Repost: 518 arrested in nightly Montreal student protest

I have the impression that we can no longer trust that newspaper articles will remain up after being posted. So I’m re-posting this, with full credit to the original author and publisher.  

Mass arrest rounds up largest number of people so far in three month dispute  

By Max Harrold, The Gazette May 24, 2012 10:02 AM

MONTREAL – It was a peaceful river of humanity for more than three hours, with about 3,000 people walking, chanting and feeling united on the 30th consecutive night of the student protests in Montreal.

Then, in a heartbeat, Wednesday night’s big march turned ugly.

Just before midnight police surrounded a large group of protesters at Sherbrooke and St. Denis Sts. to make a mass arrest, Montreal police Constable Daniel Fortier said. Police said on Thursday morning the arrests totaled 518, making it the largest number of people arrested in a single night so far in the weeks-long student protest.

506 of those arrested were caught in the kettle, including 30 minors. They were each fined $634 for illegal assembly, while the penalty for the minors is $118. The remaining 12 were isolated arrests, including four for criminal acts and eight for city bylaw infractions, police said. Continue reading →


Anti-African demonstration turns to violence in Tel Aviv

I’m straight up appalled (read about it in Hareets) You’d think I wouldn’t be surprised at this, but I am. Even though I’ve been there, even though I’ve met with African refugees in Tel Aviv and know the discrimination they face and the sentiment that exists towards them. I’m still flabbergasted that, what is in effect quite normal, a racist anti-immigrant rally (this is Israel, remember, not exactly a country where racism is looked down upon). But usually Israel does a good job keeping violence against the people it oppresses in a context of deniability, and with a pretence that it’s the other’s fault. But this has many characteristics of a straight up race riot, pretty unsophisticated stuff from the world leader in PC racism. I think it’s because the country is literally getting out of control, it’s not under control by the forces that control its public relations anymore. Before you call me alarmist for using the terms “race riot”, read this:

Some people attacked people attacked Africans that passed by. Others smashed the windows of a grocery store serving the migrant worker community and looted it.

Another group of demonstrators stopped a shuttle taxi and searched for migrant workers among the passengers, while banging on the windows.

And I didn’t say it was a race riot, I said it had some characteristics and, if this behavior were to spread through the crowd, then yes it would be a race riot.

What Israelis doesn’t understand is that white people know that violent discrimination against black africans is not ok. They’ve sold their oppression of the Palestinians, but western eyes won’t as easily stand for violent attacks against “black people”.

EDIT: More on Mondoweiss, 972 and also this on 972 which breaks the comparison-with-Nazis taboo by way of this testimonial from Rami Gud:

I accompanied a group of asylum-seeking children to their homes tonight, as we always do on the days of protests with potential racist developments. As usual, we got barraged with swearwords, but policemen advised us about safer routes. The kids sang along the way: “I’m a nigger, I’m a nigger, nigger, and I clean Israeli homes” (“What, you don’t know it, Rami? Look it up on Youtube.) Two 12-year-old girls asked me if I know that pretty soon the Sudanese will suffer the same fate as Jews did in Germany.

EDIT: I need to retract not calling it a race riot (from 972):

According to Maariv’s website, the mob chased a man from Eritrea, who took shelter in a storefront and was rescued by police. At least two journalists were attacked. One fled the area and the other, whose notepad was snatched by protesters, was sheltered by the cops.

EDIT: I guess this is no longer controvertial, because the National Post is calling it a race riot as well.

 Violent race riots that shook southern Tel Aviv overnight sparked shock in Israel on Thursday, but also prompted top-level calls for the immediate arrest and expulsion of tens of thousands of African migrants.

Most reports said the rally turned nasty after the crowd was whipped up by several racist speeches by right-wing MPs, several of them from the ruling Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The infiltrators are a cancer in our body,” Likud MP Miri Regev told the crowd, as fellow MP Danny Danon shouted: “The infiltrators must be expelled from Israel! Expulsion now!”

Egregious Settler Violence shows Instituted Racism in Israel has Come to a Head

I don’t have much to add to the coverage of the recent egregious incident of settler violence beyond what has been reported in Al Jazeera, Hareetz and the New York Times. As for what happened and how it’s being represented, you can read that on your own. But I will say this – that it seems matters have come to a crux, when even an Israeli newspaper writes

Those who demand that the Palestinian Authority take decisive action against Palestinian terrorist groups must demonstrate the same degree of decisiveness against groups of Jewish terrorists.

