Québec City, Friday & Saturday April 20 & 21, 2001
It’s a bit hard to figure out what happened in Québec City, even if you were there. Everyone does seem sure that there was a lot of tear gas. There was little to no information in the streets and the CMAQ/IndyMedia center was mysteriously non-operative during the protests, failing to post until late Saturday night. Despite the lack of information, already some are claiming the Québec City protests a success. But the difference between us and them is supposed to be that we don’t lie.
Did we disrupt the meetings? Friday night television showed all the relevant heads of state successfully ensconsed in wing chairs on a diaz. The meetings were briefly delayed, but not seriously affected, due to tear gas in the buildings — but a combination of police overkill and a west wind is hardly our victory. Did we encourage dissent within the Summit, as in Seattle? Apparently not, as they all signed the “onward with the FTAA” communiqué. Did we contribute to raising the level of public debate on neoliberalism? Our preliminary media analysis suggests that this did occur, but credit may well be primarily due to the Canadian government’s own anti-democratic behavior and irony. Did we further our own organizational and tactical skills? No. The protests were disorganized, individualistic, and (with the exception of the Black Blocs) non-tactical. Moreover, many of the major organizations stayed well away from the perimeter, failing to mobilize their members to take any risk at all. Did we empower people in such a way as to encourage their future participation? Mixed evidence on this.
This is a report and analysis which provides material with which to explore such questions and propositions.
Our affinity group, which participated in the Seattle (WTO 1999), DC (IMF/WB 4.16.00), Philadelphia (RNC 2000), Los Angeles (DNC 2000), and Cincinnati (TABD 11.16.00) protests, arrived in Québec City on Monday 16th April and departed on Saturday night 21st April at around 11 pm. (Lest anyone suspects that we are on “protest tour”, let it be known that we find participating in mass actions entirely compatible with lots of local organizing and activism on a range of issues in our home town.)
We are citizens of the U.S. Our first car crossed the border on Sunday afternoon with no problems, but our second car, which crossed on Wednesday, was searched end-to-end, including the reading of the travelers’ diaries. Our successful crossing of the border hinged on our stripping ourselves of all materials (signs, leaflets, analytic papers, costumes, goggles, phone numbers…) which might be useful in political activity. Due to financial and time constraints, we were unable to reassemble such resources once in Canada so our political presence was already reduced to no more than bodies in the street.
On the 17th, 18th, and 19th, we attended some educational events but there wasn’t much to do because there was no convergence space. Although some of us were interested in attending the People’s Summit, it was spread out all over the city, had a very confusing program which could only be acquired by registering, and was too expensive to be welcoming to people on their way to protest. This is a strong contrast with the educational events put on by the International Forum on Globalization at the Seattle and DC protests. We waited around to learn about the action plans. From reading all the e-mail lists, we knew about the major groups, SalAMI (which had an impressive direct action history, but seemed to eschew it here for the sake of a large coalition), OQP2001 (Opération Québec Printemps, which we learned was focused on providing housing, but which apparently later hosted a march), and CLAC/CASA (Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitalistes from Montréal and a Québec City version, called the Summit Welcoming Committee; these two had been calling for the most confrontational stance). There were no opportunities to pitch in and help with work, except for passing out fliers on Wednesday (which we did, to surprisingly inquisitive and enthusiastic citizens). Although we never made an ideological decision to work with CLAC/CASA, they seemed to be the only game in town. SalAMI was nowhere to be found.
The CLAC and CASA appeared to be serving jointly in a way similar to the Direct Action Network. They offered trainings, hosted spokescouncils for affinity groups, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to provide a convergence space. Their non-negotiable principles of unity were: anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchical, non-reformist, supporting a diversity of tactics, and non-hierarchical. There were no additional “action guidelines”, as have become customary at US actions (a surprisingly restrictive set of which had been issued by SalAMI —for what action it is still unclear— several months ago). There were at least 400 people at the Wednesday night spokescouncil and perhaps 300 at the Thursday afternoon one. These spokescouncils had established systems of democracy, gender equity, and diversity and were fully bilingual. The affinity group system was clearly in use, with most speakers mentioning that they represented 10 to 200 people. The spokescouncils were an exciting manifestation of the movement, particularly in contrast with the individualism and depressing and fearful anti-democratic vanguardism that dominated DAN-LA last summer.
