Jan Slakov: (preliminary) Quebec report


Richard Moore

Thank you Jan for a heartwarming and inspiring report...


(Note: Our ongoing dialog thread will continue shortly).

Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 13:56:46 -0300
To: •••@••.•••
From: •••@••.••• (Jan Slakov)
Subject: rn: Jan's (preliminary) Quebec report

Dear Renaissance Network,

I remember once reading a line, something about how when the
student is ready, the teacher appears. Well, I feel like the
Quebec summit was just the "teacher" I was ready for!

I know I was not the only one who went there not really
knowing what kind of role we could play that would be
useful, because early Saturday morning I met up with a
couple people who had just gotten off the train, having come
for the protest, and they said they weren't sure what they
were doing there... I said I thought that was a great
starting point. It means leaving yourself open to find out
what would be the most useful thing you could do.

Me, I wake up early all the time. And go for a walk. So, for
each of the three mornings I was there, I went up to the
"périmètre de la sécurité" (the fence around the part of old
Quebec where the summit was held. The first day I saw this
guy in army fatigues standing there, probably facing a
pretty monotonous day of standing there; and a great way to
break the monotony came to me: I went up and said: " Vous
feriez bien attention de ne pas laisser sortir les criminels
de là-dedans, hien?" (You'll make good and sure not to let
the criminals in there get out, eh?) and he got the joke!
Later I tried the same line on a group of guys in uniform
and one of them assured me, with a big grin, "c'est promis!"
(It's a promise!)

By the second day I realized this was something of a useful
"role" for me: I was consciously going around creating
dialogue, a lot with these guys in uniform, but also with
others. I was delighted when one RCMP officer wondered why
people were so upset about free trade (really corporate
globalization) and gave me a great chance to explain! There
were a couple words I was unsure of in French and a nearby
policeman (or whatever he was) helped me out...:) The RCMP
officer hadn't known about the MMT case, which I gave as an
example of how governments were giving up their rights to
act on behalf of the public interest (and no wonder, I said,
they get huge sums from corporations to fuel their political
ambitions; they do not represent us; they reprsesent
corporations). He said, though, that he was sure many of the
others who were there protesting wouldn't have that much of
an understanding about what they were upset about and I
agreed he had a point but that there was nothing like a big
event like this to help those of us who are trying to share
our understanding with others.

Later that day was the big march. I was part of a group
going under the banner of "Enviro-Clare", all 7 of us from
Nova Scotia but not all of us really members of Enviro-Clare
(the group which I am currently president of). We had more
signs than people so I gave one sign  ("Are we your
enemies?") away. We may have been a very small group, but
given all the help we had had, we really represented many
more people, I would say. Everyone from the people who had
donated money because they wanted to "be with" us the best
they could to the local resident who gave me poles and nails
so we could carry our banner aloft.

Then Carolyn Langdon, also an executive member of the
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace group recognized me.
(Carolyn's the one who sent me that great interview with
Joanna Macy, the "Great Turning" piece I sent out on MArch
31.) She said she was part of a pagan group called the
Living River and invited us to join. Their role, it seemed,
was mainly to try to bring a healthy nonviolent energy to
the march, especially to points of conflict, so she let us
know they might head up to the confrontations at the fence
and that we might not want to go with the group at that
point, depending on how we felt...

Since one young woman in our group had just been saying that
it was so important to her that she learn to oppose the
violence of corporate globalization without falling into the
trap of using essentially their type of energy, this seemed
like the perfect fut for us. We joined in. Later we learned
that this Living River (about 20 people, I would say, from
all aver North America) included Starhawk! That was really
an honour for me.

Three of our seven people broke off from this group quite
quickly, when they saw how much standing around we were
doing. :) As for me, I'm not exactly into standing around
either, but I came to see how this kind of "standing
around", not rushing, worked out just right for us, in this
case at least.

The group would take time to centre themselves with chant
songs and prayerful voicings. Some of it seemed a bit
foreign to me, but I went along as best I could... and later
I was even trying to share what I had leaned with other
non-initiates. Decision-making was fascinating.

At one point the parade forked. It was time for us to decide
if we were going along the pre-planned parade route (which
would avoid the fence and the tear gas) or if we would head
up the stairs to the "summit" (for the summmit was held on
top of a very steep hill). The group found a space in the
emptied street to dance and reach consensus. At one point
someone announced that we would keep up this ritual until we
reached clarity on where we were going: along the
pre-planned route, up the hill or somewhere else entirely!
The leading voice announced this and the others repeated it.
I found this absolutely delightful. There was also the
possibility that the group would split into two, for some
people were very clear they did not want to be tear-gassed
and yet I think others felt there would not be much point to
them being there unless they went to where the action was.