it can no longer be said that the hypocricy of Israel’s status quo lies silent. Settler violence and settlement expansion is everyday, it is the zero level of everydayness in Palestine. But, of course, this is contingent on it not reaching a critical measure which would push it out of the everyday into the un-deniable. And perhaps that’s what has happened here – when IDF soldiers stand by as a settler drops to his knee and shoots a Palestinian with live fire (I’ve heard it was in the head), and then the IDF responds by saying it was self-defence, well, I’m inclined to say the jig is up. This isn’t self defence – it’s brutal, racist, colonial violence. And it’s fully supported, although certainly in a quiet non-confrontational way, by Israeli state institutions.
It must be understood that Israel is much more racist than Israelis because Israel is an institution and Israelis are individuals – whereas the racism of individuals rests at the level of sentiment, the racism of a colonial institution rests at the level of communal norms and conditions for shared projects. And it is much more difficult to dismantle, and it corrupts and entraps individuals within its complex of social pressures.
This incident represents, although I’m probably the only one who will say this, the problem with the two-state settlement. The problem is that it assumes Israeli institutions can remain essentially the same, that they need not undergo a revolutionary period of transitional justice to purge the state institutions of the mechanisms of everydayness that turn Israelis into breakers of international law, into those who aquiesce and participate in brutal acts of repression of an indigenous population. It assumes that the Palestinians living in Israel will somehow be ok living in an increasingly theocratic state. if the two-state settlement occurs it will have taught Israeli institution that repression and colonization works, that you can in fact surpress anti-colonial movements with force, and you can in fact continue to colonize indigenous land and the result, while not full victory, is a better deal for you in the end.  And what will the Israeli military attitude be towards the Palestinian state? One of normalized violence most likely, one in which the racial superiority instituted in the IDF remains the norm, one in which Israel will re-inscribe the “failure” to gain all the land as the “success” at solving the “demographic problem”. But the demographic “problem” is only a problem for racists, for people who judge membership in a community by skin colour or what church you attend. The demographic problem is not a problem in Israel anymore than the increasing US proportion of hispanics is a problem for the US – it is a problem only if you are a fascist and you insist on one “superior” community dominating over others in your country.

Civil Disobedience against Bill 78: Canada’s Largest Ever

Yesterday’s march was a day of markers. It marked a hundred days since the beginning of the student strike against tuition hike. It also marked Canada’s largest ever act of civil disobedience, against the new Bill 78 which criminalizes the strike and even the right to protest. I tried to play my part, even in a different part of the world, by attending a solidarity manifestation in Paris.

The speeches given at the Paris manifestation were excellent, emphasizing the key points about debt (I prefer the French, endettement, or ‘endebtedness’), solidarity, and the need to understand the printemps erable as part of a global phenomenon. I was especially happy to see many Quebecois there and given a chance to speak. Actually in the end everyone was given a chance to speak through the microphone, and everyone respected other people’s time and didn’t get off topic. It made the people’s mike and principles of radical equality of a General Assembly look foolish and needless – through a sense of solidarity and common respect it’s perfectly possible for everyone to have a chance to speak and there is no need to dismiss all hierarchy – some hierarchy is appropriate, some people have prepared speeches, some people have been there, some people have family there, and some people just want to lend support. Especially powerful was the speech by an organizer from Quebec, who gave a short testimony of what it is like to organize the student strike itself – you wake up at 5:30 in the morning to begin organizing the barricades at 6:30 for classes that start at 8. Every entrance must be barricaded or it won’t work. Then you spend the whole day in confrontation, and you go home at midnight, getting to sleep at 1:30. Then you wake up at 5:30 the next day and start everything over again. It reminds me of the 3903 strike, except it doesn’t because that strike was in comparison much more lax.

You can read about the demonstration in Montreal in the Globe and Mail here.

You can watch the Real News Network’s coverage of the day here. 

And you can see my photos of the Paris demonstration here. 

The New War Measures Act

I haven’t talked much about the democratic student movement in Quebec, but I do think it’s the most important thing happening in Canada right now, and perhaps the most impressive manifestation of a democratic will in Canada since the 3 days of action in 1983. But it’s actually more impressive than that because the popular manifestations have taken place nearly every day for the past 13 weeks. They threat they have created to the status quo, to austerity, and to the tuition increases they oppose has motivated the Quebec Legislature to pass a disgusting piece of emergency legislation that makes a mockery of the charter right to freedom of assembly. What the Charest government underestimates is the power of the popular will which the protestors have crystalized – by manifesting around a specific issue, tuition increases, but with a broad analysis and agenda, the critique of austerity, they have opened the gate for a broad student-labour alliance in the style of may ’68.

The sheer number of arrests exposes the weakness of the current “liberal” establishment to cope with a liberal-style civic insurrection, which uses mostly peaceful protest methods to bring normal life to a halt. Of course there have been some violent exchanges between protestors and police, and also some smoke bombs in the metro, but the law is clearly not directed against the use of political violence because criminalizing peaceful protest.

Rather than write any more about the situation there, I suggest you read a blog I’ve found called “translating the printemps erable“, which is trying to counter the poor english coverage of events by translating pieces from french blogs and media.

Human rights, by Combat and other means

What if the prescription of “equality” and “human rights” was wrong for a situation? What if the prejudices and idiosyncrasies of the place disallowed it?


