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"Open the Window; There's a World," Montreal, Night 50


The heavy, chilly midafternoon rain has subsided, but it's a gloomy gray outside, and there's a 70-80 percent chance of more rain this evening. I have slept something like three to four hours per night for a week, and am behind on my paid work too, not to mention email and anything remotely resembling "real life." All I want to do is NOT walk downtown for the 8:30 p.m. rendezvous point for the nocturnal manif in Montreal, likely wet by the time I get there to Berri-UQAM, before we've even started walking illegally.

Then I pop a new, gifted CD into my computer, to listen while I try to focus on paid work, and words of other uprisings and rebellions, and defeats too begin to fill my head. I toggle between work and twitter on what's happening in Montreal, between work and hoping CUTV is online early, between work and searching for stories and images of maple spring.

That leads to another maple-spring distraction: scrolling through the many photos I've snapped on my smartphone, while forever walking on the red streets of Montreal, and I stumble across this picture. It's one of many images I haven't yet posted, of public art painted within large rectangles on the pavement of the closed-off Mont-Royal street during last weekend's sidewalk sale that stretched for blocks. I assume, in years past, this art, which also stretched for blocks, with the yellow divider line for traffic running through each big piece, was supposed to encourage shopping, not disobedience. But nearly every piece this year included red squares, sharp & blurry, large & small, playful & serious. And red. Lots and lots of red.

At first, in the 2:30 a.m. dim light from streetlamps, I thought this was an abstract piece. It was so much darker, furious even, than any other piece. Then the continents slowly took shape for me—continents in strong, angry black; continents we know, without the artist having to show it, divided into states, capitalism, racism, heteronormativity, and so many other enclosures of freedom. So many borders demeaning dignity and breaking bones.

Then the red. Angry, proud, on the move, bursting from the dark and even "darker nations," as Vijay Prashad titled one of his books. Screaming, to me: Revolt in Quebec! Below, in a corner of this massive piece of art, are some words in French. I click a photo, and only now try to decipher it, likely badly, using an automatic translator program—ironically, since a fantastic human translator is loaning me her apartment now while she's at a retreat. I may not be getting the French right, and at some point soon, I want to write a piece called "Lost (& Found) in Translation" to explore how I am experiencing this moment as someone who doesn't speak French and isn't a Canadian—and how that both masks things and reveals things. So while it should matter that I get the French right, for tonight, as the rain pours down heavily again and whips the trees wildly outside the third-floor window where I sit (trying, trying, failing to work), my translation speaks what I want this piece of street art to say:

"Open the window; there's a world."

There's a world outside. A world that in a few minutes, I'll walk out into, dry skies or not, because it's night fifty in Montreal of marches that have illegally snaked, raced, rioted, marched, casseroled, chanted, trudged, danced, skipped, skateboarded, biked, walked, wheelchaired, strollered, and otherwise taken over, flagrantly, as every night the police say no. No, it's illegal. No, you need to disperse. No. The illegalistas answer with their feet, unstoppable. For fifty nights.

There's another kind of world outside. That world that we want to change. That world broken apart into separate things called nations, provinces, property. Millions of miles of enclosures, when all we see as we march through the streets of Montreal are millions of openings--that we're taking and making. Maybe that's why so many red squares, each one like a fire-engine-red spark. That red that's breaking out of the black blocs of continents in this art piece is a red that can and must travel, to find others who "see red" when they see injustice, misery, exploitation, pain. Those others who answered all the police and military, dictators and presidents, who said "NO. A million times NO," with one big global "ENOUGH," small at first, like the initial pots and pans on that first night when they banged in Montreal, but suddenly bursting in a cacophony of casseroles, in the way that our "ENOUGH" connects from Chiapas to Cairo to Quebec, and so much in between.

It's 7:45, and it looks like the rain is only a drizzle. I'm wondering if I should take a black umbrella along, for rain and because police recently targeted them as another symbol of illegality, as something seen as suspect and subversive. That kind of targeted happened "long ago" in the United States, when following 9/11, the US government and its police created their own menacing categories: toothpaste, backpacks, Swiss Army knives, bottled water, shoes.

This is why people go out here. Against tuition increases and US-style "higher education," yes. Against austerity, yes. Against repressing dissent with new laws and too many police, too tired from fifty nights on the street and so more dangerous than usual, yes. But, I think, simply to reclaim the common sense of life—where toothpaste cleans our teeth, shoes protect our foot, and little red squares make us happy.

Rain or not, night fifty, all out.

Postscript, after the illegal march: this graffiti en route on night fifty kind of sums it up:

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If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/


Intimacy versus Capitalism, Montreal, Night 49


Capitalism, due to its own internal logic, is "compelled" to do increasingly horrible things to humans and other living creatures, ultimately turning us into dead matter. It shouldn't be a surprise, therefore, that in moments of popular uprisings, everything comes quickly to life. Maybe the power of the Arab Spring last year and the Maple Spring this year is that bursting forth of life that comes in spring regardless of revolt, from frozen ground to the sudden intoxicating procession of crocus-daffodil-iris-lilac. But mix rebellion into the cherry blossoms and all hell can break loose. We, ourselves, can break loose.

