Two nights, two very different protests. Since Quebec Premier François Legault’s 8pm curfew took effect in Montreal (also in Laval) on Sunday, our city has seen two nights of protest with only two things in common: opposition to the Provincial Government’s “preventative measure” of moving the curfew start time from 9:30pm back to 8pm and fireworks.
I wasn’t at either protest, so I’ve cobbled together what happened from various social media posts, livestreams and mainstream media accounts.
The Sunday Night Old Montreal Shitshow
Sunday night’s protest started off on a promising note, with hundreds of people, roughly around 1000 in total, arriving at the Old Port just as the curfew began, itself an act of defiance. For over 30 minutes, the atmosphere was largely celebratory though defiant., people danced, some set off fireworks and the Montreal Police (SPVM) stayed a few blocks away.
Then, some people lit a bench in Place Jacques Cartier and some trash cans on fire. The SPVM moved in, fired teargas (good thing people have masks at the ready, or are already wearing them, these days) and most of the crowd dispersed.
Of course, not everyone did and that’s the part of the story that many are now familiar with. Things turned into a riot as some smashed the windows of local businesses who were already reeling from the loss of the tourism industry and probably weren’t fans of the curfew either.
There were right-wing agitators in the crowd, specifically Ezra Levant, Keean Bexte and their Rebel Media crew. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re pro-pipeline to the point of trying to ambush interview Greta Thunberg and while this was an anti-curfew protest, these guys are against any type of COVID health measures, even masks.
Now whether, as the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff thinks, it was these guys who caused all the rioting, or if it was agent provocateurs, or if it was just Montreal once again being Montreal at its most unattractive (or a combination of the three), things really went off message fast Sunday night.
Monday Night’s Downtown Cat and Mouse
Monday night was a completely different story. There were no smashed windows, no fires. And, of course, this was the protest the SPVM moved to shut down almost immediately.
Originally also planned for the Old Port, the protest quickly diverted to Downtown Montreal. As they made their way up from Place du Canada, the police ordered them to disperse, and disperse they did.
What followed was a game of cat and mouse with the cops up and down city streets. Some even set off small fireworks.
This group, by all accounts, was comprised largely of teenagers and young adults. They wore masks. Simply being out after 8pm was their protest.
Messaging Moving Forward
If there’s one thing I think these protests need moving forward, and by all accounts, they will be moving forward, like every night is what I heard, is solid messaging. And that messaging needs to be specific.
This is against the curfew. It’s against the very idea that a curfew can actually protect against the spread of COVID.
More specifically, it’s against the seemingly arbitrary manner in which the Legault Government chose to move the curfew back to 8 pm in Montreal and Laval while admitting that it wasn’t necessary. Restricting people’s ability to leave their homes should always be a last resort and only done when absolutely necessary, not an afterthought or something implemented as a precaution.
If protesting a 90 minute shift in a curfew seems a little too specific for protest, remember that the 2012 Student Strike was sparked by a marginal tuition increase and it brought down a government. If you focus on the details, the underlying message comes to the surface. In 2012, it was the heartless arrogance of the state, in 2021, it can be the same thing.
Protests always see different groups trying to attach themselves to something that has coverage. Sometimes that works, this time it won’t.
Yes, Climate Change is real, but that’s not the point here and neither is saving the whales. If you keep things focused and specific, you can also keep out all the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and assorted anti-science types who would only co-opt and damage such an important message, just as those breaking the store windows did on Sunday.
“Liberté” is a solid and downright sexy thing to chant, but please remember that COVID-19 is still a very real threat. Freedom from arbitrary and ineffective government restrictions is one thing, but Karen still needs to wear a mask at the grocery store.
It’s also important that while, from the looks of it, this is youth-led (or at least it was on Monday night), it doesn’t come across as just “the kids are fed up.” I’m 43 and I’m fed up, too, even if I’m not out there with you.
We’ve abided by these restrictions and adapted to them. But this last one is just government arrogance.
If we stay focused on that and the messaging solidifies, we may win this one.
Last night, a gunman shot and killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin and injured a third. This was on the third consecutive night of protests sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, and unarmed black man, was shot in the back seven times in front of his three young sons, paralyzing him.
Today, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he will be sending federal law enforcement to Wisconsin after getting Governor Tony Evans to agree to the deployment:
It’s clear to anyone who has been following Trump’s response to protests these past few months that the “violence” he hopes to quell is the protests themselves. In reality, though, the most devastating violence in Wisconsin these past few days was at the hands of the police and the young gunman.
What We Know
Speaking of the gunman, there are reports from witnesses that he passed a line of police before the shooting, carrying a large weapon, and they thanked him for being there. Multiple people on the scene claim that he is part of one of the “self-styled militias” that have been present at the protests.
He was arrested in Antioch, Illinois and while authorities initially refused to give his name as he is a minor, various social media posts and now CNN confirm that he is 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch. I generally shy away from repeating the names of murderers who crave notoriety, but in this case, it may not be an open-and-shut case legally, plus his influences are relevant, so making him famous could be a necessary step towards getting justice.
So what do we know about him? At this point, not much for sure.
Is he a member of an organised militia? Probably.
Is he a white supremacist? No evidence of that, but it honestly wouldn’t surprise me.
One thing we can tell through his social media posts is that he is very much pro-police. I’m talking cosplay fetish-level pro-cop.
So it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he viewed the protests as a threat. Of course, the fact that he crossed state lines to march around them with a large weapon pretty much confirms that.
Mirroring Trump’s RNC Message
This is all happening while the Republican National Convention is in full swing. One of the recurring themes of the RNC this year is that America is under attack from “dangerous leftist radicals” in groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa (which isn’t even an organized group, but whatever).
Forget the heady days of “good people on all sides” as a way to normalize white supremacists by drawing a false equivalency with anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters. Now, Trump and his GOP cronies are full-throated police state advocates.
Their messaging is clear: People protesting police violence are a threat! Their messaging to protesters is equally unambiguous: Stay off the streets! If some vigilante influenced by us murders some of you, rest assured that we’re still coming for you, not them!
Whether Rittenhouse was actually inspired directly by what’s being said currently at the RNC or not is irrelevant. The narrative that leftists are dangerous that started with them has now sunk through to other levels of society, including armed 17-year-olds.
Donald Trump’s messaging has casualties in Wisconsin.
The history of colonization is dark. Indigenous peoples of Canada have been facing discrimination and racism since European setters began to occupy their land in the 1400s. Stolen land, the death of language, residential schools and centuries of abuse are still present in the Canadian justice system and in many Indigenous communities today.
Effforts to unveil the truths of systemic racism that run rampant in our society are a step in the right direction, but the media often misses the most obvious truths, the ones that lie right in front of our noses.
The death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter movement took over the news last week, shining the light on systemic racism within the judicial system in the United States. Thousands have been taking to the streets, protesting against racism and for police reform. We must, however, remember not to shine the light too far away from our own.
Colonization is ongoing. Though the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia has never signed over their land to European settlers, their 22 000 km of land has never officially been recognized as their own, and protected under Canadian law.
That is why, last Friday, June 5th, On Friday, June 5th, a crowd of around 300 protesters gathered around the George-Etienne Cartier monument at Jean-Mance Park to protest the CGL pipeline in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation.
Last January and February, a string of nation-wide protests and VIA rail blockades halted access from Montreal to Toronto. Media presence had waned since the COVID-19 pandemic took over, but the fight is still far from over.
Though a landmark Memorandum of Understanding was signed that recognizes some rights of the Wet’suwet’en people, it does not affect the construction of the CGL pipeline, which is still opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The protest was organized by student groups that focus on environmental protection.
“Climate justice doesn’t exist without indigenous sovereignty and being in solidarity with the indigenous people especially here in Canada,” said John Nathaniel Gurtler, a Dawson student in environmental studies and an organizer of the event for La CEVES, Student Coalition for Environmental and Social Change in English.
The event was supposed to take place on that Sunday, but changed when the protests against the murder of George Floyd were organized for the same date.
“We see it as all sort of under the same umbrella of justice and fighting for people who have faced systematic racism,” said Gurtler. “The Indigenous people, just like Black people here in Canada, are people who have for hundreds of years faced racism and oppression and have been put aside.”
“What we need here is a real revolution for oppressed people. In Canada, it’s indigenous people, it’s not just black people,” Gurtler continued. “It’s all under the same umbrella of justice and showing up in solidarity.”
