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Confronting the systemic roots of P6

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
P6 pas P6, la contestation persiste
P6 pas P6, la contestation persiste

A wave of street politics has begun in Québec as the PQ government pursues its conservative nationalist agenda, and this wave is being met with an organised police response.

Grassroots activists across Montréal are using a range of tactics to resist P6, a city bylaw that has emerged as the preferred regulation at police disposal. 
 
Despite these inspiring acts of resistance, divisions continue to surface before protests even take place. Activists are rightfully questioning why organisers would comply with P6. These divisions are likely to occur again, so a grassroots strategy that recognises this reality is needed.
 
One thing is certain: this struggle will not be won in parliaments and city halls. The words of Audre Lorde are significant here. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
 
These struggles will be fought – and won – in our workplaces, streets, and above all, on the frontlines.
 
Contesting P6 in Montréal
 
P6 is a Montréal city bylaw that was amended during the 2012 Québec student strike which now requires organisers to submit protest routes to police, bans mask wearing at actions, and significantly increases bylaw infraction fines to $637.
 
P6 is a bylaw – being fined is comparable to a hefty parking ticket. It is not a criminal charge.
 
But the most corrosive effects of P6 happen before an action starts, within our own movements. There has been more than one case of public division between organisers who submit protest routes to police and grassroots activists who denounce compliance with P6.
 
Ruptures between organisations and activists are likely to occur in the future, as groups will organise in compliance with P6. This reality needs to be addressed.
 
Katie Nelson is an anarchist and friend in the early stages of a legal case against the Montréal police on charges of harassment. 
 
“We need to stand together against P6 if we ever hope of standing together against the state,” wrote Katie in a recent column. These words ought to be heeded.
 
A series of strategies and tactics already being employed against P6 are presented below.
 
Understanding the roots of police repression are as important as combatting their physical and legal manifestations.
 
The political origins of P6
 
Every crisis of capitalism has seen a wave of revolt and often violent repression. 
 
Revisions to P6 are the city’s response to growing unrest that emerged following the 2007 crisis of capitalism – the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
 
The revisions to P6 are an attempt by Montréal’s ruling political parties to coerce street movements into compliance, and it only serves the interests of those in power.
 
The origins of P6, however, go further back than the latest crisis of capital.
 
Jaggi Singh is a long-time grassroots activist and anarchist in Montréal, and he traces the emergence of bylaws like P6 back to sustained grassroots struggles in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
 
Thousands of people were arrested at the anti-G20 protest in Montréal, the Summit of the Americas convergence in Québec City and similar actions.
 
Not surprisingly, authorities found that criminally charging thousands of people tied up their resources. Court rulings often ended up favouring activists with acquittals.
 
“Because of those victories, and because it’s really tough for the police to prove things in a court of law, they started issuing more tickets, and that’s their preferred way of going forward,” Jaggi said.
 
The global context of police repression
 
P6 also fits within a broader puzzle of police and state repression. New armoured police vehicles have been introduced to the streets of Québec, and police tactics are more overtly violent and repressive.
 
The Canadian state has also introduced C-309, which could mean a maximum of 10 years in prison for masking up. Surveillance infrastructure is expanding globally.
 
Activists in the UK are currently waging a campaign to resist the introduction of water cannons into the police arsenal. The prison-industrial complex is expanding in North America and parts of Europe.
 
Indigenous communities are also bearing the brunt of violent police repression as state and corporate interests use force to impose fracking, mining and pipeline projects on Indigenous lands to revive the toxic heart of capital.
 
This is in addition to daily, systemic repression rooted in an ongoing history of colonialism and racism.
 
There is a common theme despite the significant regional variation in this resort to state violence: all of these measures are designed to repress popular revolts that have emerged after the global crisis of capital, and to reassert the power of state-capital by force.
 
Police and military forces are the foot soldiers of capital and state power. The laws they impose were designed by the ruling class, so it is not surprising who these laws benefit. Civil disobedience is a logical response.
 
It is also important to note that the level of state and military coercion adopted in North America and the UK pale in comparison to what is happening in southern and Eastern Europe or its more deadly manifestations in North Africa and the Middle East.
 
Global unrest is also not always of an anti-capitalist or liberating character. The far-right and outright fascism are on the rise in parts of Europe.
 
Strategies for opposing P6
 
Most of these strategies are already being employed. Questions are also posed with hopes of provoking critical discussion.
 
Fred Burill also provides some useful strategies for resisting P6 legislation, beginning with “total and complete non-collaboration.”
 
Street opposition to P6
 
Grassroots opposition to P6 seems the most important avenue for resistance, organising actions that openly defy the legislation.
 
One concern here is with non-status people, precarious workers and people in poverty who risk being fined at an action that does not comply with P6. 
 
How can this be addressed? How can groups that are profiled and targeted by the police be supported when they are slapped with P6 infractions?
 
Workshop on ending P6
 
Organising a more radical workshop than the P6 panel discussion in 2013 hosted by the Concordia Student Union and QPIRG-Concordia would be useful, focusing strategies for defeating P6.
 
Given that actions will be organised in compliance with P6 which will invariably cause division, a radical workshop about a grassroots strategy and response is worthwhile. 
 
What kind of grassroots response is needed when an organisation complies with P6?
 
Contacting protest organisers
 
One short-term strategy would be to contact protest organisers who organise in compliance with P6.
 
Simply contacting the organisers may suffice in some instances, whereas large unions or NGOs may deserve a collective denunciation signed by several grassroots community groups, stating why compliance with P6 is wrong. 
 
This statement could also provide details for a separate contingent that will not comply with P6.
 
The difficult part is denouncing compliance with P6 while not discouraging organising. 
 
This is not easy terrain to navigate. What if a racialised community organises an action against the “charter of values,” for example?
 
A powerful statement against P6 already exists signed by some 90 organisations, noting that “Montreal police in particular, who abuse their authority with impunity, don’t deserve any accountability from us. Instead, we’re accountable to each other, and the social movements we come from.”
 
Legal and constitutional challenges
 
Receiving a ticket under P6 legislation can be contested, forcing police to attend hearings and prove their case.
 
Constitutional challenges can be waged against some or all aspects of P6, as Jaggi has done with his recent legal challenge (view HERE).
 
“People are not just contesting the tickets. They’re also saying you violated my rights,” Jaggi said. “You can’t handcuff me and photograph me when you give me a ticket.”
 
Fred notes that you can also support or file constitutional challenges to Article 500.1 of the Highway Safety Code.
 
There are at least four ongoing lawsuits taking place after mass using P6 as a pretext.
 
Creative subversion
 
Anarchopanda is just one example of countless creative ways of subverting P6 in a city known internationally for its creativity.
 
Fred summarizes these strategies beautifully:
 
“Continue to take the streets. If you receive a ticket, contest it. Participate in collective lawsuits. And perhaps go even further. If arrested at a demonstration, refuse to identify yourself. Fill the holding cells, and then the courts. Fight back. In Montreal, this is our specialty, our history and our responsibility.”
 
Thank you to Katie Nelson and Jaggi Singh for feedback on this piece. The views expressed here are my own. Thank you also to Michael Welch, CKUW and the Black Mask radio collective in Winnipeg for use of CKUW studio. Matthew Brett is a grassroots activist, writer and publishing assistant at Canadian Dimension magazine (@mattbrett_1984).

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Matthew Brett (Matthew Brett)
Montreal, Quebec
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Matt Brett is an anarchist, activist, writer and assistant publisher at Canadian Dimension magazine.

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