And once we're awakened, like people seem to be in Montreal, that accelerated return to life, from the deadening world of capitalism, spills into summer. How could it not? Especially in a place like Montreal, where winter is especially brutal (kind of like the police of late here) and so summer becomes especially precious—especially public—in a city architecturally scaled for public street, park, and balcony life. I've visited Montreal a lot in past summertimes, and it's always had a particularly enchanting quality. But that quality now seems elevated to what I can only, perhaps still inadequately, call a feeling of "intimacy" in its most expansive sense. People are remembering what they are capable of, from solidarity to courage, from mutual aid to direct action, from collective illegality in the face of repression to sharing this moment--the many exquisite moments--with each other in so many intimate ways.

The other day, before the Grand Prix disruption on Friday, one of the CUTV guys kept telling me that this many months of maple spring blossoming into maple summer was about love, from the student strike to the social awakening. I'd run into him—a complete stranger—a couple weeks ago when he randomly asked me on the street if he could interview me on livestream (CUTV stops lots of folks to do interviews on the long nightly marches), and when he said he was from CUTV, I threw my arms around him without thinking, hugged him tight, and exclaimed, "I love CUTV!!" (For those of you who know me, I can be a pretty exuberant—overwhelming?—person.) I didn't do an interview that night, mostly because after I'd hugged him, I felt embarrassed, especially when he kept urging me to say how much I loved CUTV on camera. When we ended up chatting the other day, it was the first time I'd seen him since that hug, and I reminded him of that moment on the street. He blinked for a second and then lit up; of course he remembered me! Then he leaped into a repetitive refrain, equally exuberant to our first encounter, tha basically went, "but this movement is about love! It's always been about love!"

His comments, in turn, reminded me of OWS in its first weeks, when love seemed the strongest of symbols and motivations, and there were thousands of people similar to my CUTV friend, who retains that freshness that OWS and other occupies have lost, because we're still in the spring that's about to become the summer of the maple uprising. Because there's an intimacy here that comes from seeing a tiny red square on someone's hat or skirt, and knowing you can wink or smile at them, or share a knowing glance. Because there's an intimacy, too, that comes from standing next to someone you didn't know a few minutes ago and feeling tear gas constrict your throat, and pulling each other away from riot police--then running into them again at some random place like a cafe, as if you're old friends.

There's also this intimacy forged by hours and miles of walking illegally together, in what's becoming a grand civic experiment in collective summer evening strolls (and perhaps a grand experiment in collective exercise). Or an intimacy in relatively tiny moments, like when we convened tonight by the hundreds, yet scattered in small knots, around the good-sized park, fringed as it always is by clumps of riot cops and bike cops, next to Berri-UQAM Metro for the 8:30 p.m. march.

Suddenly the police pulled out their loudspeakers from their "technology section" van to say (for some reason, now in French and English, perhaps for the benefit of summer tourists) that we needed to walk in the right direction or we'd be declared illegal. In a flash, people surged toward the police and their van, becoming a mass that seemed to swell to a thousand or more, and everyone stepped off the curb without hesitant, and with tons of noise, and briskly tried to go in the wrong direction together. In tonight's case, the wrong direction was toward the International Economic Forum of the Americas conference meeting.

Today, I've had intimacy versus capitalism on the mind.

This past weekend and now this night 49, it's so clear what—far more than who—the police are protecting: capital. On the weekend, they encircled $200,000 cars being shown off during the outdoor Grand Prix party area around St.-Catherine Street; tonight, they formed lines around key buildings in the financial district as we passed by them, such as the trade center, the stock exchange, the largest mainstream media producer, and bank offices.

But there's also this odd way that capitalism, in its "mom-and-pop" form, is flagging the symbol—the threatening little red square—that increasingly links student tuition, austerity measures, and capitalism together, or the very undoing (if this revolt were to succeed) of the very basis of their business. One store in the neighborhood where I'm staying is offering 50 percent off on summer clothing if you wear a red square; when I asked why, one clerk pointed to another one—a young woman wearing a red square. "She wanted to do it," he said, "in solidarity."

More and more, I'm seeing store windows displaying red squares, often pinned to a mannequin's clothing or for sale as red-square earrings. Some local shops forbid employees from wearing the square; others seem to encourage it, including as an incentive to tip those employees—wearing a red square, of course.