Finally, and by then the huge length of the parade had
passed and the police were re-opening the street, our group
was ready to move... up the hill. Someone had a radio and
had reported that part of the fence was down and the
security forces were now into liberalization of tear gas!

We met people as we headed up whose faces were bloated and
red, we asked someone and she said the air was unbreatable
just up ahead. We danced some more. Eventually we pressed

By then the air up higher was not so bad. A bit further yet
and then we found the group had headed into a small street
which dead-ended into the fence. The fence was down up there
and in that break were many security guys behind a wall of
riot gear.

I saw what was happening and felt that it was time for me to
press up closer (even though I had not bothered to bring any
protection from tear gas; I had been too preoccupied with
our signs and stuff). I figured I had experience
"connecting" with these security guys after my morning walks
:)! But then someone announced that they had given us one
warning and they were going to shoot the tear gas at us.
They had their guns aimed at us. A call of "shame" went out
and I joined in. One of the pagan women shushed me. The
security guys didn't shoot. My heart was pounding but it
wans beginning to calm down. Eventually one of the pagans
instructed us to sit down. By then I was so happy and
relieved! I looked as best I could into the eyes of the
couple of security guys I could see and waved happily and
gave them a huge smile. And we sat there quite a while. Some
nut threw something over us at the police. Many of us turned
and shouted our outrage but a pagan shushed me again. I was
beginning to see that I felt almost a sense of
protectiveness towards these guys who had trusted us enough
not to lash out with their gas. (I think the thing the
person threw was a paint bomb, white paint.)

While we were there the security guys started moving and it
looked worrisome. Now I realize they were just "changing
guard"; next time I'll know that these movements are not
necessarily to be interpreted as bad signs.

Eventually one of the pagans voiced an intent to get up and
leave. I said first let's clap, and we did! (I hope some of
the security guys had a hard time suppressing their desire
to join in.) The pagan group slowly (and I understand well
now, how important it is to move slowly in situations like
this) moved out. I moved the other way, up to the security
guys to thank them. New people came in, one dressed in
black. I knew the people most likely to get into violent
confrontation wore black and wondered if he waas one so I
asked him. (We were right next to the security line.) He was
from the States, and wearing black to symbolize that all
borders (eg. political) are not to be recognized, a kind of
oneness. And he reassured me that he was peaceful and I
could tell he was.

I was really tired and started heading back down that dead
end. But very slowly. People were singing the same chant the
pagans had been singing: "Gardez, gardez, garde la vision
pour la naissance" "Hold on, hold on, hold the vision until
it's born". But one woman was singing "gone" instad of
"born" and I smiled the correction to her and she was
grateful. People photographed the Alice Walker poem I had on
my front placard:

    We Alone
    We alone can influence the price of gold By not caring if it
    falls or rises In the market place.
    Wherever there is gold, There is a chain, you know. And if
    your chain is gold, So much the worse for you.
    Feathers, shells and sea-shaped stones Are all as rare.
    This could be our revolution - To love what's plentiful As
    much as what is scarce!

It was actually quite a while before we left. The pagan
group was dancing, I think celebrating, in the main street
just below, and new people were coming up into that dark
dead end to be in what had become almost a cathedral of

Eventually this guy with a megaphone announced that the
police were going to advance, that we could stay there in
lockdown or move on. By then I was already just out of the
dead end for I needed to move on and I was with others,
including two young women, one whose parents had asked me to
look out for her.

We headed out. Still slowly though and we never did see the
police charge down that dead end.... (I have since talked to
many others and I realize now that we were extremely lucky,
really, for many, MANY completely nonviolent protesters were
tear-gased. Some in our group, including a woman in her 60s,
had all exits blocked and were gased! (The youngest in the
group, an 18-year-old asthmatic, grabbed the hands of the
other two and headed down this embankment, sliding on their

And the pagan group went on, I gather, and eventually they
got gased too, right as they were dancing...:( (Some of
their group were really not in a state where they felt ok
about getting tear-gassed. I hope they were ok.)

I have more I'd like to say but I need to get going now so
will leave off here. I know others on this list were there
(or at least with us in spirit). Perhaps you can send us in
reports and we can weave them into postings.

Loving best wishes to all, Jan