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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation Organise! #78 - The battle of Victoriaville by J. GAGNON

Date Fri, 24 Aug 2012 08:25:11 +0300


On May 4th, in an attempt to curtail the protests that were sure to occur, a strategy convention of the Liberal Party of Quebec was moved from its planned site in Montreal to Victoriaville – a small town of less than 50,000 people located about 160 km north-east of the city. As buses from around the province flooded the Walmart parking lot that was to serve as our meeting spot, there was a celebratory feeling in the air. Walmart had closed for the day – presumably out of fear of a spontaneous action – with the main effect being that they lost out on sales of lemon juice, vinegar, bandannas and water bottles. After the arrival of approximately 4000-5000 people, the crowd of students, workers and family members marched and sang their way to the front of the hotel, where the Quebec Liberals were preparing to begin their weekend-long convention.

We arrived at a building lined
with small metal barricades. A handful
of Victoriaville police dressed in
windbreakers stood between us and the
front doors of the building. The crowd
hesitated for a moment – many shocked
by the lack of police protection, some
wondering whether it was a trap – before
swiftly toppling the barricades one by one
and filling the space in front of the hotel
with protesters, chanting and waving
flags. Right on cue, a line of Sûreté du
Québec (SQ) riot cops spilled out from
either side of the hotel dressed in full riot
gear and with weapons in hand. Within
minutes they had launched CS canisters
at the crowd and the air filled with the
noxious gas.

The chemical gas used in
Victoriaville was unlike normal tear gas.
It hung in the air thick and visible; it was
not meant to disperse the crowd but to
debilitate it. Many unmasked protesters
fell to their knees, tears streaming down
their face, unable to breathe, while others
immediately began to vomit. It was at this
point that the families pulled to the back of
the crowd. The line of riot cops began to
confront the crowd, forcing the protesters
up a hill and into an open field, next to a
small home with a vegetable garden. Once
backed up into this field, the crowd did
not disperse, but stood facing the police
line, chanting but not immediately sure of
how to proceed. From this point on, the
riot police shot tear gas canisters in to the
crowd almost non-stop for the next three
hours. Unmasked protesters in the front,
who were debilitated by this gas, were
dragged out of harm’s way by masked
protesters. And protesters, both masked
and unmasked, began grabbing the gas
canisters landing at their feet – or hitting
their bodies – and throwing them back
in the direction of the riot cops, in order
to help maintain our position without
asphyxiating.

The riot police then began to shoot
plastic bullets towards the crowd: hard
green projectiles the length of my palm.
For the next hour, we watched on guard
for any laser sights crossing the face,
head or chest of those around us – a
signal that someone was about to be
shot. As protesters were hit one by one
with these plastic projectiles, and the
area became ever more engulfed by the
chemical gas, the scene was transformed
from a protest into a war zone. A young
man standing next to me, engaged in a
discussion about finding a safe spot to
move to, was shot directly in the face
with a plastic bullet. As blood streamed
from his collapsed eye socket and riot
police blocked the ambulance trying to
enter the area, it became clear
that this student was going to
lose his eye. Together we ran
up a hill to where we thought
medics might be, and instead
found another student lying
motionless on the ground.
His head was slumped to one
side, exposing a gaping wound at the base
of his skull. He had been shot in the back of
the head with a plastic bullet; his skull was
fractured and he would remain in a coma for
many days. These attacks were occurring at
short range, facilitated by laser sights. The
police were aiming for our heads and the
protesters became increasingly aware that
someone could die that day. And yet despite
the intense panic of the situation, there was
a collective, unspoken effort made to avoid
trampling the nearby vegetable garden,
which sat undisturbed in the midst of this
battle.

Closer to the hotel, an injured
protester lay dazed and semi-conscious
on the ground as a foolish, lone riot cop
tried to arrest them; a group of people ran
over immediately to help their wounded
comrade. A police vehicle then stepped
on its gas and drove directly at the crowd,
trying to run them over as they knelt on
the ground. A collective cry of outrage
was released by the crowd and the vehicle
was swarmed, its windows smashed. It
appeared that the police were no longer
trying to disperse the crowd, but were
trying to kill us.

With the mounting number of serious
injuries that the students had sustained,
many would have expected the protesters
to flee the scene. Instead, these injuries
only increased our dedication to maintain
our ground; we would not run from the
state violence, and we would not allow
our comrades’ injuries to be in vain.
We were there to show resistance, and
that is what occurred. From the fields of
Victoriaville to the streets of Montreal,
something has become clear: people
aren’t afraid anymore. As a masked SQ
riot cop raisedhis plastic bullet gun
to shoot me at point-blank range, an
unmasked, unprotected protester threw
down his Fleur-de-lys flag and ran in
front of me with his hands in the air:
“What are you going to do? Kill me?”,
he screamed at the police. Protesters
ran in front of us both, protecting us
with blankets and bringing us to safety
behind a barricade. An older local
woman was held up there, handing out
these blankets to the protesters. She told
us to stay strong and to continue our
fight against “the fascist police.”
_________________________________________
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