My cynical perspective on this, and likely there's some truth to it, is that capital co-opts everything, and adores turning rebellion into trendy commodity. The state and politicians do similar things. For instance, a Montreal anarchist friend who I walked with in the nightly march for about an hour this eve told me that today, a Facebook page announced that some self-appointed organizers—mostly from political parties—for this Wednesday's "Casseroles across Canada" in Montreal had shared the "illegal" route with the police. Apparently Montreal anarchists commented, a lot, on this plan via Facebook in return, but in a persuasive way, explaining that the whole point of the evening marches was that they were intended as an illegal direct defiance of special law 78. The electorally minded folks recanted, saying there would be a new route and they wouldn't tell the police about it. Key to this example, for now, is that only 25 people had "joined" this Wednesday night Facebook invite—hence the politicians haven't managed to crush the flowers of this spring (yet). My friend told me this as we marched past the Economic Forum meetings, with now thousands of other friends, acquaintances, and new comrades—all illegal.

Maybe that's why the CUTV guy still has this joyfully innocent outlook about love and this uprising, because it's still in the romantic spring/summer phase of its head-over-heels new love of its own collective and civic power. Maybe that's why I can't sleep, and why nearly each and every interaction of more than an hour or so that I have with people on the rosy-red streets elicits feelings of intimacy and love in the CUTV sense—where I'd hug a CUTV person at first sight simply because I so appreciate all they are giving and gifting through livestreaming each evening, unstopped by neither rain nor heat nor pepper spray. And if I spend more than a hour with you, watch out! But it isn't just me; I see this intimacy, profoundly so, on the faces of the seventeen to twenty-one-year-old college students, or rather the striking college students, who are probably addicted to the love of what they've created and each other, for creating it. Probably they can't sleep either, which is why maybe the end of tonight's march seemed to consist mostly of me and seventeen-year-olds.

Maybe those employees wearing red squares and their "mom-and-pop" bosses are still in this "in love" moment where they aren't posting or promoting red squares in order to boost their sales but because they believe in the magic too. Maybe they also have come alive, and don't see the relation (yet) between capitalism calculation and this sappy-maple awakening. I'd like to think that we could stay in this suspended time of simple comaraderie. But as long as capitalism is still around, it will manufacture its own red squares to all-too-soon sell our revolutions back to us—taxidermied May 1968s, as corpses in our mouths.

My friend Alex—someone I already feel close to precisely because we met on the streets right after law 78 passed and barricades were being built by new & old rebels, then torn apart by police, then rebuilt, then torn again, until someone opened up a fire hydrant and St.-Denis became a revolutionary water park, a mix of anger and empowerment—recently pulled out her well-worn and marked-up copy of Walter Benjamin's Illuminations. She opened it to his "Theses on the Philosophy of History," where in section xv he speaks of "the awareness that they [those in the French Revolution] are about to make the continuum of history explode." And so "in the July revolution an incident occurred. . . . On the first evening of the fighting it turned out that the clocks in towers were being fired on simultaneously and independently from several places in Paris." An eyewitness, Benjamin goes on to note, wrote that they "fired at the dials in order to stop the day."

Pablo Neruda's beautiful words "They can cut all the flowers, but cannot stop the spring," which have been lovingly overlaid on movements this 2012 spring season, seems to me to have another meaning, as I walk hours and miles through the maple spring. Maybe we want to stop the spring ourselves, so as to savor it and hold it dear, so as to hug it tight like new and old rebel friends on the street. Maybe we want to fire on the clocks that wake us for work, that time us for a paycheck, that tick away the minutes until summer becomes fall and then a cold, brutal winter again—that measure our deaths under capitalism, and have no time at all for intimacy.

So on this night forty-nine, filled with the warm radiant heat of a summer night, made hotter still by so many people continuing to turn out illegally to march, and the warmth of the bonds we feel when we do so, I'm overcome by the actually existing fact that people can and do act along the lines of an "economy" of gifting and mutual aid and solidarity, backed by the intimacy and love created in our spring uprisings, despite all that capitalism does to beat the life out of us.

Tonight, when I walked the half hour from temporarily gifted home to illegally reclaimed streets, I kept hearing the now-familiar sound of casseroles every couple blocks. Each time, from the sound of it, I thought I'd see fifty or a hundred or more people, banging on. But each time, there was only four or five people, and often only two or three. They stood at the intersection of their quiet residential streets, lined with spring-summer flowers (oddly, coincidentally, often red ones), and put their heart into their pot banging, which sounded so loud from a distance because it echoed off the houses. I'd left my pot and spoon at home, so each time I passed one of these casseroles, I clapped along with their beat. And for a minute—each time, a long and luxuriously minute that we stole for ourselves—it was as if their noise was the sound of clocks being fired on, so that we had time to offer knowing glances of solidarity, nods of intimate acknowledgment that we're all in this together, that each person matters, that every pot holds a person who's awakened themselves from the hibernation of winter to plant their own spring.