The CGL pipeline is set to run through 190 square km of traditional Wet’suwet’en land in Northern British Columbia. Though five out of six Wet’suwet’en elected band council members signed on to the CGL pipeline, the government never asked permission from the hereditary chiefs, who have had custodianship over the 22 000 km of unceded traditional land according to ongoing, pre-colonial tradition.
Last year, the Trudeau government ordered the RCMP to invade the Unist’ten camp – built on the borders of Wet’suwet’en territory during another contested pipeline project in 2010, where many other planned pipelines have been planned to cross over.
Wet’suwet’en territory is unceded; the Nation have never signed a treaty or agreed to share the 22 000 square km of traditional land they have had since before European settlers began to occupy their territory in the 1800s. In November 2019, the BC provincial government passed legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People’s Act. The declaration includes 46 articles, covering Indigenous culture, community, identity, health, and more.
The provincial government’s decision not to engage in meaningful discussion counteracted their implementation of the UN Declaration. Hereditary chiefs asked for UN intervention after RCMP invaded their camps. In January, a UN committee fighting racism urged RCMP officials to leave the territory.
The situation sparked national and international outrage. Nationwide protests throughout January and February led to the shut down of Canadian VIA rail trains, and international support from Indigenous communities and land defenders worldwide. The Kahnawake community in Montreal stepped forward, as well, with hints of the 1990 Oka crisis thick in the air.
Though the pipeline isn’t yet in the ground, already two oil spills are being investigated by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. Though the CGP pipeline, widely contested both nationally and internationally, is still in its’ early phases, 500 liters of oil have leaked onto Wet’suwet’en territory.
“They haven’t even started putting the pipeline in and they have a big mess already,” said Marlene Hale, Wet’suwet’en representative at the protest. The spills occurred close to Morice river, where the locals fish, explained Hale.
Hereditary chiefs, whose traditional job it is to protect the land, and land defenders worry about the negative effects of the pipeline to the environment, and the effects it will have on future generations.
The situation is reminiscent of North Dakota’s Keystone pipeline, contested by Indigenous land defenders worldwide in fear of the repercussions of an oil spill that would affect members of the society, their drinking water and infrastructures. Over 380 000 gallons of oil spilled from the pipeline in November 2019.
Media presence of the anti-pipeline protests was strong in January and February, but quickly fizzled out as the COVID-19 pandemic began. The virus did not stop CGL pipeline workers from continuing construction.
The official website of the pipeline shows how far along each segment of the project is. Currently, 75% of the route has been cleared.
“The idea of the protest started during the pandemic when the federal government announced that they would be funding the pipeline project with up to 500 million dollars,” explained Gertler. “That happened sort of under the radar, and several of us said that this can’t happen. We were fed up with being behind our screens and we wanted to do something more direct.”
The issue is both environmental and social, tying in Indigenous land rights to misuse of the land.
The provincial government’s ability to supersede Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ wishes stems from the Indian Act. Though both the provincial and federal government have recognized Wet’suwet’en land as unceded during an MOU signing last month, land rights are still undefined.
“[The MOU] is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mention the Coastal GasLink at all, which is central to all of this,” said Gertler. “Even during the pandemic it was happening – while we were told to stay inside and limit ourselves to essential things, the pipeline, which is definitely not essential, is being built.”
“[It puts] indigenous communities in danger which are already at a heightened risk – communities that don’t have the systems in place to deal with outbreaks and don’t have running water sometimes to wash their hands,” he continued
“What we need here is a real revolution for oppressed people,” he added.
Protesters began the trek on wheels from the George Etienne Cartier monument at Jean-Mance around 7pm, after Marlene Hale, a chef from Wet’suwet’en nation who lives in Montreal, addressed the crowd.
“The RCMP still taunt us, laugh at us,” she said. “They pretty much just want us to have the COVID and go away and die.”
Though the situation induces anger, Hale maintained that it’s important to stay positive. “Choose your words carefully, what you say to your neighbors,” she said. “Don’t get people angry for any reason. Keep it here [at the protest].”
“When I do meditation, I’ve learned all the time is – there’s a positive time and there’s a negative side. And when it gets negative, just flush it.”
The 300 or so protestors rode down Parc Avenue, all the way across the city to Parc Maisonneuve in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough, masked up with signs attached to bikes. The 45 minute trek ended as the sun began to set in the park.
The June 5th date held extra importance. It was that day that the BC government held the trial for 22 land defenders who were arrested by the RCMP in February. They were not charged.
On the same day, Bill 61 – a law that criminalizes folk who choose to protest the CGL pipeline with a $25 000 infraction or jail time – was passed in Alberta, where the pipeline starts at Dawson Creek.
“There’s no way that these people who are often disadvantaged are going to be able to pay $25 000. So it’s terrible. It’s a disgrace to democracy and it’s terrible,” said Gertler.
While not everybody has the health to protest, organizer Albert Lalonde, spokesperson from La Ceve, said that folks can show support and solidarity by becoming educated on systemic racism and microaggressions, signing petitions, and donating money to funds.
“I think we see it as a responsibility to just be allies to those who have always been the land and water protectors,” he said. “We’ve stolen their land, and we must hand it back, it’s our responsibility. We have to stop this system of oppression that they have to deal with every day. Not doing so would mean that we are complicit, and this is not a thing we want, it’s not a thing we can accept. They have their right to self-determination, we’re on their land,” he said.
La CEVES plans to continue environmental and solidarity protests throughout the summer.
Protests against systemic racism and police brutality continue as thousands gathered at Place Emilie Gamelin last Sunday.
Protestors spent their sunny afternoon marching peacefully in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, reignited by the death of African American man George Floyd, who died in police custody for a harmless infraction on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes as he pleaded for his life.
Floyd’s death sparked international outrage, with protests against police brutality and systemic racism uniting folks from across the world to take part in actions towards police reform.
Montreal’s second major Black Lives Matter protest since Floyd’s death, the event initially sparked local backlash after organizers, Nous sommes la ligue des noirs nouvelle génération, invited the Montreal Police (SPVM) Chief to join the protest. The decision was contested by locals, and a day later the invitation was withdrawn. In an open Facebook message, the organization wrote that “citizens are terrified of the idea that [the police chiefs] will be there.”
Still, the invitation did not stop police from teargassing the crowd around 7pm.
At 11am, after a two-hour solidarity event reserved for the Black community, the thousands of protesters, most following organizers’ directions to stay masked, began to move downtown.
Organizers offered free masks and gloves to protestors to maintain safety. For many, it was the first major outing since the COVID-19 pandemic halted large scale collective gathering at the end of March, though with a crowd so large it was difficult to follow the two meter social distance requirements.
Most protests held signs, with different messages; some more humorous, shedding light on the unity and togetherness of the situation while others alluded to the seriousness of the crimes. A simple sign, “8:46”, paid homage to Floyd’s death; it represents the amount of time Floyd suffocated under the officer’s knee.
Most protestors dispersed around 2pm, where the march ended at Dorchester Square, though many continued into the day to march around the downtown area, eventually coming face to face with a wall of police in full riot gear, shields, face masks, and rubber bullet guns.
Stanley Courages, a protestor at the event, said he joined in support of the Black Lives Matter movements. To him, it’s a symbol that things are going bad, “and going bad for a lot of people,” he said.
“The system is sick, but we all know that. Nobody has the nerve to say it out loud,” he continued. “This is nice to see, Black, White, Latin, a little bit of Asian… it’s nice to see all kinds of people. […] Somehow, some way, people can relate to it, the sadness, whatever the problem they have with this kind of system. So I’m here for that symbol.”
The spotlight is on what he calls the Black movement because Black folks have been put at the bottom since colonization, he said. But Black folks aren’t the only ones suffering, he explained.
“The black movement – the same thing as the Black Lives Matter – that’s what I see as a symbol that everyone is not okay with this system,” he said. Pascale Lavache, another protestor at the event and who is Black, said she is marching for her nine year old son.
“I want him to not have to march when he’s my age, when he’s grown,” she said.
“I’m happy to see there’s lot of the youth is present,” she continued. “it’s not just black people, it’s everybody. Everybody feels the injustice. Everybody feels the injustice, and I feel like this is a great movement and I’m happy to see everybody is standing up for this injustice that touches everybody. So I’m really marching for myself.”
To her, the Black Lives Matter movement is about standing up for what is right, and standing up for equal rights for everybody. “I think people need to understand that this is not just for [Black folks], it’s for everyone. And it needs to stop, this needs to stop. It’s a disservice for everybody when there’s no justice.”
