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The Z-Files:

Web posted on April 21, 2001

The Z-Files
As an activist, I have sat back and witnessed something that concerns and confuses me. I speak of the situation in Quebec City at the Summit of the Americas meeting, where over 30,000 protesters are demonstrating their opposition to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.

I watch with concern, and a slight amount of disgust, as I see masked protesters (many of whom are dressed like they were looking for a fight) battling with riot police. I watch as twenty or thirty police/soldiers tackle a lone protester of about 45 years old, after spraying him with tear gas, as he stands there taking pictures of the event. I watch as protesters throw rocks, broken bottles, and Molotov cocktails at the police. I watch as this world's leaders walk into the conference as if there is nothing wrong with what they are doing.

I sit back and read e-mails from groups of people who are planning on going to Quebec City. I read of radical groups planning on storming the barricades, like the army did in Victor Hugo's classic Les MisÚrables. I read of peace groups like the Quakers, who are planning to hold their Sunday worship next to one of the barricades.

As someone who has participated in, and organized many demonstrations and political actions in the last 15 years (my first, at the tender age of 12, was when I lived in Edmonton protesting a 9:00 p.m. curfew). I am not sure how I feel about what is happening in Quebec, and what has happened in Seattle and Prague. On one hand I find the peaceful protesters, like the Quakers and many of my friends from across this country, to be overshadowed by the actions of those the media have called "radicals". On the other hand, I see these radical groups need for action. They feel that their opinions are being ignored by their elected officials. In many cases these elected officials have decided to enter into this agreement without public consultation.

And then there are the local demonstrations like the one held in front of Brenda Chamberlain's office on Friday, April 20th. Although I was not there, the picture on the front page of the Fountain Pen didn't look violent. There didn't appear to be anyone arrested, or pepper sprayed, or tear gassed. The protesters were there to have their opinions heard by the public, the media, and their local MP. They succeeded, just like the radicals in Quebec City have succeeded, in attracting the attention of the world's media.

So, which group is right in their actions? The radicals, who feel that violence and destruction are the only way to attract peoples "attention" Or the peaceful protesters, like the pacifist Quakers, whose silent protest will go unheard because the media will find it boring? Or the small band of local protesters, whose opinions were heard, and ideas have been felt in our own small trade zone?

My opinion, you don't have to be violent to get your opinions heard, yes, you have to be forceful in order for your position to be heard, but you don't need to throw, break, or tear things down.

What's your opinion? Back