I fear that my lack of sleep and the dreamy quality of this red city cloud my judgment in these blogs. That maybe it really doesn't feel this way right now. But tonight, I ran into five anarchist(ic) acquaintances from the United States in the evening's illegal stroll. Yesterday evening they crossed the border that lets capital in so freely and keeps so many people unfree on both sides, and instantly landed themselves alongside the night forty-eight and riot cops, who was extra unfriendly last night after a Grand Prix weekend out of their control. As we started out on night forty-nine, stretching across multiple lanes for several blocks, one of them—someone I've barely only met once—walked up to me and we chatted as if old comrades. She had this look in her eye, like falling in love at first sight. My tempered side, the side that doesn't want to lose each and every ounce of intimacy I'm experiencing, and wants to start protecting my heart now, says: that will diminish, of course. Yet through her eyes, I could see the freshness that still hasn't been lost in this groundswell of popular power, as she said something like, "I didn't think it would really be like this, but you really can feel maple spring in the air."

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If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/


"Hold the Line, Friend of Mine," Montreal, Night ($ Day) 48


Ryan Harvey, the second half (with me) of my solid affinity group this weekend, says of his raw video footage from June 9: "Watch as Montreal police attempt and fail to control massive crowds on the 47th consecutive night-march emerging from the student strike/anti-austerity movement"—in a weekend of trying (and often succeeding) to disrupt and highlight the show of conspicuous wealth that marks the Grand Prix here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKcZkdHnnNA&feature=youtu.be

Odd that just over twenty-four hours ago, I was standing next to Ryan while he filmed this demonstration or what might better be called a spontaneous convergence of convergences over many hours, illegal like every other one since emergency law 78 passed. It looks just as surreal in this clip as it did in person. Time and again, the police seemed to have no idea or capacity to gain the upper hand on a populace that seems to have lost its faith in and fear of the police's authority.

Whenever I ask a Canadian about this, they pretty much all say, "If a law like 78 passed in the United States criminalizing dissent, people wouldn't stand for it either." The argument is that we in the United States, too, would be able to make our cities ungovernable and generate a serious political crisis for government. And I keep thinking, "Really?" Here, maple spring seems to have unleashed a profound awakening that Canadians don't want to become like the United States. Whether watching scenes like this in person or experiencing casseroles and massive marches, the depth of belief that a society should obviously offer social goods--a social goodness too--from education to arts and more, seems diametrically opposed to popular views in the United States, where education, food, health care, and the like seem to be perceived as somehow things that will always be in scarce or limited supply, and correspondingly, things that people should individually earn or somehow individually deserve. Yeah, surreal here.

And overwhelming. So on night forty-eight, I sort took the evening off. A new acquaintance who went to tonight's night march said it was "small" (meaning about a thousand), did a lot of snaking through downtown, and met with a ton of police in none-too-good a mood. I instead went to get a glimpse of Occupy Montreal at the end of a day of assembly and workshops--all seemingly small (as in dozens or less), and made to seem far smaller by the fact it was being held in the large Parc LaFontaine. It was hard to find occupy, in fact, amid all the many, many other people in the park in red—not only squares, but shirts, pants, hats, bikes, frisbees, and more.

On Ryan's last night here on this weekend visit, he played to an even smaller occupy crowd in this park as the warm sunshine of today mellowed into the gentle warmth of a summer evening; half his audience was me, three of his friends, and a new friend I've made on the streets of Montreal, plus two stray kids who wandered over and a dog that ran over with a ball in its mouth. But a couple of the folks there, including my new friend, were at that open-to-a-world-of-new-ideas point in their lives, as they were newly working to help make that new world through occupy (here and, for my new friend, in the United States). So Ryan played to them—songs of rebellion, resistance, disobedience, and hope. He also, inadvertently, played to me with his final song—about how the police kept coming at people, time and again, and the people don't back down. Here I was, sitting in a thoroughly lovely park, with charming graffiti on a nearby park cafe proclaiming "La Resistance," and only about twenty-four hours earlier, he and I had been part of the police coming at people and people not backing down. For really real, in a way that Ryan's video simply can't capture. Yet in a way that the chorus to Ryan's last song this evening eerily grasped for me:

"Hold the line, even if your voice shakes
Friend of mine, even if your voice shakes
Push forward, it's up to you
See it through"

For really real, people did that by the thousands last evening, although with unshakable voices. Surreal indeed.

We left the park as darkness fell, and joined CKUT radio show host and now CUTV crew person too Aaron Maiden to hear Penny Rimbaud (formerly of Crass) perform poetry/words with some Montreal dancers/musicians at La Sala Rossa. Between Ryan's songs in a lush-green park and Penny's spoken word in a bohemian red-and-black performance space; Aaron telling us that La Sala Rossa had long ago been home to Arbeiter Ring (Workers' Circle) and that as part of that, Emma Goldman had spoken in the same room; and knowing that as we watched what felt like something out of early punk days with an edge, people were convening at the usual march spot at Berri-UQAM Metro stop for night forty-eight, I was again overcome by a surreal feeling. This time, it was a feeling of how amazing and almost unbelievable it is to live in this particular time, but a time that is also connected to so many other rupturous moments by threads and discontinuities, mistakes and heartbreaks, and sometimes a gaining of ground, a holding of the line. Sometimes even some wins, and a bit more freedom.

