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Quebec Student Revolt - Request for Solidarity

MR | 21.05.2012 23:52 | Repression | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements

Request for solidarity and support for the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

We write you during a dark time for democratic, human and associative rights in Quebec with the following appeal for your help and solidarity. As you have no doubt heard, the government recently enacted legislation that amounts to the single biggest attack on the right to organize and freedom of expression in North America since the McCarthy period and the biggest attack on civil and democratic rights since the enactment of the War Measures Act in 1970. Arguably, this recent law will unduly criminalize more law-abiding citizens than even McCarthy's hearings and the War Measures Act ever could.

Among other draconian elements brought forward by this law, any gathering of 50 or more people must submit their plans to the police eight hours ahead of time and must agree to any changes to the gathering's trajectory, starttime, etc. Any failure to comply with this stifling of freedom of assembly and association will be met with a fine of up to $5,000 for every participant, $35,000 for someone representing a 'leadership' position, or $125,000 if a union - labour or student - is deemed to be in charge. The participation of any university staff (either support staff or professors) in any student demonstration (even one that follows the police's trajectory and instructions) is equally punishable by these fines. Promoting the violation of any of these prohibitions is considered, legally, equivalent to having violated them and is equally punishable by these crippling fines.

One cannot view this law in isolation. In the past few months, the Québec student movement - inspired by Occupy, the Indignados of Spain, the students of Chile, and over 50 years of student struggle in Québec; and presently at North America's forefront of fighting the government's austerity agenda - has been confronted by precedent-shattering judicial and police repression in an attempt to force the end of the strike and our right to organize collectively. Our strike was voted and is re-voted every week in local general assemblies across Québec. As of May 18th, 2012 our committee has documented and is supporting 472 criminal accusations as well as 1047 ticket and penal offenses. One week in April saw over 600 arrests in three days. And those numbers only reflect those charged with an offense, without mentioning the thousands pepper sprayed and tear gassed, clubbed and beaten, detained and released. It does not mention Francis Grenier, who lost use of most of an eye when a sound grenade was illegally thrown by a police officer into his face in downtown Montreal. It does not mention Maxence Valade who lost a full eye and Alexandre Allard who clung to life in a coma on a hospital bed for days, both having received a police rubber bullet to the head in Victoriaville. And the thousands of others brutalized, terrorized, harassed and assaulted on our streets. Four students are currently being charged under provisions of the anti-terrorist laws enacted following September 11th.

In addition to these criminal and penal cases, of particular concern for those of us involved in the labour movement is that anti-strike forces have filed injunctions systematically from campus to campus to prevent the enactment of strike mandates, duly and democratically voted in general assemblies. Those who have defended their strike mandates and enforced the strike are now facing Contempt of Court charges and their accompanying potential $50,000 fines and potential prison time. One of our spokespeople, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, will appear in Superior Court under such a charge for having dared say, on May 13th of this year, that "I find it legitimate" that students form picket lines to defend their strike.

While we fight, on principle, against this judicialization of a political conflict, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the struggle on the streets has been, for many, transferred to the courtroom and we must act to defend our classmates, our friends and our family. This defense needs your help. Many students have been denied access to Legal Aid to help them to defend themselves. This, while students filing injunctions to end strikes have been systematically granted Legal Aid. While sympathetic lawyers in all fields of law have agreed to reduced rates and alot of free support, the inherent nature of the legal system means we are spending large sums of money on this defense by the day.

It is in this context that we appeal to you to help us cover the costs of this, our defense. Not only must we help those being unduly criminalized and facing injunctions undermining their right to associate, but we must act now and make sure that the criminalization and judicialization of a political struggle does not work and set a precedent that endangers the right to free speech and free assembly.

If you, your union, or your organization is able to give any amount of financial help, it would make an undeniable difference in our struggle. In addition to the outpouring of support from labour across Quebec, we have already begun to receive trans-Canadian and international solidarity donations. We thank you for adding your organization's support to the list.

If you have any questions, please contact us via email legal AT asse-solidarité Telephone numbers can be given to you in a private message. You can also send you donation directly to the order of "Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante" (2065 rue Parthenais, Bureau 383, Montréal, QC, H2K 3T1) noting "CLASSE Legal Committee" in the memo line.

