they have already won. Paranoia, I’ve since learned, can be a healthy impulse.
That sentence, which was first published almost a year ago in the U.S. magazine The Nation, has been following me around like . . . oh, forget it. In The Economist, on CBC Radio, in The Globe and Mail just last week, it has been used exactly as I’d feared: to paint anti-corporate protesters as a roving band of thrill-seekers, in it for the party, not the politics. (On the upside, Deadheads are now convinced that I alone understand them: "Duuude," they say to me. "It’s so true what you wrote because Dead shows were all about community.")
In fact, the sentence never referred to the culture of the protests (though ...
April 1st, 2001
By Sarah Polley Clayton Ruby
Naomi Klein, actor Sarah Polley, and lawyer Clayton Ruby initiated this petition to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in anticipation of police violence during the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. The letter sought to galvanize public opinion, particularly in the arts community. Over six thousand Canadians signed: artists, academics, journalists, judges, lawyers and intellectuals. Among them were some of Canada’s most prominent cultural figures, including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Atom Egoyan, Michael Ignatieff, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and the Barenaked Ladies.
As Canadians who value freedom of expression as an essential democratic right and depend on that right to make our living, we will watch with vigilance the actions of police officers and immigration agents next week when the Summit of the Americas convenes in Quebec City.
The right to freedom of expression, so fundamental to our democracy, includes the right not just to speak and communicate but to be heard. The constitutional right to peaceful assembly encompasses the right to gather in public spaces in all Canadian cities. The right to freedom of movement across borders extends not just to trade and tourism but also to political rallies, ...
March 30th, 2001
By Naomi Klein
"We are here to show the world that another world is possible!" the man on stage said, and a crowd of more than 10,000 roared its approval.
What was strange was that we weren’t cheering for a specific other world, just the possibility of one. We were cheering for the idea that another world could, in theory, exist.
For the past thirty years, a select group of CEOs and world leaders have met during the last week in January on a mountaintop in Switzerland to do what they presumed they were the only ones capable of doing: determine how the global economy should be governed. We were cheering because it was, in fact, the last week of January, and this wasn’t the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was the first annual World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. And even though we weren’t CEOs or world leaders, we were still going to spend the week talking about how the global economy should be governed.
Many people said that they felt history being made in that room. What I felt was something more intangible: the end of The End of ...
March 28th, 2001
By Naomi Klein
Next Friday, trade ministers from the 34 countries negotiating the Free Trade Area of the Americas will meet in Buenos Aires. Many in Latin America predict that the ministers will be greeted with protests much larger than the ones that exploded in Seattle in 1999.
The FTAA’s cheerleaders like to pretend that their only critics are white college kids from Harvard and McGill who just don’t understand how much "the poor" are "clamouring" for the FTAA. Will this public display of Latin American opposition to the trade deal change all that?
Don’t be silly.
Mass protests in the developing world don’t register in our discussions about trade in the West. No matter how many people take to the streets of Buenos Aires, Mexico City or Sao Paulo, defenders of corporate-driven globalization just keep on insisting that every possible objection lobbed their way was dreamed up in Seattle, by somebody with newly matted dreadlocks slurping a latte.
When we talk about trade, we often focus on who is getting richer and who is getting poorer. But there is another divide at play: which countries are presented as diverse, complicated political landscapes ...
March 21st, 2001
By Naomi Klein
"I am worried that free trade is leading to the privatization of education," an elementary school teacher in Ottawa tells me. "I want to go to the protests in Quebec City, but is it going to be safe?"
"I think NAFTA has increased the divide between rich and poor," a young mother in Toronto tells me. "But if I go to Quebec, will my son get pepper-sprayed?"
"I want to go to Quebec City," a Harvard undergraduate active in the anti-sweatshop movement says, "but I heard no one is getting across the border."
"We’re not even bothering to go to Quebec City," a student in Mexico City says. "We can’t afford to get arrested in a foreign country."
If you think that the next big crackdown on political protest is going to take place when 5,000 police officers clash with activists outside the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City next month, you are mistaken. The real crackdown is already taking place. It is happening silently, with no fanfare, every time another would-be protester decides not to publicly express his or her views about the proposed free-trade area of the ...
March 15th, 2001
By Naomi Klein
Anyone still unclear about why the police are constructing a modern-day Bastille around Quebec City in preparation for a forthcoming summit and the unveiling of the Free Trade Area of the Americas should take a look at a case being heard by a Canadian provincial supreme court.
In 1991 a United States waste management company, Metalclad, bought a closed-down toxic treatment facility in Guadalcazar, Mexico. The company wanted to build a huge, hazardous waste dump, and promised to clean up the mess left behind by the previous owners. In the years that followed it expanded operations without seeking local approval, earning little goodwill in Guadalcazar. Residents lost trust that Metalclad was serious about cleaning up, feared continued groundwater contamination, and eventually decided that the foreign company was not welcome.
In 1995, when the landfill was ready to open, the town and state intervened with what legislative powers they had available: the city denied Metalclad a building permit, and the state declared that the area around the site was part of an ecological reserve.
By this point the North American Free Trade Agreement, Nafta, was in full effect, including its controversial chapter ...
March 3rd, 2001
By Naomi Klein
I’ve never been to Chiapas. I’ve never made the pilgrimage to the Lacandon jungle. I’ve never sat in the mud and the mist in La Realidad. I’ve never begged, pleaded or posed to get an audience with Subcomandante Marcos, the masked man, the faceless face of Mexico’s Zapatista National Liberation Army. I know people who have. Lots of them. In 1994, the summer after the Zapatista rebellion, caravans to Chiapas were all the rage in north American activist circles: friends got together and raised money for secondhand vans, filled them with supplies, then drove south to San Cristobal de las Casas and left the vans behind. I didn’t pay much attention at the time. Back then, Zapatista-mania looked suspiciously like just another cause for guilty lefties with a Latin American fetish: another Marxist rebel army, another macho leader, another chance to go south and buy colourful textiles. Hadn’t we heard this story before? Hadn’t it ended badly? Last week, there was another caravan in Chiapas. But this was different. First, it didn’t end in San Cristobal de las Casas; it started there, and is now criss-crossing the Mexican countryside before the planned grand entrance ...