Earlier in the day, on my "day off," I'd rented one of Montreal's Bixi bikes so that I could join the "tour de l'ile en rouge" (tour of the island in red), which began from the same Parc LaFontaine where Occupy Montreal was having its assembly in another corner.

Our critical-red mass was made up of some thousand or more cyclists, most dressed in red, and pretty much everyone sporting the red square on their shirts or hats, or as a cardboard square within their bike wheel or square-red flag attached to their bicycle. Many also brought spoons, so many spoons, and a healthy chunk of pots too, making us more of a red casseroles tour of the island. One of the folks I biked next to the whole time--another new acquaintance, a Concordia student who told me about how hard it had been to try to maintain even a small strike there, especially when they attempted to do a hard picket line against exam day—mentioned how she always now travels with her spoon. You never know when it will come in handy—say, when a bunch of folks were already inside the Grand Prix outdoor party area on/near Crescent Street on Friday night. Spoons have become the new public enemy, along with red squares, red scarves, and black umbrellas, among other subversive objects! Police have been targeting, stopping, hassling, hitting, and/or arresting people for these household and clothing menaces.

Who knows, soon cops may be rounding up the little kids who are joining in too? Like the eight- or nine-year-old girl on this bike ride today who kept starting up chants all by herself, calling out the first part, with all the adults around her then calling out the second part--such as in "Charest" "Whoo-Who!" You have to hear this chant to appreciate it, resonating with what I'm told is a hockey cheer/jeer, and never failing to elicit glee among the participants. The glee on this young cyclist's face, though, put all the others to shame: her little act of self-organization was working! And like kids who've grown up in Zapatista autonomous communities in Chiapas or MST communities in Brazil, to name two, maybe this child--and so many children I've seen on the Montreal spring, outwitting police cars during their neighborhood casseroles in order to take the streets, or already on the streets in situations like last night's eruptive disruption, or organizing walkouts from their high schools, or even meandering into Ryan's music tonight—will grow up in such a radically different society that she'll think self-organization along with practices of mutual aid and dignity, for starters, are the "natural" norms.

I spent the near-three-hours of this gorgeous red bike ride—meant as a counterpoint to the noisy, fuel-unefficient, expensive Grand Prix happening on a nearby island—in friendly political debate with yet another new acquaintance (uprisings are good for the creation of social bonds and communities that usually feel far more genuine and mutualistic than most, and often last far longer too). He and I were basically arguing about political strategy and the related notion of a diversity of tactics—or, in his view, not. And yet here we were, on this stunning red bicycle ride on a stunning maple summer day, winding our way through Montreal neighborhood after Montreal neighborhood, and all around us were people going out of their way to raise their fists or wave hands in solidarity, display their own red flags or squares, bang their own pots, or even grab their bike and join us. While yesterday night, winding our way through the streets of Montreal, all around us were people going out of their way to raise their fists or wave hands in solidarity, display their own red flags or squares, bang their own pots, or simply walk off the sidewalk and join us. One calm leisure, and the other chaotic disruption. Both, though, evidence of the depth of social support for and involvement in this profound moment of people not only holding the line on austerity cuts but opening up space for their own collective empowerment and social solidarity. And both evidencing that there is increasingly, as I've noted before, not an "us" on daytime bike rides or nighttime disobedience with people watching from the sidelines but a growing "we" weaving through the whole fabric of this society in upheaval.

Like occupy in the States, and no doubt Occupy Montreal and other occupy sites across Canada, social and self transformation is a messy business, or rather a beautiful and messy experiment. There will never be a perfect "we," neatly bounded like the perfect little red squares increasingly visible all across the Montreal landscape and Montrealers' bodies. There will be the debates about strategy, tactics, and aspirations, and struggles over how to turn street power into popular, self-governing power. There already are, and many of the conversations with many of the new acquaintainces and friends—and old ones too—that I'm having on the streets involve both the surreal quality of this maple spring (in a breathtakingly dreamy sort of way!) and the constant lived experiences of the dilemmas it raises. Should we ride bikes, bang pots, play music, or riot, among other things, or all of the above? Which brings in more people? Keeps them there? Which scare people off? Or which, as Ryan's video shows, only embolden them further?