In solidarity,

Max Silverman

Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal

Volunteer with the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

Andrée Bourbeau

Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal

Delegate to the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

Emilie Charette

Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal

Delegate to the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

Emilie Breton-Côté

Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal

Volunteer with the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

JESSE GUTMAN, B.A. (Hons), B.C.L., LL.B.
Agent - Criminal Matters / des matières criminelles
2-28 Brunswick Av. • Toronto, ON • M5S 2L7
Telephone • +1 (416) 876-0844
Facsimile • +1 (416) 881-8851



Quebec Spring - Some thoughts from an exile

21.05.2012 23:59

Last Night Saw the 3rd & 'Worst' Night of rioting in Montreal since North America's first State of Emergency Law of the post 2008 Global Crisis Period came Into effect. On Saturday Night Mick Jagger appeared with Montreal band Arcade Fire in New York in what was clearly a mimetic salute to the Quebec youth in their remarkable revolt that is finally being heard and even in Cannes the 'carre rouge' or 'red square' worn by so many striking Quebec youth was taken onto the red carpet and into the streets.

And now- perhaps in a development we should view with some easily commodifiable horror or perhaps just laugh a little with- a Quebec brewery has even started pro-revolt beer production in Quebec:

On the anti-dictatorship beer: Photos/politicized labels etc: : It is called matr*que which translates as bludgeon, club, nightstick, trunchean and billystick. No kidding!

For an excited blog and the Arcade Fire/Jagger Video:

For last night #27- video from Montreal 300 arrests and one student near death:

and; Photos;

The main student group also held a General Assembly last night to collectively decide if a campaign of civil disobedience against the emergency law would begin on their own parts- they represent between 100,000- 200,000 students.

What might this all mean to Londoners and the UK as well as others across the globe?

This Quebec youth revolt has fought tenaciously on the streets and in cyberspace for more than 3 months (and built it self-up for years) to collectively arrest all of the austerity policies and top-down class war from being able to be pursued by their own elites and also to break through one of the capitalist media borders/barriers that always separate the goings on in so many spaces often imagined as peripheral from other urban centres such as New York, Paris, Berlin, and London whose inhabitants often imagine themselves as somehow more centrally located and thus important; but after still another weekend that saw riots on Nights 25, 26 and yes- now night 27 in Montreal (or 3 nights of riots since the new fascistic emergency Loi 78/ Law 78 was brought into being in North America to stop the Printimps Erable- such imaginary and simultaneously materially real national borders seem to finally be caving in through the the channels of 'social media' and even through the simplest of symbolic actions.

Absolutely no one can accuse the Quebec revolt of having being satisfied with 'symbolic protest'- since that is exactly why the new state of emergency has had to be brought into existence- yet the heavily policed lines between symbolic and material protest has not been a dialectical game merely posed in theory in Quebec but its false separation and a contestation of current capitalist realities are being played out in both the streets and the media-sphere and incredibly effectively. Quebec is an extremely techno-friendly and mediated environment- indeed it is where Jean-Francois Lyotard chose to deliver his infamous 'The Postmodern Condition' lecture about life inside the dynamics of a newly emergent and highly computerised 'information society'.

I have an intuition if that moment marked an entry into one type of world, that what is going on in Quebec now may much later be seen to have marked a collective global entry (with all of the other events recently since Tunisia and Egypt and the UK and Oakland and Occupy; that may mark another.

The carre rouge/red square immediately marks a person off as being against any tuition hike and against any further Quebec austerity measures or against the economic totalitarianism (and thus political totalitarianism against all who would refuse it's world) of neo-liberalism. Last week rumours circulated on twitter that the wearing of the red square would be made illegal by the new emergency laws- indeed symbolic resistance and the circulation of signs of adversarial subjectivity simply had to be stopped- didn't they. At this moment of pain and anger almost everywhere, people have to be relegated to the borders of their individual bodies and selves.

This rumour circulated so widely that Montreal police had to post tweets that this was not true- the carre rouge or red square was not being banned in a new dictatorship preventing little pieces of red cloth being adorned. In Cannes Quebec actors wore the red square and carried a huge one through the street this past weekend making the front of the Sun like tabloid- Le Journal De Montreal; and then on Saturday Night Live in the USA Arcade Fire, a Montreal Band; came on stage all wearing the red square and were flanked by Mick Jagger wearing a red T-shirt and choosing to sing 'Play With Fire' and 'Street Fighting Man'. That show is broadcast across the USA and in Quebec and watched by many youth who are now asking on social media what the hell those 'red squares' were all about.