Though most protestors broke up around 2pm, protests continued around the downtown area until around 7pm. It was then that police opened fire on the remaining protectors without warning.
The use of tear gas, a chemical weapon that is banned in war, has been criticized by healthcare experts. It irritates the tear ducts, causing coughing, and potential irritation of the upper respiratory tract; all symptoms that could further spread the COVID-19 virus, experts say.
Already a violent weapon, its use at peaceful protests in the Canadian epicentre of the pandemic is problematic at the very least. Local healthcare professionals have called for police to cease its’ use – to no avail.
Though the protests have shed light on the systemic racism present in the Canadian justice system, Premier Francois Legault said publicly that systemic racism doesn’t exist in Quebec. The thousands of protestors that hit the streets last Sunday would disagree.
From racial profiling, economic insecurity, and a lack of representation in all facets, Quebec’s longstanding whitewashing of its’ history and culture and xenophobia; including the contested Bill 62 which bands all religious symbols in public, prove a different, darker reality.
One way to ease the injustice, Lavache said, is for there to be equal representation at every level – in both media, politics, and police force.
“We need to have equal representation, whether it’s for women, LGBTQ,” she said. “Everyone needs to be represented. The more there’s equal representation, the more there will be justice.”
Last Sunday, approximately 10 000 people took to the streets of Montreal demanding justice for George Floyd and all the other victims of racist police violence. This Sunday there’s another local protest against police brutality.
Before we go any further, I’d like to address what I knew every newscast would lead with the following day right after it happened: Yes, there was some looting. A bit of looting and some broken windows, nothing that should detract from the valid and necessary reason so many people were out, social distancing as much as possible during a pandemic.
Lenny Lanteigne, owner of Steve’s Music Store, the main target of the looters last Sunday, gets it. He told CTV that he thinks the protest was necessary and while he’s obviously not thrilled people stole his inventory, he knows what’s important. “They’re guitars, not human lives.”
In the US currently, there’s a strong argument that some of the rioting is actually quite necessary to be heard and affect change. In just over a week, the story changed from “the cops are fired” to “we’ve arrested one cop and charged him with third-degree murder” to (just yesterday) “we’re charging him with second-degree murder and the three cops who stood by with aiding and abetting second degree murder”.
The looting last Sunday in Montreal, though, came across more like a mini hockey riot with mostly white dudes using the opportunity to steal stuff than something tied into the message of police racism. The SPVM officers kneeling to put on their riot gear before teargassing the crowd (which preceded the looting), though, was a small reminder that the police here aren’t really all that different than those in the states.
We’ve Got A Long List Too
The protest last Sunday may have been in solidarity with demonstrations across the US and now across the world, but it was also demanding justice for victims of racist police violence in Canada and Montreal too. For every George Floyd or Eric Garner, there’s a Regis Korchinski-Paquet or Fredy Villanueva.
We also have a serious problem with Canadian police indiscriminately brutalizing Indigenous people. From the so-called “starlight tours” out west to a recent local incident next to Cabot Square where a Native woman in distress had to deal with 17 cops and the SPVM (Montreal Police) canine unit before getting an ambulance, it seems like our police don’t think that Native Lives Matter.
Or Black Lives, apparently.
In a CBC study of fatal encounters with police of all levels across Canada over 17 years, Black and Indigenous people were seriously over-represented when compared to the overall population. Meanwhile a 2019 report commissioned by the City of Montreal revealed that the SPVM was four to five times more likely to stop Black or Indigenous people than whites.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did admit that Canada has a problem with police racism, after 21 seconds of awkward, probably staged, silence, while dodging a question about US President Donald Trump. Of course, anything that came after the 21 seconds, he knew, would get lost in the shuffle.
Quebec Premier François Legault, while supporting the protest, denied that systemic racism exists in Quebec. This from the man that, pre-pandemic, was all about systemically discriminating against minorities through Bill 21.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, to her credit, admitted that systemic discrimination does exist in our city. The question now becomes what she is going to do to fight it.
After initially opposing outfitting police with body cameras, she now says it will happen as soon as possible. This is largely due to pressure from boroughs like Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce and the public.
The Spotlight and the Shadows
Body cameras on police would be a welcome improvement, because unlike their counterparts south of the border, our police are camera-shy when it comes to race-based brutality. This helps our political leaders propagate the lie that violent and murderous police racism is a shameful American problem, but there are only a few bad apples here.
In the US, violent racist cops are brazen and kill in the daylight, either not caring who is watching or filming or hoping to be the next white supremacist champion or MAGA hero. George Zimmerman has fans and he wasn’t even trained.
Here, they’re just as brutal, but know to avoid the spotlight as much as possible. For the person on the receiving end, though, the result is the same.
With the only real-world empire most of us have ever known burning before our eyes and crumbling into a failed state, the kind the US would usually think of invading, it’s easy to get distracted. When we see peaceful protesters teargassed and assaulted by gleeful cops, it’s easy to forget that we have problems here too,
Solidarity with those fighting to get out from under Trump’s boot is essential, but remember that the underlying problem of racist police violence is a Canadian one, too.
The next Montreal Anti-Police Brutality Protests starts Sunday, June 14th at 11am at Place Emilie-Gamelin
Protesters in Montreal are no longer required to provide a route to police. The Quebec Superior Court invalidated section 2.1 of Municipal Bylaw P-6 which was added at the height of the Maple Spring student protests in 2012 by then-Mayor Gerald Tremblay.
Over the past few years, Montreal Police (SPVM) used this provision to kettle and ticket protesters and to stop marches minutes after they started. The annual Anti-Police Brutality March being a frequent target.
The Quebec Superior Court had already invalidated Section 3.2 of the bylaw, the provision banning masks at protests, back in 2016. In the same ruling, the court put some restrictions on 2.1, but didn’t eliminate it entirely.
Not content with a partial victory, the plaintiffs, which included protest mascot Anarchopanda, decided to appeal. Today they won and the problematic parts of P-6 are gone and the court’s decision is effective immediately.
“Let’s not forget that this victory belongs to our comrades who take to the streets and risk police and judicial repression to fight for all our rights,” Sibel Ataogul, one of the lawyers fighting the appeal said in a Facebook post, adding: “Despite victories, judiciarisation is not the solution. Only the struggle pays.”
Vice President Mike Pence, you know the asshole who believes in “conversion therapy” was recently in my hometown of Buffalo NY to support another known fascist, congressman Chris Collins, and attend a thousand dollar a plate lunch at Salvatores, which is a gaudy, ugly decorated, and ridiculous in itself place. My one star Facebook review was taken down, interesting.
I wonder if women were allowed to attend since Mrs. Pence, aka Mother, was not there? Just in case you didn’t get the memo, this guy can’t eat in the company of any female if his wife is not there. No $1000 spaghetti and meatballs for Mikey today.
Protestors started the party with dancing. We wanted to recreate the big gay rave outside of Mike’s house during inauguration week in DC. “Daddy Pence come DANCE with us!”
Food not bombs brought tea and vegan chili. There were rainbows galore. I really think a sing a long of Danzig’s Mother while taking a knee would have been most appropriate as he passed.
The motorcade zipped by us so quickly. Like a flash from a movie. All of the cops shut down heavy traffic from all directions on one of our biggest intersections. Then came the black vehicles that looked ominous and official to say the least. There was also a random U-Haul… if I were him I would have totally rode in the U-haul.
We had to stay on the sidewalk, the cops said dance as much as you want. The counter protestors, alt right self militia assholes, stood on the perimeter with antiquated headsets that probably didn’t even work. They took photos of us and we documented them just the same.
They were so obvious. One man had a shirt on that said Karl’s Kar Klub… ummm when three things that should be spelled with a C are changed to Ks I have a feeling you are a flaming disgusting pig of a racist.
Another woman wore a yellow jacket and 90s apparel. She looked like a crazy church mom who would so nicely tell you to drink the Koolaid and strap up your white sneakers.
Another really confused me, he was a young white kid with dreads! If you can appropriate black culture then support a white supremacist scumfuck then you are an extra gross enigma.
One of the alt right jerks confronted me when I walked over to my car alone, “Are you supposed to be president trump?” “Yes” I responded. Then they asked if I was for or against him, I said VERY AGAINST, and then he laughed “Well the president doesn’t look anything like that!” “HOW DID YOU KNOW WHO I WAS THEN ASSHOLE?” I then proceeded to show him my chocolate skid marked tighty whities and walk away, that’s the president he voted for. Cheeto jesus with shitty undies.
