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Quebec Protests and Beyond: An Introduction
by Beth Coleman

This past May I attended the protests against the FTAA summit in Quebec City. It was my first experience with a large-scale street protest. I attended with some trepidation, based both in fear about both  my own safety and that of my companions, and my uncertainty as to the effectiveness of these actions in creating the kind of world I’d like to live in. Like other activists, I believe that the progressive movement cannot be simply an anti movement—anti-sweatshop, anti-capitalist, anti-military, etc. This would only create a vacuum which might only be filled by more hierarchy. But I had heard from others that these protests were empowering, and fostered connections, that they weren’t just about shouting down police. So I decided to investigate for myself.

The Quebec protest itself was everything I had thought it would be, both good and bad. The police response was frighteningly violent, and the response of some protestors was confrontational and angry. But I also felt a sense of empowerment to be facing down the repression I speak and write about so often. Also inspiring was the experience of being surrounded by tens of thousands of others from different age groups and economic status united by their stand against global corporate domination. Unfortunately, my experience at the protest was rather limited, as my friends who served as medics were separated from me, and I was woefully unprepared. Without a protest “buddy,” to keep tabs on me, and without a gas mask, helmet, or even goggles to protect me from chemical and physical weapons I was forced to stay toward the back of the actions, and in fact spent one whole day trapped inside the apartment I was staying in which was literally surrounded by police. For that reason I asked my friend Roger, who served as a medic in the thick of the action to describe his experiences to GEO’s readers, while attempting to answer some of my still unanswered questions.

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