Even my rental bike became part of the surreal quality of this historical moment in Montreal, in yet another display of how imagery, symbols, and art are equal yet complementary partners in this uprising. All of the bixi bikes have advertising on them. (At one point a while ago, some anonymous culture-jammers printed up some 11,000 stickers with a few dozen or more different versions of short poems on them, and in a couple hours, covered over all the bixi ads with them (on 5,500 bikes). They then put out a Web site that looked legit, claiming that bixi had decided to abandon the ads for the social good of beautiful words instead. When the prank was discovered, the Montreal bixi bureaucracy decried the vandalism and started ripping off all the poems. There was a near-riot, metaphorically, among the populace, which wanted those poems on those bixis, damn it! But I digress . . . as usual in this evening's meandering blog.) My random choice of a bixi had this (red!) ad for RioTintoAlcan, which describes as "a world leader in finding, mining, and processing the earth's mineral resources," on its side and front:

And coincidentally, as if harkening to the night before on the Grand Prix party streets of Montreal, as if this bike had maybe even taken itself over there for a peek, this reworked (red!) version on its front:

I'm not sure where this blog post tonight is going, or like my lengthy rebel red bike ride, where it actually went, so I'll end now with big hugs to a dear "friend of mine," Ryan, who has the remarkable ability to be as gregarious as me, get as enthused about and engaged in revolutionary possibility as me, and inspire me, and who was a super companion on the streets and in the parks of Montreal. Plus he aided and abetted my obsession with taking pictures of red squares, including this one on his guitar case today:




The Universal Language: “Fuck the Police” (Montreal, Night 47)


I feel like I probably saw and was in the middle of only a fraction of all the tides of popular protests against the Grand Prix tonight. But to likely understate it, the police (SPVM to SQ) totally lost control and the people totally held the streets. And as one person said to us on the streets as riot cops swarmed by us for the umpteenth time—after about the umpteenth time that nearly everyone (and by nearly everyone, I mean an eclectic mix of thousands and thousands of people, many dressed in fancy Saturday night party clothes, far from "the usual suspects" and not a black bloc in sight) pushed the police back or for all intents and purposes kettled the cops, and after the many umpteenth times that nearly everyone booed at and many threw plastic bottles (or a beach ball) at the police—there's a universal language on the streets this evening, and it's "fuck the police."

Of course, there was plenty of good reason to speak this global language on Montreal's streets this evening: tear gas, batons, the incessant beating on shields, pushing, harassment, pepper spray, injuries, arrests. But none of those tactics worked. Nor did the tactic of attempting to divide the thousands of people "marching" or simply filling the streets. Each time the police managed to split enormous amounts of people into two, three, or four groups, or seemed to have dispersed people altogether, seconds or minutes later, there was a new massive group, or several, or another hot spot, with no rhyme or reason, and definitely no coordination. The sheer beauty of a mysterious spontaneity birthed of some sort of popular will and determination. Whether tourist or local, student or person in their seventies, a kid a stroller or an adult in a wheelchair, white or black, out for a drink or out for a protest, and on and on, people just kept coming at the cops again and again and again, with little fear and lots of animosity. This constant onslaught, from nearly all people and definitely in all directions, was relentless, bold, and tough, but never felt out of our control—even though the "our" was thoroughly unclear, or maybe a better word would be "expansive." The "our" was the populace. And no one was in charge. Somehow, though, there was a common understanding of what our tactics were: holding ground, screaming at the police, throwing objects at the cops that couldn't really hurt them, but under no circumstances would we give the streets or intersections over to them, or especially, under no conditions would we let our disruption be disrupted by the cops. These tactics of our didn't include breaking store windows, or what seemed a far more likely target, smashing the windows or otherwise damaging the many extremely fancy and extremely expensive cars that we encircled time and again. Instead, we basically compelled the police to clearly "protect" the luxury cars from a nonthreat--other than the threat that we were walking the wrong way against traffic and making the car's drivers/passengers come to a halt for hours. This only underscored the absurdity of this display of wealth in the midst of a governmental crisis over not meeting people's basic needs.

When we started out at 8:30 p.m. from the park next to the Berri-UQAM Metro, it felt that the couple thousand or so of us were modern-day peasants foolishly thinking we could breech the castle with our modern-day pitchforks: pots & pans, flags, drums, horns, and a lot of chanting and hand clapping. We passed by the big, free French-language music festival, and hundreds of concertgoers cheered us on, as did numerous passersby, who also often joined us. Our demonstration tried a couple times to "assault" the Grand Prix party area, but to no avail, and it seemed like things had come to a standstill and that everyone was dispersing.

My affinity group of two (myself and Ryan Harvey, on our night two together), kind of figured it was over and started to aimlessly meander toward the F1 party area, and then just as quickly as the march had disappeared, hundreds of police cars, vans, and cops swarmed by us, lights and sirens blaring. So we walked a block over from where the cops seemed to be heading, landing ourselves on the completely packed Ste.-Catherine street, a few blocks from the heart of F1 entertainment excess. Within two blocks more, our peasant crew of a couple thousand was backed up by many thousands more--the rabble, who likely didn't plan on being rabble that night—and it was instantly clear that like last night, protesters and the populace (or rather, the populace in protest) had again managed to outwit the cops and disrupt the Grand Prix's evening bash. Even more so than last night, however, the cops were completely outnumbered, seemed completely at a loss as to what to do, and often yelled orders that they couldn't possibly fulfill. Each time they tried to push the crowds away, people stood their ground until the last minute, moved back a bit against walls or doorways, and then as the cops retreated, simply moved back into the streets again—with pretty much everyone on the street participating (and there were thousands and thousands of people out tonight in this busy area). Frequently, we ended up chasing the cops away, or basically pushing them back instead of them pushing us, by the thousands of us simply walking briskly toward them, shouting at them in at least two languages.