But of course, the question is never simply “human rights or not”, but human rights for who. Who will be included, and who excluded, from the equality of the privileged? The same problem confronts us in many circumstances – in the context of the no-borders movement, the prescription of equality and freedom of movement is applied to all, against any form of exclusionary citizenship. In the Palestinian context it applies to the who of return, who is to be allotted the right to live on his or her homeland in equality and peace with those already living there? It is said that you can’t negotiate over human rights, but notice the implication: if you can’t negotiate over it, then you must fight over it. And this is exactly the way rights are thought of since the French revolution – as revolutionary prescriptions, prescriptions which must be applied to a situation, and which therefore need to motivate combat in order to force their application.


The trouble, of course, is that those who fight often lose, there is no guarantee when you take up arms against an immoral law. Both because the ability of states to combat those who use violence against them is strong, but also because the use of combat by groups opens the possibilities of various social pathologies, racism, tribalism, belief that one is the chosen – various ideologies that might motivate a group to fight for the cause, for the prescription, but which undermine that prescription’s universality. The human right for which you fight can pervert the prescription itself. What’s revealed here is that prescriptions only have thin-content, it is not that they don’t motivate social desires at all, but rather that the way they are instituted can vary wildly depending on the political, national and economic forces that condition their emergence. For instance, you might be fighting for human rights, but if in the context of the struggle you change to a rhetoric of vilanizing your enemy, we might say that the struggle itself was a source of your own counter revolutionary education. On the other hand, struggle can sometimes have a liberating effect, it can help a partisan to see the other side, to see the humanity and resolve in the enemy.


So if combat is to be questioned, and a political solution must exist, what kind of compromises can be made? First, we must make a distinction between demands which will be thought of as legal, versus demands which will be thought of as political. Impossible demands, no matter how legally based must be dealt with politically if the context of the trial clearly favours one party over another. The impossible demands must not disappear, however, they must be reconstituted as political struggles, there must be a reasonable alternative, a way that the struggle could still be achieved by way of rather than by continuing the war.

Hardt and Negri’s Declaration on Occupy and the Arab Spring

This text promises to make a big splash in activist as well as left political thought circles around the world: Hardt and Negri have published a declaration on the Arab Spring and the Occupy encampments. I’ve just finished a first reading of it, and my initial impressions is that it is very of the time, very much in a language and logic which, although undoubtably academic, can be picked up quickly by activists as a means of simplifying and comprehending what is going on, and it even concretizes a logic of how to move forward which surely will appeal to many socialists and anarchists.

Continue reading →

A year since Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem day is a racist colonial celebration of the conquest of territory and the domination of the victors over the indigenous people. Last year I saw the march with my own eyes as 20,000 Israelis carried their victory flag over the green line into East Jerusalem at Damascus gate, and hundreds who descended and marched through the Arab quarter of the old city on their way to the wailing wall, on the site of the demolished Mughrabi quarter.

A true of act of peace today would be to refuse to celebrate “Jerusalem Day”, to insist on the separation of Religion and Politics, to call substantively for equal rights for Arabs in East and West Jerusalem, and to call Jerusalem by both its names – Jerusalem/Al-Quds.

EDIT: Good and scary coverage from Mondoweiss on this year’s Jerusalem day racist colonial violence.

Nationalism and Reactionary Left Sectarianism

There is a tendency on the left towards purity. It is not a purity of the soul or a purity of blood, or even a purity of arms. No, the purity towards which the left tends is a purity of doctrine and praxis – a desire for the process of liberation to always already be liberated from the oppressions against which it struggles. We are told our struggles must be inclusive, they must not repeat the biases and particularities of our day which oppress us, which are social restrictions on our freedom to flourish as individuals and communities. And yet, we must construct our social movements within real existent society, within the societies which have biases, which are bound up in the mass thinking and feeling of the day. The result of this need for purity is a tendency for leftist movements to split on doctrinal or practical issues – rather than sustain a dilemma within a camp which recognizes its higher unity in a larger cause, movements tend to divide into multiple camps. This is damaging to movements because it means that the divisions are not worked out within an atmosphere of solidarity and mutual engagement, but as a conflict between pseudo enemies.

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Les Performance Géniale: Blogothèque

If you haven’t already discovered this, I highly recommend a visit to this website. The blogothèque group films performances of different artists in non-standard situations. Perhaps my favorite is Aloe Blacc’s performance of “I need a dollar’, spontaneously sung around a table in a small restaurant in Paris. Also impressive if Sutjan Stevens’ performance of “The Lakes of Canada’ on a rooftop. Also a must watch are Bon Iver’s performances of Skinny Love and Flume.

What I really like about these performances is they encourage the viewer to get out and do something creative themselves. I have a camera, I have music skills – it follows that I have no excuse not to be creating art in public places in interesting ways. And since there is no single or enduring form of the Blogotheque performance, I don’t think doing this would be really “copycat’, but rather the extension of the mere idea of spontaneous performance in a public place.

Continue reading →