So I saw Mikeyboy on tv at a machine company in Collins district later that day. He was talking about tax reform that would only help the rich while in one of the poorest rustbelt cites in the country, WTF? Just like everything else in this wretched regime it made no sense to me.
When people yelled “GET A JOB” at us from their giant gas guzzling cars I wanted to yell, fix our economy and stop raping the poor! I have two jobs and make time to fight for what I believe in because I must.
All and all it was a pretty non-eventful, peaceful protest. Queers for Racial Justice got us out there and informed. I was happy to be magically off work that day and ready to rumble, he has to know that he is not welcome here.
Haters and bigots can go fuck off, we will always be here to shut them down peacefully. I will happily not use my milk of magnesia stash today or take a rubber bullet to the guts.
We need to fight them with all we got. Get out there and physically protest! Make your everyday life a protest!
Respect my existence or expect my resistance! (That was my favorite sign there so I chose to carry it.) If you are an artist you better be making art about how this government makes you feel. It is our job to take them down.
Remember that people died at Stonewall so you can hold your girlfriend’s hand in public. We have come a long way and are in danger of getting those rights stripped by assholes in power. We must stand up for those who cannot. There was a transwoman in a wheelchair leading chants. We all need to be more like her!
I am dressing up like Donald Trump again this Saturday for The Stripteasers Haunted Whitehouse show at Nietzsche’s because nothing is scarier than our current political state in the US. I have been dubbed The Alec Baldwin of burlesque, and I am ok with that.
I hate being trump to be honest with you. Its hard to be an asshole, I am a method actor so I become the character. I will be sitting on stage on an actual toilet reading his actual stupid tweets all night long.
Twitter on the shitter, thats what we get folks. This is real life. Save us all…
Remember the time I was almost arrested for sharing free food with my friends?
I do. It was a cold, rainy May Day and we showed up to Lafayette Square (in Buffalo NY) as usual, well maybe we were 10 minutes late, and then as soon as I got out of the car and hugged my one of the people waiting in line, BOOM, out comes an officer of the law to tell me I needed to stop.
STOP? Stop serving my community while you sit there serving a paycheck? STOP? Stop providing necessary organic vegetables to those too poor to afford them, to those living in a food desert, to those who are HUNGRY RIGHT NOW, to those waiting in the rain for a meal (believe me if they didn’t need it they wouldn’t be there).
I could not serve my friends in the park. Our picnic was trampled by someone paid with my tax dollars. My heart was broken.
Buffalo Food Not Bombs serves every Monday and Saturday and has for over 20 years, no matter rain, snow, or sunshine we are out there with our friends, our people, our community. Some things are maybe not worth getting arrested for, this is not one of those things. I will do anything in my power to keep our free vegan picnic going forever.
Volunteering has given my life meaning, I have made some incredible friends, and when I walk down the street people wave to me, people I serve, people I love dearly, people who need nourishment. Food Not Bombs is a worldwide movement against hunger and food waste, we got this.
They said it was permits we needed- well I went to the permit office like a bat out of hell immediately after and guess what they told me? NO PERMITS ARE NECESSARY IF THE FOOD IS FREE! How about them (free) apples?
We only serve vegetables so the laws about meat temperature do not apply to us. We only give away things for free that were donated so no taxes apply to us. This food is a gift and there is no gain to share unsafe food.
We share the food immediately after it is cooked in a clean and inspected kitchen with gloves and clean containers and cutlery. We have filed paperwork with the Health Department to make sure we are legit on that account, but both of the kitchens we cook in have already been on the books and inspected, so why? Why are we being hassled now?
One thought is that May Day is a day that activists tend to lash out against “the man”. Perhaps we were a threat? Giving out free food to serve the revolution is dangerous. Making sure there are no rumbling tummies is a travesty.
The Police have always had a watchful eye on us, Feed them? Ha, make them starve! Not on my watch, bro. If I have an abundance I will share it by any means necessary.
Another theory is that there is also a new “luxury” hotel right across from Lafayette Square, perhaps they don’t want tourists to see our homeless population? Gentrification will not stand, this is a public park, and our people will continue to enjoy it. I have heard of people getting arrested for serving free food in places like Florida, but there are no standing laws that apply to us here in Buffalo.
That day I gave my phone number to a few regulars, the next day an elderly woman hit me up. She depended on our free produce. Her sister is also vegan, they cannot afford that life without our support. I hooked her up with produce and gave her a ride home.
It turns out that she used to be an art teacher, she dedicated her life to making children see beauty. She told me not to swear (I am a potty mouth fo sho) and also said that she went to the same church as one of the officers. I hope she makes her cry on Sunday.
This woman is so sweet, thank you again Sara, for reminding me why we do this. I made a friend for life because I reached out a hand full of food and she needed it. This sweet woman told me that I was doing God’s work. Well, I am an atheist, but I respect that because I knew religion was very important to her. I will NEVER STOP! Never.
We made asparagus with garlic and olive oil, mixed veggies, green salad, apple crisp, banana cranberry bread, mixed sweet and white potatoes, roasted caramelized cabbage, cantelope, fresh bread and bagels, fruit smoothies, iced sweet tea, and organic produce to share. Thankfully we were able to serve our meal at the University of Buffalo in solidarity with Muslim students at a hate speech by Robert Spencer (anti-jihad alt right nut job) that was sponsored by the on campus white supremacist student group. So it didn’t go to waste. We found an alternate place to serve for that one day, we will be back in our regular place ASAP.
The community support has been phenomenal. Many have reached out and will be volunteering with us. This Saturday’s share will be incredible. I cannot wait to see what comes of this.
Thank you for the free publicity. We will have an uproar from our beautiful neighbors to stand up for those who need a meal. Shame on you for trying to shut us down! If you had a problem with us, tell us and we will fix it, don’t shut us down when people are depending on us to eat that day!
The cops were always “nice” to us in the past. A week before there was a young, black, female officer that was “helping” us. This week she would not look me in the eye as we were forced to shut down. She was a plant, she was used because we would accept her presence a little easier. Officer Gentrification looked a lot like the cop from Terminator 2. I am not intimidated or impressed. Their hungry tummies are on your conscience sir!
You did not serve or protect anyone on this day. I had to tell a homeless person of color “Do not take that bread.” I had to tell an elderly woman whose hand was shaking “Do not take those apples.” I had to tell a woman with small children “I cannot give you that food.”
Food is necessary for survival, it is a right and not a privilege! I should have stood up right then and there, but I didn’t, and I am disappointed in myself. I thought about the people I was with, other volunteers, the good ones, and didn’t want them to get hurt.
My community is my life. I care about the people we serve as if they were my family because all humans are my family! This is a cause worth getting arrested for. If we are told to stop once more, the next meal is a protest and everyone is invited.
Panelists AG and Jerry Gabriel discuss Donald Trump’s travel ban and Pride Toronto’s decision to not allow uniformed police to participate in the next parade with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup. Community Calendar and Predictions!
News Roundup Topics: Françoise David’s farewell, Keystone back on the table, Ireland divesting from fossil fuels
AG: Communications sales rep and political observer
In the week since t-bag took over a lot has already changed. The pipeline will chug on, a wall will be constructed, funding for the arts is gone, legal safe abortion is threatened, media block on the EPA to hide climate change, it’s acceptable and legal to discriminate against gays, people in important positions are jumping ship and everyone that trump puts in is more evil than the last.
He is plotting evil as you read this. More and more rights are going to be stripped from us. We must stand up to this. Scientists put the clock one minute closer to impending doom.
Washington DC had a very dystopian feel, it was so foggy that you could not see the penis tip of the Washington Monument. Inauguration Day meant broken glass on the streets of DC. Starbucks, bank, and McDonalds windows smashed like the patriarchy itself. A limo burned.
Protesters were greeted with a wallowing pink smoke, tear gas, mace burned, and ears rang from flash cannons. It was a strange feeling.
Impending doom and the need for empowerment. We all must organize and resist.
The time is right now to make a difference and show the world that this asshole does not represent the silent majority. Riot gear is more than a pink knitted pussy cat hat.
I hope the women in pink hats taking selfies saw this and were changed. Step one is getting off of the internet and out into the streets. Then real change must happen.
People of privilege need to get called out and then call out others like them. I am an a white woman and I carried a vagina sign, I am now ashamed of that, not because I have a vagina, but because not ALL women have them.