It's hard to describe, or rather hard to translate, how this all felt, especially since it felt like nothing that I or Ryan have ever experienced. Ryan kept remarking how on incredible this past year-plus has been—from Tunisia and Egypt, to Indignados and Madison and occupy. We both marveled at this wave of revolt that sweeps this way and that, washing away prediction after prediction that it with disappear—in the same way that tonight, people were seemed washed away by the police, only to more turbulently sweep back into the streets that they so obviously understood as theirs, in their own maple uprising. They turned the normal life of a busy Saturday night street into a normalized yet extraordinary battleground of contestation and popular control, the forty-seventh evening on top of something like 115 or so days of a massive student strike. People were clearly in complete, confident, calm (relative to the situation) collective self-command, and yet it was utterly rebellious, utterly disobedient to authority and cognizant of its own social power, and utterly populist.

I don't want to minimize the fact that some people were arrested (CUTV reported that tonight marked the 9th attack by the SPVM on their crew in these last three days!), others were hurt, and many may only have been expressing anger at cops. Yet there's also obvious widespread discontent at things like the evisceration of the promise of free education (a palpable memory of a promise some thirty-forty years ago, mind you!) and increasingly harsh austerity cuts. There's an obvious widespread disillusionment with the government and its police, with the word "fascist" being the most frequently used word to describe what people feel it happening to Canadian and especially Quebec society in light of special law 78.

It's like the student strike—some two years in the making/planning, and building on the history of other student strikes and the not-so-quiet Quiet Revolution of the 1960s to 1970s—was the first strike in a wake-up call that has now startled people into not falling asleep again. As one longtime anarchist on the streets tonight mentioned to us, basically: we anarchists (or more broadly, anticapitalists) have a lot to learn from this. There's no way radicals could have brought about the social upheaval that is winning. That has already won many hearts and minds and actively engaged bodies in a way that's way beyond any "mere" social movement. There's a lot to learn about what it took to organize the student strike, what it took to build and sustain it, what it's taking now to keep it going, and how the hell so much of the population here sympathesizes with and brazenly leaps into this struggle. And there's the perplexing question of where it will all go. This particular anarchist friend said he thought June 22 was crucial; that it needed to be big. A second later he added, "But who knows? Maybe June 22 isn't key."

On Thursday night, a mere three days ago, with a couple hundred mostly anticapitalist folks (since that was the call for this demo) quickly kettled and thinking we were going to spend the night in jail, I thought the Grand Prix would go merrily on its way, untouched by this monumental and historic student strike. Now, in the early hours of Sunday morning, with the start of the Grand Prix's noxious engines just a few hours away, I'm astonished that I've spent two nights smack in the center of the F1 party, as a society-at-large (rather than a handful of radicals or protesters) chooses that it's worth the disruption in order to make the student strike and now widening social strike plain as day. Making it the story.

As usual, I walked the hour or so back to where I'm staying after the hours of near-riot tonight, passing late-night partiers and people walking their dogs, realizing it was nearly 2 a.m. as I turned on to Mont-Royal, which has been closed to traffic now for two to three days for a street fair, or mix of entertainment, food, and lots of sale items from the surrounding stores. There were still a fair amount of folks mingling around on the closed-off Mont-Royal, but most of them were all looking down at the road.

In the middle of the street, for some 6-8 blocks or more ahead of me, were gigantic street art pieces, composed of paint and chalk, each with the yellow line of the road vaguely appearing in the center. Some of the artists were still around, adding to their work, and I asked a young artist about his piece, after I noticed that the first eight or ten of these massive street drawings had red squares in them, not to mention casseroles or the number "78."

"What is this? Were you supposed to include the red square in your work?" I asked him, noticing a red square pinned to his shirt.

"This happens every year, but we can create whatever we want to. A lot of people want to use the red square in their art. They say that us students are violent. Sometimes a window might get broken, but that's not violence. It's the police who are violent. They just get more violent. All we want is a better world. That's what we're fighting for."

I saw him notice my red square too, and he added, "Thank you for wearing the square. It gives us students strength to see the square everywhere."

And so 2 a.m. turned into 3 a.m. as I slowly walked down the line of giant paintings. I walked the line of thousands and thousands of red squares, alongside other people, without disruption. In the quiet of the late night/early morning, we whispered our appreciation and pointed at particularly delightful renditions of red squares. I kept thinking, this is a magical time to be alive, when anything is possible and everything is surprising: from a downtown with the streets held by people in rebellion to a neighborhood with the streets filled with the color of resistance.

