The Quebec City Protests at the 3rd Summit of the Americas

In April 2001, The 3rd Summit of the Americas was being held by the Free Trade Area of the America’s, or FTAA, in Quebec City in order to discuss the possibility of a free-trade agreement and a globalized market between the North, South and Central America. The event brought together the leaders of the America’s in order to negotiate an agreement in Quebec City. Security for the summit was provided in part by the RCMP, and they took extreme measures in order to ensure that they could control the possible and potential threats. For example, a three-meter high wall and wired fence was built around a big part of Quebec City in order to keep the citizens out of the summit zones and only members of the summit, the media and residents of the area were permitted within the walled area (CBC 2003).

Citizens and anti-globalists from all around North America, in large numbers, arrived during the summit meetings in an attempt to disrupt and delay any meetings and decisions from being made on the free-trade agreement. In a video interview, a student critiqued free-trade, claiming that power will go to the already-powerful and believes that the peoples have to speak out for their beliefs (TVAC 2001). Residents around Quebec spoke in interviews about how they were protesting because the FTAA and globalized trade ultimately neglect human’s rights, resulting in job losses and unjust conditions for those not in power (TVAC 2001). Many of the protestors, along with voicing their concerns and taking action against the summit, were fueled into even more drastic action when witnessing the police and security treatment of the event (TVAC 2001).

On April 20th, 2001, when the protests started, they escalated quickly. The protests, which generally started peacefully, were eventually separated into 3 zones by the RCMP, sectored off and classified by level of potential threat: Green for legal protests, yellow for peaceful protests with potential of arrests and red for disobedience and high risks of arrest. The protestors even broke down part of the concrete wall and fence that had been put up by the RCMP and security forces (Chang 2001).

The RCMP quickly dispatched a riot team to try and control the protestors and the escalation of protest. They proceeded to tear gas the area, which affected hundreds, if not thousands of the protestors, spraying them with the hydrant hose and even using rubber bullets against them to push them back (CBC 2003). In what they called a “measured approach”, the RCMP and riot squad had caused hundreds of injuries from their extreme security methods  (King and Newman 2001). Some citizens attempted to make peace with the police officials, but the officials continued to send tear gas and forcing the people back with batons and rubber bullets. In an interview, a protestor claimed that the event was dealt with by government militarization instead of problem solving, and in process, turning the situation into something of a warzone, as they call it (TVAC 2001).

The following video was produced by the Toronto Video Activist Collective in 2002 as a result of the protests. It is a compilation of found footage and interviews from before, during and after the protests in which we get a first-person insight on the events of April, 2001.

Hyperlink: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6gzC1oN35Y

References

CBC News. 2003. “RCMP Used “Excessive Force” at Quebec Summit.CBC News, November 13. Retrieved October 13, 2012 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2003/11/13/rcmp_summit031113.html)

Chang, Jen. 2001. Resist!: A Grassroots Collection of Stories, Poetry, Photos and Analysis from the FTAA Protests in Quebec City and Beyond. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

King, John, and Lucia Newman. 2001. “Protests Delay Start of Americas Summit.” CNN World,  April 20. Retrieved October 13, 2012
(http://articles.cnn.com/2001-04-/world/summit.americas.04_1_protests-delay-americas-summit-riot-police?_s=PM:WORLD)

TVAC. 2002. Quebec City FTAA Protests [Web]. Retrieved October 13, 2012 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqjrtLpuhog&feature=relmfu)

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One comment

  1. The coloured zones were part of protest organizers efforts to seperate militant groups from passive and nonviolent ones, not the RCMP. The RCMP and Surete du Quebec were the primary police forces involved, with the SQ having responsibility for crowd control outside of their fence.

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