CLAC/CASA organized three events: an entirely pacific torchlight march of 2000 people on Thursday night to “greet” the delegates (it was pacific in order to ensure everyone would still be around for Friday); a collective approach to the perimeter on Friday at noon from which affinity groups were supposed to break off to do actions; and a contingent within the [SalAMI?/People’s Summit?] labor march on Saturday which would at Rue de la Couronne break off from the march and again collectively approach the perimeter (with some unions in tow and, per announcement by union members at the Wednesday spokescouncil, the collaboration of the labor council in facilitating the breakoff).
Friday the 20th was supposed to be a day of affinity group actions. CLAC/CASA created a structure to support “diversity of tactics”. Each action was supposed to self-categorize as green, yellow, or red. Green actions were those with no risk of arrest and could be undertaken within two designated green zones that were supported by the local businesses and neighborhood associations. The green zone L’ilôt Fleuri was a reclaimed community park underneath a freeway overpass. The green zone Rue St. Jean was a lively commercial street of small businesses rudely dissected by the fence. About half of the shops on Rue St. Jean put plywood over their windows and almost all remained open, doing business throughout the protest. No corporate outlets existed on this street. On the fence as it crossed the street was a sign reading “Provincial Penitentiary for Corrupt Politicians and Heads of State”.
Yellow (risk of arrest, due to civil disobedience or direct action) and red (sure arrest, should you be caught) actions had no geographical zones. At the Thursday and Friday spokescouncils, yellow and red actions were supposed to announce their action and let others know what kinds of activities they would prefer to happen or not nearby. No groups announced specific locations for their actions. This made sense because those planning red actions would not want to announce to a surely surveilled meeting where they would be doing it. Even yellow actions would not want to announce. We felt we were yellow, but had no specific action planned (partly because we couldn’t bring anything with us across the border and partly because we have a hard time agreeing on anything).
Those intending red and yellow, about 7,000 people including the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Offensive, gathered at Laval University (about 5 km from the perimeter) and marched at 1 pm (with police presence limited to traffic control) at all along René Lévesque to the fence at Rue de l’Amérique-Française. Behind the fence, a hundred feet or more away down René Lévesque stood perhaps 20 riot police with shields. Equally far away to our right on Rue de l’Amérique-Française stood a similar line. The fence itself was essentially unprotected. Almost without pause upon our arrival a young man scrambled up the fence to implant a red flag on it. Then he and others began rocking the fence and it came down very quickly.
The taking down of the fence was hugely important. The fence had been presented as an absolute, described dramatically and analyzed thoroughly in its political meaning and consequences (often as Canada’s “shame”). Having read about it in every document regarding the protests for months, when we arrived in the city we went to see the celebrity fence. The fence turned out to be small and weak. The transgression of it was a reality check of the physical and the psychological and their relation. For those of us present who could not imagine dismantling the fence, we were demonstrated by a mere ten or so people the straightforward mechanism for doing it. Every moment in which we show ourselves that we can take control of the landscape is a psychological decolonization in the battle for our own imaginations.
So the fence is down, and we wonder what is next. About a hundred people move inside the perimeter through the first opening, while the rest of nearly a block of fence comes down along Rue de l’Amérique-Française. The police have hardly twitched. At this point, it begins to appear as a trap. Where are the other 5,960 police? Why do they not protect their precious fence? Some of us still think it was a trap. Once the perimeter had been transgressed, the police were justified in waging war on us.
Meanwhile —just before or just after the breach of the fence— a variety of objects are being at first gently hurled at police. Some soft looking brown things (donuts? rocks?), empty plastic water bottles, then a beer bottle. Inside the fence, an offensive engages the row of cops on Rue de l’Amérique-Française. The offensive backs off and the police reinforcements are marching out of an alley. It is five to ten minutes before tear gas is fired. The police have not advanced toward the fence. For a long time, the gas just blows back on the cops and down the street toward the Summit. We laugh. Larger and larger chunks of the sidewalk are being dug up and hurled at the cops. Someone asks me if this is typical of what the other protests have been like. I answer that it seems more like a European-style protest, “in the US we don’t drink beer and we don’t throw the sidewalk at the police”. At this moment, I feel that I don’t recognize my movement.