Last night over 300 people were arrested in the streets of Montreal defying the new law after a day of diverse protest that refused to notify the police for permission as required by the State of Emergency Law and fires burned throughout the city.

Last week part of a building crumbled and killed a man in Montreal- and not the first death from crumbling urban infrastructure in recent years. Meanwhile transport fares rise as does everything else although Quebec and Canada were not hit badly by the initial stages of crisis but of course are in national competition to maintain themselves in relative terms that are favourable to capital vis-a-vis every other nation-state and the transnational bond markets.

I don't like Mick Jagger or the Stones at all; although I am embarrassed to say I don't mind Arcade Fire on occasion but social media is abuzz with that stupid 'red square' doing its mimetic border crossing and tomorrow- finally- on the 1 and 2 month anniversaries of 2 huge public marches on the 22nd's of the past two months in Quebec- an attempt to overwhelm the province will take place calling on all students, workers, unemployed to take to the streets.

Finally, Occupy and other groups have grasped the significance and are planning actions in New York. Last night Loren Goldner even sent around the CLASSE appeal for funds on the Meltdown list. Anonymous videos can be found at Youtube by putting in their name or 'Loi 78'.

Those arrested last night in Montreal face many charges and many years in prison.

And vitriol against the Quebec students even made it into the pages of the New York Post llast week: .

If you have never lived in New York this is the kind of cynical rubbish most read by the working class there- partially because with English being a second language for most- the Post's language is at least simple and clear.

If anyone here feels at all dismissive of the political significance of what began as this remarkable student movement perhaps a step back may gain some perspective. I had not realised that it has not only been Quebec and Chilean youth who have managed big 'student movements'; but also Puerto Rican youth who seem to have been virtually tortured in the streets in that US colony and those after the Californian, UK, Catalan, Viennese and German students tried occupations and rebellions.

After all, is it not usually youth who are most willing to risk all for r*e*v*o perhaps since they have more years at stake ahead of them and since materially they have made less compromises with their lives to gain whatever little may be available to them and then to fear losing that little that has probably been so hard fought for in the first place. Like a bearable job or flat ownership or even a university degree where they are not generalized widely. Is that not all part of the story of August 2011 in London too? And is not debt the strategy to best enslave them to that ugly world?

If any path towards a real global moment where a huge section of the global population might be ready to embark on the sure to be discomforting material contents that might resemble something like communisation- than surely some sort of spatial and temporal synchronisation of the circulation of struggles must first come about. Some sort of personal identity done away with that is then neither imagined or experienced as concretely localised or abstractly globalised.Not a worker identity politics then although of course stopping the global capitalist machine will need to be part of what comes about.

The Quebec Printemps Erable has had no leaders- and has refused the separation between students and workers. It has somehow manifested wide open respect across various ideological and material divides but without fetishising 'pure democracy' like Occupy has sometimes done or 'peaceful protest' (also a problem with Occupy) when that has been defined as ruling out attacks on the forces that be and their architectural infrastructure & fortresses. It has produced some great spokespeople, but has seen no need for any vanguard- either party wise or even intellectually.

If you understand some French watch the CLASSE spokespeople go at a rally of a 1000 in Quebec City after the Emergency laws were announced:

The red square could be used as a tool to do the type of work it has accomplished in Quebec- in order to unite everyone globally who is against austerity and capitalism and who feels they can only begin by making the smallest of gestures. Could this help perhaps even in those places like the UK where its fire has previously been co-opted by political parties or is that impossible?

I am also sure that a quick google search would reveal any Quebec interests in London and the rest of Europe so that some transnational 'symbolic protest' might appear. The Quebec elites are getting nervous- as everyone of them thought this new generation would eventually just go home. One thing that marks this crisis out and these new movements out from those of 20 year ago is that unlike say the huge anti-Central American invasion movement of the 1980's that came about after all the US backed killing of the death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua that these new struggles don't so much need outside acts of symbolic solidarity at all- all those can sometimes send a message that helps- but they need mimesis and to higher and higher levels until globally that rift so many of us have hoped for perhaps ever so idiotically- might finally appear.

NEW YORK call out for tomorrow-



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