I was not marching for white vaginas, I was marching for ALL women. Intersectional feminism requires us to stand up in solidarity for all. When we are inclusive but still blind it actually adds to the problem. Showing up but not listening. Trans women, Non binary humans, Black women, Muslim women, Immigrant women, Disabled women, Single Mothers, Mother Earth, Rape Victims, Sex Workers, and everyone who needs love all deserve to feel safe. All of these humans need to be protected from the evil afoot.
I was upset with all of the Angela Davis quote signs out there and these girls didn’t even know that she was speaking right over to the left of them. She was just a sign that was on the internet.
Too busy taking selfies to actually hear the words written on your sign, too busy celebrating yourself to give a hand to those who need lifting up, and too white washed to see the problem.
It is a privilege to even go to Washington DC and march. Many women cannot just take off of work and go. I was sad that I didn’t get there a day earlier for the big gay rave in front of Daddy Pence’s house.
I will be there in June when the gays march. Rainbows will take over! Can’t stop, won’t stop.
I was disgusted to hear that a group of women that are water protectors on the front line of the Dakota Access Pipeline were treated like pieces of selfie meat. People took photos of them but did not listen about their struggle or even take a pamphlet.
The struggle is real, it is not a hashtag. People are being brutalized and mother earth is being raped for money and power. DO NOT OBJECTIFY THEM for Facebook likes!
The first woman I met was 62, from California. She said to my friends and I that she was here for us and our future. She had been fighting her entire life and would die trying to make this world better.
She inspired me, in her 60s she started climbing mountains because why not? She was sick of society telling her not to do things and told us to always do what we dream and take action.
Life goes by fast, we only have a short time to make things better for the next generation. She was brave and beautiful.
On the flip side an older woman came up to me and told me I was a distraction and that I should be ashamed of myself because I was topless. I told her I respected her as a woman but did not agree.
I am empowered and I wish to inspire others to be the same. There needed to be more breasts out at the woman’s march. This should be a safe place to feel confident about yourself and not hide behind what society wants from you.
Well behaved women seldom make history is a sign I saw and something I agree with wholeheartedly. I will not put my breasts away for you Missy.
The whole event kind of felt like Facebook in real life, censorship and all. I even saw straight up memes printed out on signs. You take the meme from the internet then but it on a sign and take a picture of it, just to post it back on the internet, like a TV within a TV. You cannot carry a sign without carrying the burden of hate.
Signs are all well and good but don’t really mean shit. You need direct actions behind those words.
I was also pretty turned off by the fact that people weren’t even paying attention to both sides of their signs. One protester carried a sign that said FEDEX on the back, both sides are advertising bro, always think of both sides of every sign or argument.
There were llamas there marching too, which is wrong! The poor creatures were scared. Do not abuse an animal for your agenda! This is a protest, think!
I was also turned off by the fact that there were a zillion pussy signs and no toilet paper to be had, so everyone is there with a dirty pussy. The revolution needs more toilet paper and access to tampons etc. I want to be a vag warrior and hand out tp and tampons to all women. Also I will include a zine about inclusion and loving and supporting our transgender sisters.
During the Women’s March two trump (he does not get the capitol T) supporters walked by. One of the men dropped a button with trump’s face on it, then continued walking on.
My friend pulled the button in with her foot and started to stomp it. Within a second it seemed that one of the men came back. He literally pushed my friend to the ground to get her off of the button. I instantly ran to her side and into his face. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You have the audacity to push down a woman at a fucking women’s march?
All of my aggression and screaming did not turn a single head, no woman came to help. The only person who did approach me was an older woman who just kept saying ‘love trumps hate’.
In retrospect I should have fucking nailed him. Getting arrested wearing nothing but rainbow and wielding a rubber fist would have made me a hero. I know that fighting hate with more hate is not the answer, but when he was walking away he said “Nice tits!” THEY ARE NOT FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT!
We need to call people like this out and stand up against violence and oppression. I think every woman needs to start carrying a rape whistle again, so people notice you when you are in trouble.
While the pink hats did get women out, they need to get more involved and know that getting out once is not enough. We all need to criticize our own activism.
Do not question why BLACK LIVES MATTER is being chanted at a women’s march! Do not destroy Mother Earth by littering your signs and hats on the ground. You should be saving those signs to use again for the next rally. Always keep fighting.
Yes we need to fight for our reproductive rights and equality for all in pay and opportunity, but don’t forget about climate change, the fact that water is life, and war is always looming over us too. Global issues affect all humans.
The Women’s March was a worldwide gathering of the goddesses! Women and feminist men took to the streets and spoke out against oppression and hate. It was truly monumental. It must become a movement, it must keep strong.
We must support all of the efforts of our community and work together to prevent a meltdown. I expect to see pink hats at the next Black Lives Matter event, or at the #NODAPL rally, or to fight against Muslim registries or Immigration blocks. This country and world needs all of us to be accountable and brave.
There was a girl on a light post with a megaphone leading chants and giving out info. Someone asked her if she was an organizer, she said “No, someone just gave me a microphone!” BE THAT GIRL! Take charge of the moment and be the change.
I felt like I could become President, that it needed to be one of us and NOT one of them! No more politicians! No more businessmen! We need to be informed, educated, and strong together.
My rubber fist said FILTHY AND PROUD, I will never be silenced. My voice will spark the revolution in harmony with the war cries of a million of my sisters. Daily direct action wins. Nobody can stop us.
A sea of pink flooded the National Mall in Washington D.C. on January 21st, 2017. Overwhelming chants of, “Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!” and more humorous, “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” were audible from the White House and around the world.
Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington anticipated 200 000 participants; they got half a million – as many as Woodstock. Too many for the planned march to actually take place.
Globally, as many as 5 million people marched in solidarity with the women of America against the proposed policies of the nascent Trump administration. By some accounts, it was the biggest protest in US history.
Donald Trump has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood and other organizations, both foreign and domestic, that fund and promote women’s reproductive health. He has promised to roll back sex education and promote abstinence; he has normalized sexual violence, demonized members of the LGBTQ community and has thumbed his nose at the gender pay gap. Not to mention all the nasty things he has said about women. What’s next buddy, our right to vote?
However, “Women’s Issues” do not exist in a vacuum, and most issues are women’s. To quote a speaker at the Women’s March, “You want to discuss woman’s issues? So, you want to talk about the economy?”
Our concerns transcend our gender identities. Women’s issues are intersectional, nobody is just a woman and nothing else. Because many of us are immigrants and fear deportation and loss of family, we marched for that, because we are queer, of colour and differently abled, working class and social services users, air breathers, water drinkers and environmental lovers. Because we are mothers, trans, Muslim and atheist, we marched against Trump’s far-reaching promises to harm us all.
It was a beautiful sight to behold. I cried more than twice. A love army composed of privates from all walks of life, shades, creeds and beliefs marching together in solidarity for a brighter and more inclusive future.
This all sounds good, right? Who among the left wouldn’t want a safer and fairer America. Isn’t that what we have all been fighting for after all? Who wouldn’t support a cause dedicated to protecting our fellow sisters and brothers?
There are many valid critiques of the contemporary feminist movement, such as those of the lack of intersectionality i.e. white and ablest feminism, trans-exclusionary feminism, and sex-worker exclusionary feminism, among others. These discussions are welcomed, constructive and necessary for our collective growth. So is the lack of indigenous representation at the march.
However, it seems as if progressive (North) America is still deeply divided along lines that are not so productive and ultimately cannibalizing. A sour flavour of activist shaming is rearing its ugly head from within.
I was disturbed by some comments I saw on my Facebook feed the day of the March. Comments such as: “Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if people protested in the same numbers for clean water on First Nation reserves as when they protest a foreign leader?” and “You can march, you can wear that pink pussy hat you knitted…but here’s the thing: Donald Trump will still be the President of the USA. Today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. So until people start examining the root causes of the problems that led U.S. citizens to this choice, nothing is going to be effective.” Really?
I admit that I am a white woman and carry that privilege. The people I just quoted, though, carry the same white privilege.
Their comments and others like them are nothing other than left on left activist shaming. Bullying. These internal critics seem to believe that there is one right way to be a progressive political activist, their way. Shaming people for actively participating in democracy, for pulling themselves away from Netflix and paying their way to fight for a cause that is important to them, should not be tolerated. These attitudes are counter-productive. They feed division and hurt people who should be your allies.
Nobody can do it all. All we can do as activists is fight as hard as we can. Many of us would like to do it all, (I know I would) but inevitably we are doomed to fall short.
As members of the human species, we suffer from the unconquerable afflictions of limited energy, time and means, so we must prioritize what lights the fire in our bellies. We must decide which causes are important to us.