A bit later they try to bring in the water cannons behind the crowd. These are like big fire trucks especially designed for crowd control with a moveable cannon. Two large white trucks one behind another hurtle toward us. Suddenly someone steps before the lead one and holds before the cannon a white sign “DEMOCRACY”. The cannon pushes against him and he stays right with it. They stop briefly. Both trucks go into reverse. He chases, keeping the sign up against the first cannon. Finally the trucks gain distance on him and the lead one turns on the water against him and then sprays to one side. Both cannons turn around, driving angrily, haphazardly spraying a few people on the corner and bolting away.
At the same time another march of 2,000 approached the large intersection of Rue D’Aiguillon and Avenue Dufferin-Montmorency at the top of Côte D’Abraham where the ramps on and off the Autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency (Rte 440) begin. This intersection was the closest point of the perimeter to the summit. The march was organized by GOMM (Group Opposed to the Mondialisation of Markets) including striking students from ten universities. (At GOMM’s “required” midnight meeting the night before with nearly 1,000 people, there was a PowerPoint presentation of the action plans right up to the point they wouldn’t tell anyone about, which was some type of civil disobedience. People seemed to be under the impression that this was a “green” action, although it was not in a “green zone”.) Eventually that intersection also produced an assault on the fence and a teargas war. Around 6 pm, we found a large sit-in and a drumming circle there. After dark the police presence there reached the level of 800 police four deep and very heavy teargassing.
At some point on Friday, one section of fence on Rue D’Aiguillon was removed. Later on, this became one of the best places to get a good close-up look at riot cops. Six or so were on display there throughout the afternoon stonily standing in for that bit of fence in an already narrow street. People passing through from Rue St. Jean to the Côte D’Abraham intersection stopped for a zooey look. We do not know if there were additional actions on Friday, although one American television report claimed four points of confrontation at the perimeter.
We did not manage to attend the CLAC/CASA spokescouncil on Friday night (no time was announced and Côte D’Abraham was more appealing for most of the night, so by the time we got there it was over), but we talked to an organizer who was still there and learned that a split had developed between the affinity groups, which would meet to plan an action at ten in the morning, and the CLAC/CASA which would continue with its planned participation in the SalAMI?/union march (“We may get lost going a far distance to hear boring speeches, so we will split off.”). We don’t know the outcome of the affinity group meeting.
So on Saturday our group went with the big march from the Vieux Port. At the assembly point, we asked the CLAC/CASA people with van and bullhorns how people would know to turn off toward the perimeter (and where to do it) if the CLAC/CASA contingent was in the back of the march. They said it was a good question. We went up front amidst the unions and the march was very nice. We think there were close to 40,000 people, very diverse, with the unions not rigidly separated. The only bad part was a rental truck painfully blaring a pre-recorded series of chants. We were impressed that when some gas floated in on the tightly packed march, there was no panic at all.
We turned off of Boulevard Charest at the CLAC/CASA point, Rue de la Couronne, and went up the hill toward the perimeter. From the top of the hill we looked down on the futile route. People were steadily breaking off of the march but sadly tens of thousands more turned away from the perimeter, heading back to the march beginning point. They came all across Canada to march around four blocks and go home? SalAMI spent six months organizing THIS?
The unions are reluctant to expose people to direct action. Weinstein (“Québec’s Intifada”, 4.24.01) claims that rank and file were displeased with the timidity of the march. Union leaders should invite people, not make promises, and let them make decisions in the situation. The hegemonic talk of “safety” (sometimes employing the camouflage of “legitimacy”) is really an invocation of first world privilege and a collective fantasy that the state will be just and benign when threatened so long as the threat is “non-violent”. Safety is purchased and promised by organizing demonstrations in ways that pose no threat.
Simultaneous with the union march, a separate approach to the perimeter was brought from the Plains of Abraham along the West side of the perimeter (this might have been the OQP march). Eventually the confrontation at René Lévesque was reignited.
We went up the hill where a repeat of Friday ensued at the top of Côte D’Abraham (Rue D’Aiguillion and Avenue Dufferin-Montmorency) and at René Lévesque. We were in and out of these areas throughout the day and both were active late into the night. With the use of teargas in lieu of arrest, the meaning of red, yellow, and green collapsed. The green zones were toxified, so all was red. Arrests were minimal and not used as a means of crowd control until late Saturday night, so all was green. Yellow disappeared entirely. At both of the major conflict locations, small fires were set in the streets. These were not a threat to any building, so were largely a symbol of resistance. At Côte D’Abraham people occupied the two freeway ramps, laughing at the cops’ poor aim (they kept missing the ramps, sending the teargas down the cliffs). At René Lévesque police drove people blocks back and then retreated again to the perimeter. There was some confrontational dancing and an attack on a bank — one of very few corporate targets in the vicinity. (“I.O.U. one window. —The Revolution”) Will any city ever want to host such meetings?
