Another demo, another slaughter, another May Day, another kettle, some might say. "Not so!" say I! The media and naysayers have already rolled out the narrative that the SPVM and their SQ allies were in full control and managed to swiftly put down any attempt to take the streets during the anti-capitalist May Day demo. This is an account of what I witnessed and it's in no way a complete portrayal of what went down in the streets of Montréal this 1st of May. I welcome corrections, additions and comments so that we can get a clearer picture of what went down, and so that we can further our analysis on how to re-take the streets.
The context: Following the five months of sustained social upheaval during the 2012 student strike, the powers-that-be dropped the gauntlet, a repressive law known as réglement(?) P-6 that gives the cops broad powers to mass-arrest people taking part in unpermitted marches. The police did not rigorously enforce P-6 during the first few months following the fizzling of the strike, but in 2013 and 2014, the Montréal police have successfully used it to detain and ticket over a thousand comrades with fines of $600+ dollars. The cops' preferred tactic of detainment is the kettle, basically bringing in enough police to round up protesters and create what amounts to a cop fence. Comrades are then processed on-site or at the cop shop, given a ticket, and released.
The last such kettle came on March 15th of this year, during the usually raucous annual anti-police brutality demo. Nearly 500 were detained and ticketed. During that demo, some unaffiliated comrades refused to walk into a mouse trap, did their own thing, formed a contingent, and fought their way out successfully.
Following the March 15th kettle, folks from the Convergence of Anti-Capitalist Struggles (CLAC) - the group that organizes the annual anti-capitalist May Day march - came up with a plan. First, widely advertise a central meeting spot for people to gather. From there, pass out flyers that provide instructions and directions for people to get themselves to several different meeting spots for designated times, such that people could filter through the city, and eventually take the streets. At the same time, an autonomous group unaffiliated with CLAC, comprising about 60-70 people, gathered at a small park near the main meeting spot, and most masked up to form a black bloc. "One Two Three Four! This is Fuckin` Class War! Five Six Seven Eight! Organize and Smash the State!" was chanted, while we snaked through side streets to attempt to meet the main march.
The group was spotted by a few cops about a block away from the meeting spot, and at this point a comrade smashed the windshield of an unattended cop car. It was clear we were not going to get anywhere near the main march, so people began to head west on rue Ontario to rendezvous at the next meeting spot designated by CLAC. Police very quickly started to show in larger numbers, but the group escaped with no arrests. A few of us found each other on the street and proceeded to the next meeting point on Berri Square. Over a hundred people gathered and quickly took boulevard de Maisonneuve and marched until Place des Arts with zero police intervention to spoil our fun. "A - Anti - Anticapitaliste!" could be heard echoing on the apartment buildings near by, and the sun peeked its head for the first time on this dreary cloudy day. "It's fuckin working!" I happily thought to myself. The joy in people's faces and the warm embrace of comrades finding each other on that broad avenue, changed the sombre mood of the earlier happenings.
On the corner of Bleury, the cops finally caught up to us and people split up with the quickness, avoiding being kettled. I wondered around for a bit, trying to locate comrades, and got word that the Chaotic Insurrectionary Ensemble had been detained and ticketed while attempting to get on the Place-des-Arts métro. I managed to find some pals and we walked to Saint-Antoine and Bleury where people had managed to join the main labour unions' march, and eventually broke off. For another brief moment, the streets were ours. A red-and-black flag flew high and a banner of CLAC's, reading "À Bas Le Capitalisme" (in English: "Down with Capitalism"), adorned the front of the march. As the police closed in, "S-S-P-V-M! Police Politique!" was chanted. The cops charged the march and attempted to kettle it, but most people got away. Some 30 or so were detained and several were severely injured. By 7pm, most people had dispersed and the action was officially over.
Within the current context of Montréal, where anti-capitalist mobilizations receive disproportionate scrutiny from the SPVM, I deem this May Day, as Borat would say, a "Great success!" CLAC's spread-out meeting point plan was brilliant, along with the independent group (or groups?) who organized similarly to affinity groups, were a good combination to confuse the police. The task of mobilizing cops in riot gear who are already in the streets, to other parts of the city, is not a quick one. If you have ever witnessed them enter or leaving minivans, you'll know that their bulky gear makes this loading and unloading process a matter of at least several minutes each time. With hundreds of them waiting for transport, anything short of a parking lot full of vehicles severely slows down their efforts to catch up with a crowd. Let's remember the 2010 anti-G20 demo in Toronto. The police had infiltrated SOAR, the anarchist organizing committee against the G20, and had an idea where the anti-capitalist march was going to break off from the main union march (Queen & John). Once the march broke off from a point they weren't expecting (Queen & Spadina), it took the cops over an hour to regroup, giving the comrades ample time to have their way with the financial district and yuppie shopping sections of the city.
If these re-workings of street tactics continue, and if people get used to the idea of multiple meeting points and more decentralized autonomous organizing, it's a real possibility for us to regain the rapport de force that we used to have in the streets with the cops, and that we have unfortunately lost in the last year and a half. All it takes is for comrades to think outside the box, or dare I say, outside the kettle.
In the spirit of total resistance,