Revolutionary upheaval comes in waves. Right now, in Montréal, we are long after the zenith of the strike—which was probably in late April and early May—but we are almost certainly no longer at the absolute nadir of struggle either. Compared to other places nearby, the wavelengths here are pretty short, and that’s a good thing. Although many militants have returned to class and normal work-a-day life, and although many have yet to come to terms with the reality of the strike’s end and their legitimate frustration at that fact, many people are still throwing themselves whole-heartedly into various struggles and doing what they can to destroy the newly restored illusion of social peace, interrupt the functioning of the capitalist economy, and create conditions amenable for revolution.
A “demo against repression” was called for the evening of October 26, 2012. Stating that “a struggle is nothing if it forgets its prisoners”, the demonstration’s purpose as stated in the callout was to express solidarity with all the people still facing criminal charges and court-imposed conditions as a result of their participation in the strike—over 500 people in total. Hallowe’en-themed, participants were encouraged to come wearing costumes and masks.
A crowd of about 200 people gathered at Carré Saint-Louis, which was undergoing repairs; people occupied the street next to the square as a result. The police were also present, but they didn’t do much to prevent people from entering the demo. Many in the crowd were wearing black bloc attire, and there were also a lot of people carrying black flags. They took rue Saint-Denis and marched south towards the bars, chanting decidedly not-boring slogans and brandishing three excellent banners expressing messages of solidarity with, among others, the four people who smokebombed the Montréal métro in May and are the first people in the history of Canadian law to face the charge of perpetrating a terrorist hoax.
A speech was made at the intersection of Saint-Denis and boulevard de Maisonneuve, denouncing the . Graffiti and posters were thrown up along the route. The SPVM—many of its officers following the demo in large numbers and presumably many others lurking a block or two out of sight—chose not to intervene.
It is notable that, for a Friday night, it often appeared as if there were few people on the sidewalks who could hear or see the message that the demonstration was trying to put into the public consciousness; as soon as the demo started moving west on Sainte-Catherine after the speech, the streets were pretty much dead. Some speculated that this is because the demo simply started too early in the evening; others speculated that it was because the police, who had created a wide cordon around the demo, were encouraging pedestrians to get out of the area before a dangerous mob showed up.
After marching around for twenty or thirty minutes, and with the enthusiasm of the chanting dying down, the demo veered off rue Sherbrooke—where it was again marching west, and with very few people to observe or listen to it—and onto avenue du Président-Kennedy, at which point it started to run and then moved counter to traffic on rue University towards a point of dispersal, Square Phillips. These final maneuvers were executed in order to avoid kettling or attack by riot cops, which was felt to be more of a possibility by that point, but it also brought the demo into contact with many people once again. Both the square and the stretch of rue Sainte-Catherine next to it were full of people. Here, people announced on the megaphone that the demo was over and that there were several routes by which to escape; as far as this infosite knows, no one was arrested. Unfortunately, an opportunity to deliver another speech in front of all the people within earshot was squandered.
The purpose of this demo was communicative, not confrontational—although this is a bit of a false dicohtomy, obviously, because at least one of the messages being communicated was that there is still a force in Montréal that is interested and excited to engage in confrontation with the state and its police as soon as the opportunity once again arises. Perhaps not as many people milling around downtown Montréal on Friday night got to see the demo as participants might have liked, but some did (including horrified condo dwellers) and longer-lasting graffiti and posters went up as well. Regardless of what it communicated to “the public”, though, or even what it may have communicated to our enemies (and let’s not flatter ourselves by thinking that we seriously intimidated anyone), this demo communicated important things to the participants themselves. For example, that the struggle is not over, and that it is actually very important and potentially helpful to promote solidarity with those who are facing more serious repercussions as a result of a springtime uprising that we all made happen.
Many people in the demo were probably individually prepared to fight the police or engage in smashy-smashy; this didn’t happen, of course. If it had, it’s not hard to surmise what would have happened next: the riot cops would have moved in pretty decisively, and even if most people had gotten away, the SPVM would not have been content unless it managed to arrest a few unfortunates and put them through a judicial gauntlet. Talking about the demo after it was over, many participants were disappointed about the fact that “nothing happened”—but, of course, this is just nostalgia for the strike (which is understandable, but not helpful), or otherwise it is a willful denial of the new context and the fact that people are going to have to be slightly more creative if they want to break windows and get away with it.
The disentanglement of our comrades from the state’s apparatus of judicial repression will require more than a single demo, but this is a step away from a fight that only takes place in the courts—where Justice, brother to Democracy and Capital, will always prevail to the disadvantage of the struggle for total freedom and its partisans. We can only win if this fight if it is brought out into the open, if other proletarians can come to understand the connection between this struggle and the struggles they face in their own lives, if a general social revolt is sparked that terrifies our enemies into offering concessions and making strategic errors. Small as it may have been, the demo on October 26 was an effort to do just that.
The only possible conclusion: FIRE TO THE PRISONS.