Positioning themselves in the post-Seattle political context in such a way as to respect the different contributions and sectors of the movement, CLAC/CASA had carefully defended “diversity of tactics” — a phrase which has come to mean that those employing and those eschewing property crime shall refrain from condemning and endangering one another. What were the effects of this approach?
Tactical totalizing: It facilitated the totalizing of one tactic in such a way that other tactics became untenable. Scott Weinstein (4.24.01) writes “As some of us predicted, when you mix tactics the most provocative tactic against property or the police absorbs all other.” There was no space near the perimeter in which people could mount any kind of direct action other than cat and mouse with police. Only two forms of protest were possible: throwing things at the cops and sucking up the gas (at various distances from the perimeter) in a valiant effort simply to be present. This has been described in commentaries as a courageous and creative effort to maintain a presence at the perimeter, despite violent police efforts to drive people away.
Weinstein’s and other street reports describe all sorts of festive resistance (sit-ins, dancing, drumming, cheerleading, rituals…) happening both at the perimeter and throughout the neighborhood. We are sure such things occurred. What we saw was lots and lots of people in twos and threes and small groups walking, standing, and sitting around with nothing to do, looking kind of sad, their carefully painted signs and sometimes elaborate costumes a wasted burden. Organized yellow affinity groups stumbled through the streets with nothing to do.
Mark Engler (“Conflict in Québec”, n.d.) argues that CLAC/CASA’s lack of “non-violence guidelines” and “discipline” led to “uncontrolled melee” and “made spectators of those who might have had a supporting role”, limiting “the real diversity of protest”. Engler also blames CLAC/CASA’s approach for alienating the SalAMI from doing any direct action at all and Weinstein provides more context for how this happened: “Ironically, while the goal was maximum disruption in the streets, the four key organizations that called for April 20th actions: CASA, CLAC, GOMM and OQP2001 put action trainings and tactical planning on the back burner…They simply called a protest, and expected thousands to show up ready to roll. Strategically, there was no plan to advance the vague call of ‘maximum disturbance’ of the summit. There was a lot more talk about a diversity of action, than actual actions…It was no surprise that there was very little diverse direct action, no organized attempt to really block the access and exit points, and only a few organized action affinity groups.”
Disorganized! Where was com? Based on our observation, there were plenty of organized affinity groups. Many showed up at spokescouncils and we observed others meeting outside of spokescouncils. It is unknown how many had planned specific actions for specific locations, as they were not announced. Most groups who spoke in spokescouncil described specific types of action they would be providing as a “mobile” group. So rather than inadequate affinity group organization, inadequate training (there had been training caravans and there were trainings at the Cegep de Limoilou on Wednesday and Thursday), or excessive inter-organizational ideological bickering, we focus on one crucial failing of CLAC/CASA.
In comparison with the established US DAN model, CLAC/CASA skipped an essential component of infrastructure — communications. With the exception of announcements made at intersections of the marches where some breakoff was planned (“this way to green zone, this way to yellow/red actions”), there was no communication at all in the street. There was no system of radios, no tactical announcements made, no updates of what was going on in other parts of the city. There was no news being passed in the street about what was happening in other parts of the perimeter, as occurred constantly in DC & Seattle (alongside a system of “rumour control”). In addition, no one was providing tactical leadership in the street, as is customary, recommending tactical moves based on com information or calling for spontaneous spokescouncils to make decisions about what we ought to do. Was CLAC/CASA making the common mistake of conflating leadership with hierarchy?
This left many people wandering around or standing on street corners, not sure how they could contribute. For those who relished ducking and returning the canisters, it was a success, but for many withstanding the dispersing (but still debilitating) gas, the protest lacked a sense of purpose. At the time, it was not necessarily obvious that the cat and mouse at the fence was an effective protest, although people are now arguing that it was.