Whether an injustice affects you personally or indirectly, if you care about it, you go! You do you, as long are you are doing good and not harm, don’t let anyone ever tell you are doing good wrong.
Hilary Clinton was right about one thing; we are stronger together. Unthoughtful and petty shaming of our fellow activists for volunteering their energies to one cause over another only leads to further divisions in an already balkanized left.
I am not proposing that everyone always agree with the nuances or particulars of the tactics used toward a given cause. I am only asking that people stand back and take a good look at the bigger picture and get over their egos. I implore my fellow lefties to ask, what is the end goal, and do I support it? In the case of the Women’s March, the goal is equality for all. Now what kind of progressive cannot get behind that?
This Saturday, our day started at the New Carrollton Metro stop just outside Washington DC. We knew the rally was going to be massive when we saw that the line for metro tickets stretched back several blocks to the ramp off the highway. Luckily we already had purchased our tickets in advance.
When boarding, the train filled well over capacity. New Carrollton being the last stop, we had to pass all the other closer stops with out picking up additional passengers. It reminded me of being home on the NYC L train subway line.
In DC there were people in all directions. It is impossible to explain how full the city felt. The main event with the stage and speakers was actually only a part of the overall event since far less than half of the marchers could actually fit in the space set up for that part of the rally. The crowd stretched back shoulder to shoulder for several blocks behind the main stage despite there not being a speaker system or televisions facing that way to see and hear what was happening.
You may be wondering what it is like to be in the middle of a crowd of 750 000 to a million protestors. The roar of the crowd was deafening at times, a wash of white noise like a furious ocean.
We managed to get to a place with a side view of the stage. Again, everyone was shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot, but even closer now somehow. Any kind of mobility more than a torso turn to the left or right was left to the collective will. Still, no one seemed to panic.
The message was simple and displayed not only in words but action and tone. Being in the middle of that crowd I finally fully realized that this was not a rally of hate or fear of an opposing side. It was the peaceful expression of a growing movement for equality, compassion and understanding. It was a comforting community.
To that point, one of the greatest successes of this Saturday seems to be the unification of so many civil rights factions. In the past six months Donald Trump has become a global symbol for racism, sexism and classism. Though given ample opportunity to, he has done nothing significant to defend himself against any such charges.
Groups like Planned Parenthood, Gathering for Justice, Moms Demand Action, Arab American Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pro-Choice America, ACLU, American Federation of Teachers and too many more to list, now have in Trump one common and paramount threat to rally against. Hearing a near million chant things like “We will not go away, welcome to your first day,” it has become clear that this movement is in for the long haul.
It is important to note that considering the race, economic and gender diversity I witnessed in DC on Saturday, I find it best to think of the Woman’s March not as a woman only movement but more as a movement of full inclusion.
I think California Senator Kamala Harris expressed it perfectly yesterday when she spoke at the rally saying:
“I was elected as the first woman or the first woman of color and folks would come up to me and they would say, Kamala, talk to us about women’s issues and I would look at them and I would say I am so glad you want to talk about the economy. I would say, great, let’s talk about the economy because that is a woman’s issue. I’d say you want to talk about women’s issues, let’s talk about national security. You want to talk about women’s issues, that’s fantastic, let’s talk about health care, education, let’s talk about criminal justice reform, let’s talk about climate change.
We all know the truth. If you are a woman trying to raise a family, you know that a good paying job is a women’s issue. If you are a woman who is an immigrant who does not want her family torn apart, you know that immigration reform is a women’s issue. If you are a woman working off student loans, you know the crushing burden of student debt is a woman’s issue. If you are a black mother trying to raise a son, you know black lives is a woman’s issue. If you are a woman period, you know we deserve a country with equal pay and access to health care, including a safe and legal abortion protected as a fundamental and constitutional right.”
The most important message that I take from this historical event is that even though you may personally believe the issues Senator Kamala Harris mentioned to be self-evident, we no longer live in a world where you can blindly count on them to be preserved. No longer is it enough to casually read blogs and make comments on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope or the like. We need to go out and engage the world.
I urge you to voice your opinion as loud as you can. If you do this you will be heard. Each person came who came to DC this Saturday made sacrifices to be there. They did this out of a great feeling of urgency. Through their individual effort they proved that a million voices speaking a simple and reasonable truth at once can be heard around the world.
I’ll leave you with some inspiring words said at this Saturday’s rally by the great activist and author Angela Davis:
“Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out….The next 1459 days of the Trump administration will be 1459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music….This is just the beginning and in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’”
* Post was edited at 12:54 pm Jan 23. Line removed in section on diversity of the march
“I didn’t choose the boot, the boot chose me!” – Vermin Supreme
Vermin Supreme is an incredible character, a friendly fascist, a tyrant you can trust. He is an internet meme, a pop culture reference, an incredible performance artist and political symbol of hope.
He is my candidate! I agree with the platform that everyone must brush their teeth, the zombie apocalypse is near, and a pony would be so fun.
I have seen him in the news for years, always thinking who is this man? Running for office in New Hampshire and President of the good ol’ USA. I never in a million years would think I would get to hang out with him.
I knew the Victory Tour was coming to Mohawk Place in Buffalo on its way to Washington DC and figured I would check it out, but then a good friend of mine texted me, saying they needed couches to crash on. As incredible it would be to have THE VERMIN SUPREME on my couch, I hooked them up at the hostel where I work so they would be more comfortable.
I really did not know what to expect from the show. Local activist band The Blood Thirsty Vegans opened the show, then the adorable Rob Potylo sang some politically charged and just plain fun songs (my favorite being Hot Dogs and Apple Sauce) to lead into Vermin Supreme.
He started the show with the Star Spangled Banner done in an experimental noise style with a megaphone. There were a lot of sing-a-longs including a depressing ballad called Psycho Kitty, a song about crabs, and an introduction to Spud Head a baby doll with a matching booted head. He also read some pony erotica from his book I Pony.
I felt like a little girl again clapping along and laughing out loud. The show was a glorious escape from reality, it was art for art’s sake, it was FUN during a dark time. He made me laugh on the edge of the apocalypse.
That is who I want for president, not some asshole who doesn’t know how to smile and never made art in his poor excuse for a life. Fun and love reigns supreme, not hate and violence.
I wish that all politicians remembered how to be kids, remembered that if you run fast enough you can fly. He ran down the icy sidewalk screaming like a madman, I was inspired. Told me a story of him doing the same thing naked and stone sober at a Rainbow Gathering. Everyone thought he was just a spun out hippie, or a wiley homeless man, definitely some kind of uncharted crazy.
Then he puts on the boot and gets asked to take selfies in the hundreds. He was at ROTFL Con and met THE keyboard cat and Scumbag Steve (among others), Grumpy Cat was still a happy kitten then. Vermin has been a performance artist for years, this character just stuck, he became Vermin Supreme, even legally changing his name.
He says that it’s great to be him because he lives life inconspicuously and then puts on the boot for celebrity status. It is amazing that once you do something people notice you. It takes an act of ridiculousness to get people’s attention, then you can give them the 1-2 punch of ideology and compassion.
NYC performance artist Matthew Silver is the only other artist that I have met who has this effect on the art world and people at large, and he is going to be Vermin’s Vice President. I am excited to see them interact with each other. I remember coming across Matthew while in New York during the Occupy Wall Street movement and The Slut Walk, he stood there in his underwear spouting sonnets of love.
He made me smile. I remember watching him get harassed by the police, and he turned it right on, he has the right to do this! Then I knew he was a performance artist and not another lost soul. I was monumentally impressed. The spontaneity, wackiness, and love with these two combined will be off the charts.
I even enjoyed the merch they sold. His tour manager wore a shirt that said “I Love Butt Drugs” which is apparently a real drugstore somewhere in Indiana. They sold wind up penises, embellished ties, glitter tooth brushes, and other random goodies.
All and all I was completely amused and inspired. It was yet another reason for me to truck on to DC this weekend. I will wear my gold glittered Vermin Supreme the dye tie with pride.
All you have to do to be an artist is to make art! Live it! Breath it! Be insane about your art, put your heart and ideals on display and you will connect with the people. As a performance artist I must allow myself to break free. I must allow my naked self to baffle the buffoons, to sparkle in the face of absurdity and the obscene. Nobody can teach you how to be yourself, you are the only one who can brighten your individual light.
Vermin Supreme became an icon when he put the boot on his head because that’s when people listened (and maybe everyone secretly wants a pony). What is my boot?
