Commentary | Solidarity please?

Looking beyond our unconditional aversion to violence

Last Saturday as many as 55,000 attended a rally against Jean Charest’s austerity measures – which will erode public support systems and strengthen the status quo – one that seemed largely ineffective. Notably, ten were arrested preemptively (i.e. with no actual cause) for being prepared to do more than take up space on the street. They were jailed for 54 hours on charges of conspiracy.

I feel this rally was actually not just neutral but negative, as it gave the riot squad a chance to show their strength and intimidate the populace. It also must have strengthened their morale, as they were helped by some of the rally organizers in their arrests of members of a Black Bloc intent on resisting state encroachment in a more tangible way.

This is disgusting. I hope that this article motivates its readers to clarify their positions on the riot police and the Black Bloc, in the hopes that they will be less misguided than those foolish rally organizers. It’s a reflexive habit (ingrained in us by the government) to have an aversion to dissenters and side with the police because they’re mandate is to “protect and serve” – as if our state actually had our best interests at heart! As these very austerity measures make clear, this is a government of the rich, run for the rich, by the rich, and the riot cops are the strong-arms in between us and real democracy. In fact, they are the proof that the democracy we’re fed is false: if our voices could actually be heard, why would we bother to risk repression and beatings at protests? Even worse, the riot police use physical pain and scare tactics to condition a response of fear and submission.

I think it’s important to see the state in this light. It’s very comforting to feel that they have your back, and now, while we’re living in an age of bounty, they’ve kept up this pretense – but this age is coming to a close, and all across North America and the world, elitism is growing. The riot cops are being prepared for the strife that will follow – I was there when they rounded the ten up, and I’ve never seen something so unprovoked – if we don’t learn to act now then we will be paralyzed and helpless in a few years, when the austerity measures hit home and rob our society of its freedoms.

There are effective methods of peaceful protest, but this was certainly not one of them. A good protest must affect those that it is targeted toward – we must accept the threat that the Black Bloc poses as an essential tool in our own social struggle, and we must organize our own resistance to defend this asset. And as for our demonstrations, they must have some effect as well. Had 55,000 staged a live-in around the Montreal City Hall, Charest may have actually been inclined to listen to the demands, but as it is I doubt he heard a word of it.

As for the Black Bloc’s tactics, the only animate object they ever might harm is a cop. Corporate storeowners also have some right to dislike the Bloc (although really it’s only their insurance companies that pay) but for everyone else the Bloc is completely harmless. Our unconditional aversion to violence of any sort (except when used by cops or soldiers to repress and kill) is a debilitating weakness.

So, there’s one group of people fighting for our rights and equality, who would never harm us – and another that exists to repress and control us, who would gladly beat on us if we happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (I saw a cop on a horse about to hit a sixty year-old man with his switch on Saturday)… so whose side are we on?

*Tyler Chesler is the pseudonym of a U2 Mechanical Engineering student.


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