Direct confrontation is empowering: Some people found the cat and mouse game empowering and fun, and stuck it out at the perimeter, throwing back a majority of the teargas canisters, laughing at the cops, and simply holding their ground in the face of the very ugly state. Judy Rebick argues that “it is direct confrontation with the police that has drawn so many youth into the struggle”. (“Québec: Day One” 4.21.01) As the battle wore on, more and more people came with a beer in hand to stare down the police and withstand the assault of the neighborhood. One reality of resistance that we should not lose sight of is that it can be the evening’s entertainment to face your own fear and the state. Better that people are doing that, opined one of our group, than staying fearfully locked in their houses or watching television. What is this movement to denounce the small armor of a beer or the casual involvement of people who can’t quite articulate why they hate the state?
At the same time, as Weinstein observes, most of the folks throwing things back at the cops were male, presumably “into the macho challenge”. This has several implications. First, what sort of political crucible is this for the individuals involved? Brian, who enjoyed the cat and mouse game, admits and indeed insists that it was “macho fun”. Better yet, it was cool, sanctified and heroized by the political context. And best of all it was pretty safe in that people could back off as soon as they had had enough. More so than in other forms of direct action, people were able to make individual decisions about how much to withstand as they were not bound by a collective process and context. Second, Québec brings the war narrative to the forefront of our self-reflection (even for those who were technically “non-violent”). This narrative of courage, sacrifice, and humility is, among other things, deeply gendered.
Gas is radicalizing: Nearly everyone in our group felt empowered by learning that we could withstand teargas. Naomi Klein argues (“Not Two but Hundreds of Protests”, 4.24.01) that the gas unified and radicalized green, yellow, and red protesters along with non-protesters who spontaneously came to “reject” the “impoverished and passive vision of democracy” presented by the summit and reclaim the streets in “hundreds of miniature protests” in the gas. Even an admitted architect of free trade, Sinclair Stevens (Minister of regional industrial expansion under Brian Mulroney and MP from 1972 to 1988), was shocked by his experience of “the police action in Quebec City”, describing it as “a provocation itself” and “an assault on all our freedoms”. (Globe & Mail, 4.24.01)Doug Incognito (“Quebec City Protests Were As Successful As Seattle, But For Different Reasons” 4.25.01) writes “60,000 people now have their eyes open to the true nature of the Police state….Now everyone knows about [the FTAA]….The public is actually moving towards our side….Quebec City residents were right behind the protestors.” Even the unions were included in this epiphany. Weinstein wryly notes that “Fortunately, the marchers did get to walk through tear gas that floated down from the battles in the upper city.”
Actually it was organized & non-violent: In contrast with our perspectives on the lack of space for diverse protest at the perimeter, the lack of tactics of the resistance that did exist, and the sole perimeter-proximate project of individuals hucking stuff at the cops, Dave Marshall’s extensive street report (“Québec’s Peaceful Revolution”) insists that the actions at the perimeter were: 1) Organized and collective, taking the form of sit-ins, dances, drum-circles, and standing blockades against police advances; 2) Resolutely political (in that people were holding signs and attempting to hang banners on the fence while “to stand bravely in front of a fence is now a crime, subject to vicious assault with harmful sickening chemicals fired from high powered weaponry….Still, the brave, dedicated, peaceful youth kept responding. They were not out for a good time; they were there for good reason. They were there to change a rotten, corrupt, oppressive system that has traded in their right to participation, their future, and the future of billions of others much worse off than them…No one came to have a party, ‘blah, blah, blah’. They came to challenge force, challenge violence, and challenge a shameful societal apathy that lets all this happen….They were not out to hurt, and no one would be hurt by them. Many were prepared to risk injury, though, and many were being wounded by the violent state.”); and 3) Almost entirely non-violent, involving very little throwing of things at police, with the exception of teargas canisters (“Most are picked up by gloved peaceful citizens and returned to where they had come from.”)
Mass action doesn’t have to be clever: Ultimately, rather than blaming the tactical totalization on “red” activities, we have come to understand the way that the fence itself delimited tactics. It turned us into Palestinians. The fence manifested the real deal so intensely that it trivialized our elaborate affinity group plans for “non-violent direct action”. We are up against state power, regardless of what tactics we use. CLAC/CASA’s clunky strategy of bringing everyone to the perimeter together put us in a real mass action situation, uncomforted with cute symbolic projects. Staying in one great mass as we were at the beginning of Friday could have taught us about the power of seven thousand people. One of us met a Latin American in the bar who said he couldn’t believe that everyone did not just go through the opening in the fence. Of course some people would have died, but that is something people are ready for when they go to a demonstration in his country. Experiencing the capacity of a network of affinity groups is good for learning about one kind of power, the ability to do things for ourselves in a community without the state, but there are other kinds of power we need to learn about too.