I am so excited to go to Washington DC this weekend for the Inauguration Protest and The Million Woman March. This is a scary time and we must stand together to face this evil. A tyrant has been appointed by the redneck racists and the Russians, he is putting the 1% in charge and stripping the rights of everyone else in the name of god and profit.
I have been asking myself WHY AM I GOING? Why am I going to Washington DC to protest? Because I simply must! Yes, I wish I would have gone sooner, tried to stop this unstoppable evil, but the only time is right now.
I have never been to my nation’s capitol, and this is the time to go, front row seats to the end of the world. I don’t want the world to burn like at the end of Fight Club, I just want people to love! I want everyone to be safe and have healthcare, be allowed to love and live in peace, put an end to war and oppression, equality for all humans.
Black Lives Do Matter. Immigrants build this country so we must welcome them with open arms. We need safety for our Trans brothers and sisters, support for the mentally ill, homes for the homeless, rehabilitation for the addicted, happiness for the sad, food for everyone, clean air and water, a better environment, and an education system that will encourage and expand young minds.
A pony would be nice too, it would be more environmentally friendly than a car, give us all great companionship and a sense of responsibility and love for another life. Plus ponies are just so darn cute. I would eat carrots with mine all day long, brush her mane, and listen to punk music with her (cuz that’s what she likes). Maybe I will name her Warrior Princess Cherry Rainbow Buttercup Sinclair?
I am going to Washington because while I do recognize that it is important to rise up in your own communities, sometimes you must converge with your comrades and organize to resist! Direct action is the only way to disrupt evil. Reach out a hand and help! Clean something, feed someone, and respect the beautiful diversity of humanity.
Every person in every city needs to stand up and speak out! Even if you voted for Trump you must realize how dumb this is. He is based in pure hate and has no business being in the White House. All of his promises are bullshit.
President Obama received so much criticism, but will go down in history as an eloquent human who made a difference in our world. He is a great father, husband, and humanitarian that helped open the doors for social change.
I am going to Washington to help end racism, hate in all forms, oppression of women, and war. I have been reading about how the Million Women March has not been as inclusive as it should be to women of color, which unfortunately has been a problem with feminism since the first wave.
White female privilege is real. Just because I am a woman does not cancel out the fact that I am white. White women threw black women under the bus when it came to the vote, even making them march at the back of the line!
Similar things are happening with this march. Even the name was appropriated from a march organized by black women in 1997.
We cannot segregate our feminism! That is as demeaning and shitty as T-bag grabbing pussies. ALL PUSSIES ARE EQUAL and deserve respect and a voice! All women need to hold hands and fight back, we are stronger united.
I am getting into a van with a variety of women, some of which I do not know very well, but have been activists their whole lives. Others, like me, are going to their first large scale protest. We all care, we all want change, we are all scared, we are all willing to speak up and be strong for each other.
Of course it is scary. I do not trust the police, I do not trust the military, or the terror of Trumpocalypse, and what he and his scumfuck cronies are going to do with our precious world.
I know that I will have my water bottle half filled with water and the other half filled with milk of magnesia, just in case they pepper spray me. I will have impermeable layers and protective face masks in case of tear gas.
I am not going to Washington to set fires or cause physical destruction. I am going to burn down the evil with my words and artistic presence. I am going to create a better world for the future for the children who already exist (and those yet to come).
I am speaking up while I still can, before all of my rights are stripped, before I am too old or sick to stand tall. I am going now because I must be there. You cannot cower in the face of adversity, you must look it in the eye and smile. You must hand it a flower and give it a hug, you must show evil that there is another way.
Vermin Supreme inspires me because he is out there doing it! He is living proof that the revolution is real and we are allowed to have fun even though the ship is currently sinking.
Laughter saves lives, activism opens eyes, and everyone has an artistic voice. Find your boot, your power source, put it on, and change the fucking world!
Neda Topaloski, one of the FEMEN activists who disturbed the 2015 Montreal Grand Prix, had her second and final day in court today. As per FEMEN’s usual tactics, Topalski protested bare-chested during the high profile event, and in a national first, she is now facing criminal charges for it.
“We’re in Canada and there’s no precedent for such cases. Our bodies are our banners for our values and ideas. It’s the first time there is an attempt to criminalize them,” explained Topaloski in a phone interview with FTB on Thursday morning. According to her, it’s the state of democracy and freedom in Canada that is at stake in this trial.
Topaloski was arrested on June 4th 2015, after she appeared topless in front of one of the showcased cars on Crescent Street and yelled “Montreal is not a brothel!”
She was referring to the sexual tourism that doubles or triples every time the high profile Grand Prix is organised in Montreal. She was initially charged on four counts, but the charges of indecency and exhibitionism were dropped last week. The crown is thus going forward with charges of mischief and disturbing the peace.
Topaloski claims FEMEN’s actions are a non-violent form of political expression and should not be criminalized. “Seeing activism as disturbance of peace is absolutely perverse, because expression doesn’t trouble peace, violence troubles peace,” she argued.
She was also accused of mischief. The crown alleges she dented the hood of the car she was leaning on during the stunt. The activist says that this is “absolutely impossible.” She notes that the Grand Prix is always full of pictures of women sitting on cars for publicity purposes and that none of them faced such accusations.
The Grand Prix: “A powerful lobby”
This is the first time a FEMEN protest has resulted in criminal charges in Canada, despite several public actions of the same sort. Topaloski believes that she is only being prosecuted this time because She managed to “sully the image of the Grand Prix.”
“It bothers this powerful lobby and it is because of their pressure that we are charged this time, but not the time that we were in the Canadian parliament, nor the time we were at the National Assembly in Quebec.”
In April 2015, Neda Topaloski interrupted a press conference about Law 20 at the National Assembly. She irrupted topless on stage to protest against the new law’s failure to prioritize free and accessible abortion. She had done a similar act on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest C-51 just a few weeks earlier.
Allegations of excessive use of force
On Wednesday, Topaloski’s lawyer immediately moved to have all the charges thrown on the grounds that the arrest was unlawful. She argued that the Grand Prix’s private security made an excessive use of force.
“It was more than an arrest; I was dragged on the floor, still topless, they pulled my hair out…” recalls Topaloski. She highlights that their behaviour was wildly different from what she has seen from police officers in similar situations.
“[The security guards] were trying to prove that they were the guys in control of the situation and of the value of women. They used that situation to abuse, physically and violently.”
A video of the arrest was submitted to the court as proof. Although she is not sure of this move’s potential success, Topaloski explained that it is important for her to “shed light on those who perpetuate violence rather than those who protest for equality and are repressed and targeted by violence because of it.”
The court will probably not reach a verdict today, but Topaloski says she trusts that “common sense” and “constitutional rights” will prevail: “I have the law and the constitution on my side. Therefore, I hope that the judge will be able to recognize this.”
President Trump. President Donald Trump. Yes, a few months from now that will be an actual thing people say. For now, he’s President Elect, but sadly, he is no longer a joke and he never should have been. We need to keep fighting Trump.
The over-the-top reality star will soon be Commander-in-Chief of the largest military in the world. Islamophobia, racism and misogyny have been part of American politics for a while, but they just went uber-mainstream with Trump’s win a little over a week ago.
What’s now frighteningly apparent is that his alt-right (really a fancy way to say white nationalists with computer skills) base, emboldened by his win, are voicing their bigotry and hatred and scaring the crap out of immigrants, visible minorities and anyone that doesn’t fit into their white supremacist, misogynistic and anti-Semetic worldview.
Swastikas are showing up all over the US, people are being attacked, middle schoolers are even chanting “build that wall” and making school a frightening place for some of their classmates. Buzzfeed has even put together a tracker of racist incidents in the US since the Trump victory.
While Trump did tell his supporters to stop it with their racist attacks and graffiti, his early staff choices send the opposite message. He just appointed Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart “News” as CEO until joining the Trump campaign, his top policy adviser. Bannon had proudly declared Breitbart to be a “platform for the alt-right” and oversaw the publication of articles with incredibly nasty headlines.
Throw in promises to break US climate agreements and the prospect of a second Supreme Court pick after he fills Scalia’s seat and you get a picture that is terrifying for people of colour, the LGBT community, women and the planet.
How Did We Get Here?
President Trump is bad news, that much is clear. But why is this now a reality? It’s because no one took his candidacy seriously. Comics thought him running would produce gold for them, but no worries, because, of course he wouldn’t win. Pundits, same thing. Even I didn’t take him seriously at first.