Paradigm shift? Weinstein argues that the particular context in which cat and mouse became the tactic has transformed the entire “violence vs. non-violence” debate. He writes, “the most ironic accomplishment of the repression was to legitimize and popularize the very actions that the State claimed were the reasons for their repressive tactics in the first place – like burning barricades, and throwing tear gas canisters and other objects back at the riot cops. It is not that these tactics are wonderful, but in the context of divisions over tactics, Québec changed the perceptions of what would be considered acceptable vs. unacceptable — mostly because the higher level of repression changed values about what tactics were OK or Not OK.” After months of media hype about the arrival of violent protesters, “Even the major daily Le Soleil led with a headline ‘A good wind’ over the picture of the perimeter fence down, people streaming in, and tear gas being blown back to the police. The next day, their headline was, ‘To arms, citizens!’.” Weinstein found that “committed non-violent organizers who were at Québec were feeling enthusiastic about the overall outcome” and quotes a “non-violent protester” who said, ‘It’s not violent when you throw back the weapons of the state they threw at you.’ ” Our observation of the Saturday union march agreed with Weinstein’s observation that the participants refused to be scared off by Friday’s events, or even by teargas wafting in. People of all ages resolutely pulled out their bandanas and calmly waited for it to pass.
Empowerment isn’t enough, we need tactics! While Brian found the teargas war “fun”, he thinks it went exactly the way the police wanted it to. While the confrontations may have been empowering for some people and may have been effective in some ways, they were not tactical. They did not further our movement’s skills. The police violence drew our energy to where they were well-prepared to control us. Drawing and withstanding their patient fire was hardly an effective project. We needed to do something they didn’t want us to do. Blockading the perimeter was pointless because the delegates were inside (there was no traffic in and out). Successfully breaching the perimeter was unlikely, given our numbers. Shutting down the city was unnecessary because the police gave us a large chunk of it. So what could we do? We could have shut down other parts of the city. We could have chosen among the undefended corporate targets outside the perimeter. We could have wreaked a level of havoc that really would have scared any other city from hosting a trade summit. Or we could have claimed the city they gave us in a confrontational way, by changing the rules and asserting our values (the roadways were ripe for guerilla gardening, all kinds of materials and spaces could have been appropriated for various projects, and —as proposed by one affinity group— blockades or invasions of media headquarters could have been mounted to demand unadulterated air time for our side…). The ensuing dismantling of projects created during the protest would have provided a useful political opportunity to reveal the differences between democratic peoples’ projects and capitalist ones and the role of the state. Again, the lack of communication infrastructure and leadership made such a tactical move impossible on a large scale.
Many in our group agreed that the best moment of the weekend was Saturday night. The cops slowly drove people from the Côte D’Abraham side of the perimeter (later attacking the medic clinic and the CMAQ there where people had taken shelter). Two parties ensued at the base of the cliffs, one in a park at Boulevard Charest and Rue de la Couronne and the larger at L’ilôt Fleuri. People barricaded the bottom of the stairways coming down the cliffs so that the cops couldn’t come down. You could see their helmets bobbing around up there as they peered curiously down. At L’ilôt Fleuri there was a huge fire and three to four thousand people, perhaps a thousand of whom were steadily banging on the metal guardrails and the metal road signs with rocks and sticks. Suddenly, everyone was a drummer. The sound echoed off the freeway overpasses above (the same ones people had occupied hours earlier).
It was a tremendous sound, furious and frightening and huge — an agony and an ecstasy at once. “You have taken everything from us. You have denied us voice and space and breath. You have driven us into this unwanted crevice of the city. But we are here.” Unfortunately, in two days, it was all we had managed to say. The unions, in their caution, had whispered it on the edge of the city. The youth, in despair we all felt, railed at the impervious state, insisting “We are not going. You may drive us away for a few minutes, but we will return every time.” The fence had imposed an unexpected silence on us. But at L’ilôt Fleuri we drowned out three persistent helicopters. “The city can hear us. You know we are here. Come and get us, then.” This moment of desperate creativity was the most participatory, and, wordless after a river of clever multilingual slogans, the most eloquent. We know. The city is ours and we will figure out how to use it. We are manifest. You cannot take our rage. We are here.