It’s true that Trump’s core support came from xenophobic racist misogynists and they’re now the ones strutting and scaring the shit out of everyone, but this “basket of deplorables” weren’t the only ones who voted for him. If they were, the electoral map would have looked quite different. The bigots are still a minority.
It’s white working class voters in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and now Michigan that tipped the balance this time around. It’s not that their privilege blinded them to what a Trump Presidency could mean, it’s simply that Trump’s obvious bigotry meant less to them than the prospect of losing jobs due to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) did. Some lifelong rust belt Democrats who voted Obama twice and supported Bernie in the Primaries switched to Trump in the General.
A truly selfish act, to be sure, and an ultimately counterproductive one. Stopping the TPP is probably the first campaign promise Trump will break.
There was also a real feeling of dissatisfaction with the political establishment which Trump, posing as a populist, was able to tap into. If the choice had been between a right-wing, xenophobic pseudo-populist and a real left-wing populist like Bernie Sanders, Sanders would have easily won.
This election also proved that standard political tactics like a good ground game and mainstream media support are now less important than huge rallies and a solid social media strategy. Trump ran an unconventional campaign, so did Sanders. Clinton played it business as usual and lost.
What Needs to Happen Now in the Democratic Party
It’s all water under the bridge, now, but that water is what people need for drinking and bathing, so we can’t ignore how we got here and Democrats can’t ignore the mistakes they made. If they do, they are bound to repeat them.
The party establishment didn’t just lose. They lost to a third-rate PT Barnum who only ran to get a better TV deal with NBC. They lost to a man who admitted to being sexual predator during a national radio interview and who has bragged on tape about sexual assault. They lost to their dream opponent. They lost to Donald Fucking Trump.
If that’s not the impetus Democrats need to show their leadership the door, I don’t know what is. Now is the time to replace everyone at the top who pushed for Clinton over Sanders in the Primaries. Progressives need to take over the Democratic Party…soon!
If there is pushback, and there will be, fight it. If the pushback from the DNC establishment succeeds, it might be time to think about a new party. Even as President, Trump may end up destroying the Republican Party and there could be room for a new party in the two-party system.
What Needs to Happen Now Outside of the Echo Chamber
I had thought, as did many, that if he won, protests against Trump would start on day one of his Presidency. I was wrong. They started less than 24 hours after he won the Electoral College vote and became the President Elect.
From mass marches in New York City, Chicago and around the country to high school students walking out of class, people are voicing their displeasure with an impending Trump Presidency and what it will mean for them and their communities. This needs to continue.
No, the whole “just accept the election results” line or the “give him a chance” attitude don’t fly in this case. First, he’s already shown us by appointing Bannon that he blew his chance to change the tone to a more President of all Americans one. Second, protesting the government, or even an incoming government is never wrong, in fact, it’s a right.
If Clinton had won and stepped too far to the right with her picks, I would expect progressives, even those who voted for her, to be challenging her every step of the way. Now with Trump living up to the worst nightmare scenario fears and his most fervent bigoted supporters having their day in the sun, protesting has become a necessity.
An election does not give the winner immunity from protest in a democracy. When the President Elect is promising to usher in a downright dangerous environment for marginalized groups, those groups and their allies should challenge the President Elect any way they can.
As for tactics, hitting the streets, boycotting Trump-aligned brands and calling out racism and misogyny can all be effective. Right here in Montreal, there is a Stop Bannon Phone-a-Thon putting Americans living here in touch with their local elected officials. There is also a solidarity action in the US encouraging people who aren’t the target of persecution (ie. white people) to register as Muslims if Trump enacts a registry.
While I like the idea behind the move to impeach Trump, I’d like to remind those behind it that success would only lead to President Mike Pence, who, in many ways, is just as bad if not worse.
I would recommend aligning anti-Trump protests with other groups fighting against the things that this incoming President stands for. Solidarity with the #NODAPL protesters, for example, would be a great first step.
Politicians, other people and the mainstream media not taking Trump seriously during the Primaries and the General Election is what got us here. We can’t afford not to take the threat of a Trump Presidency seriously now. It’s time to fight.
Protests, like potholes, are a year-round occurance in Montreal. The economy is in the toilet, tuition costs are on the rise, and Prime Minister Trudeau has turned his back on the young people whose coattails he rode into office.
Young people voted for Trudeau hoping that he would help stabilize employment in Canada only to be told to get used to temporary, low paying jobs without benefits. Quebeckers voted for Philippe Couillard hoping to do away with the Parti Québecois’ message of aggressive xenophobic secularism and language issues only to find the provincial government raising the language and signage disputes people are sick of. Municipal austerity measures are coming at the expense of the pensions our blue collar workers worked so hard for.
Votes don’t seem to count anymore and the cynicism pushed by bitter columnists is proving true. With the government ignoring the reason they were voted into office, people are forcing the government to listen by taking to the streets.
Everyone from students to cops to healthcare workers to Native leaders are taking to the streets with pickets, hoping to have their voices heard. Like the potholes, the City of Montreal has a pathetic track record of dealing with protests, reverting to persecution rather than reasonable negotiation. To our elected officials, protesters are not frustrated human beings with legitimate concerns but noisemakers and disruptors.
Laws Used Against Protesters
With the cops using their authority to assault people desperate to be heard, it’s time to look at the laws the government uses and overuses to suppress dissenters.
Let’s start with the Canadian Criminal Code.
Protesters are commonly charged with assault, harassment, mischief, unlawful assembly, and obstructing police officers. Since I addressed mischief in my piece on Devil’s Night, let’s look at the rest.
Assault is defined as applying force directly or indirectly to another person without their consent. The penalty is up to five years in prison unless the person is tried on summary conviction, which carries a lesser penalty. If a weapon is used in the assault, the penalty increases to a maximum of ten years, or if tried on summary conviction, a minimum of eighteen months. Since the definition of assault is so vague, it can range from hitting or kicking, to simply pushing and shoving.
Harassment is the act of engaging in conduct that would make a person feel harassed, which includes following them, repeatedly communicating with them, and watching their workplace. As protests often occur in front of government buildings where elected officials work, and repeated communication is the only way they feel they can be heard, it is far too easy for those ignoring them to call it harassment. Harassment is a serious charge, with a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, and its broad definition bears the risk of overuse.
Unlawful Assembly is when three or more people get together for a common purpose and their group causes the surrounding neighborhood to fear a disturbance of the peace. Unfortunately many protests, even peaceful, are noisy. An unlawful assembly charge, which fortunately only runs the risk of a summary conviction, is applied willy nilly by authorities to punish protesters.
Obstructing a police officer is a charge that became popular against protesters this past summer when people stormed the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings to voice their dissent against the proposed Energy East pipeline. To be convicted of this charge, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person resisted, willfully obstructed, or did not assist a public or peace officer in the execution of his or her duties. The penalty is up to two years in prison unless there is a summary conviction.
Protesters are also punished with municipal bylaws.
The municipal bylaw used to punish protesters is bylaw P-6, formally called the “By-law concerning the prevention of breaches of the peace, public order and safety, and the use of public property”.
The bylaw was added to by former Mayor Gerald Tremblay in 2012 following the massive student protests against tuition hikes. Article 2.1 of the bylaw requires assemblies, parades, or gatherings in public places to disclose their itineraries to authorities prior to the event. Article 3.2 of the bylaw makes it illegal for protesters to cover their faces with a scarf or hood without a reasonable motive.
We know about the laws used to punish protesters. Now let’s talk briefly about the laws meant to protect them and all of us.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched in our constitution guarantees freedom of thought, opinion, and expression. It guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. It also guarantees the right against arbitrary detention. In spite of this, protesters are arrested left and right and their protests, no matter how peaceful, are punished as being unlawful.
Then there’s the Quebec Charter, a quasi-constitutional law entrenched in Quebec legislation. Like the Canadian Charter, it guarantees freedom of assembly and association.
Our criminal laws are also in place to protect, yet they are used to suppress protesters not keep them safe. Police officers who act prematurely by shooting rubber bullets and smashing people with batons rarely see any consequences for their actions, confirming the protesters’ belief that they are there to persecute, not protect.
Protests may be a public nuisance but they are a necessary one. As long as the government refuses to listen to the people who elected them, the protests will continue. As long as people feel voiceless, they will take to the streets to make sure they are heard.
For every time the government betrays the ones who voted for them, hundreds pickets will spring up. The act of listening and communication is the key to most conflict resolution. If politicians want the protesting to stop, they have to start listening.