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If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/


Grand Disruption of Grand Prix, Montreal, Night 46


Ah, what an unexpectedly grand disruption of the Grand Prix, right in the middle of its own excessive and expensive street party, on night forty-six of continual disobedient & always illegal streets demos! Or rather, grand disruptions, from crashing into the heart of the F1 festivities basically through a not-there-one-minute, but definitely-there-the-next "flash mob" casseroles, to later marching outward from the party that so many had disturbed and suddenly becoming not hundreds but thousands, who then seemed to disappear as quickly as they appeared when the cops shot rubber bullets and tear gas at us, only to reappear, reconverge, and retake the Grand Prix partiers' streets. Hours of this self-controlled chaos meant that the massive amount of riot police were running every which way, often seemingly getting kettled between us, and it became nearly impossible multiple times to tell "protester" from the mobs of "other" people, because so many of those other people seemed to be joining in, or at least pretty clearly anti-cop, and often actively so. Surreal mix of huge amount of police in full gear, huge amounts of Grand Prix attendees in their own absurd full gear, and huge amounts of people with and without red squares contesting them both.

There's so much I want to say about tonight, but it's so late, and I can only muster a few thoughts.

For one, it was a joy to run for a bit with the CUTV crew, who are increasingly turning from livestreamers to live alter-newscasters, with good cheer and tenacity (even after, yet again, being attacked by police last night). If you haven't watched, recommended, contributed to, said thanks to, or spoken with the CUTV folks, do all that and more soon.

Second, it was a delight to be in the streets, subversively and illegally, with so many who show such courage, calm, and grace under pressure, without fear and with the offensive, but tonight in particular, displayed an intuitive collective intelligence. It's a mystery how people knew what to do when, where, and with whom; it was a pleasure to know that within all the spontaneity and unpredictably, people were making smart and strategic decisions. We were side by side with many expensive, fancy cars on display when we crashed the party, but no one trashed the cars; yet when we were side by side with many expensive, fascistic cops, people stood their ground, chanted "a-anti-anticapitalista," and, say, threw eggs toward the police when tear gas came at us, but kept focused on the collective goal of making sure that "business as usual" (capitalism in the form of F1) can't happen in the face of austerity measures and special laws making dissent a crime.

Third, it's clearer than ever that maple spring has indeed become maple summer, and it's deeper and wider than ever. Unlike any other protest or mass mobilization, or even occupy, that I've been to and participated in, this North American uprising isn't an "us" versus "them," or "protesters/occupiers" and 'nonprotesters/occupiers." Not everyone in Quebec is on the side of the student and social strike; that's not what I'm arguing. But many, many, many people are—many people of all types—blurring the lines between protester and populace, because the maple summer has become popular. The police can't police, because they can't even tell who is or isn't in a demonstration; who or who isn't on a street "legally" or "illegally"; who or who isn't in a big group walking around in evening to go to a festival or bar, or to bang pots & pans or engage in demonstration. Because it isn't clear. I stood on various corners this evening along St.-Catherine, near Crescent and Bishop and other F1 party areas, and it was near impossible (save for some clear garish Grand Prix dress) to separate out the discontented from the drunk. It was a grand disruption of many more thousands than one could obviously "tag" by seeing a red square.

Maybe, increasingly, it could be said, "we are all wearing a red square."

Unlike any other social movement or near-riot or other rupture I've personally experienced, there's actual social power, because there's a profound depth not simply of sympathy but also engaged support and even more engaged participation—often at a moment's notice, like tonight, when the cops moved in en masse with batons and tear gas and rubber bullets, there were more people, not less.

It isn't about the street fighting, although this evening, it felt totally right to upend this capitalist, patriarchal display of frivolity and uncaring—a sort of "let them eat cake" moment while the rich fill their bellies with liquor and power. Or try to. Because what this is about is, precisely, power—the hierarchical power that the elites and the police and the provincial government is losing, and tonight seemed to have lost, and the still-informal power-from-below that people have taken for themselves here in Montreal and environs. Street disruptions like this, where anyone or everyone could be (or is) on the side of popular power and social change, can only control the streets when there's already been months and indeed years of organizing through student associations, general assemblies, anticapitalist convergences, and other groundwork; when people forget that they are scared and cowed, and instead believe that they are strong and have agency over their lives, since they can feel their own collective power in their bones and see it in the faces of so many around them, and know they aren't alone anymore in wanting a far, far better society; and when little kids can hold pots & pans and become menaces, who just might grow up to be marvelously different people in a marvelously different world than we can imagine today.

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If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/


Anticapitalist Kickoff to Grand Prix, Montreal, Night 45


There's nothing like walking for some four to five hours, yet again, through Montreal with hundreds and hundreds of riot cops in tow—rows and rows of police cars with lights on, squads and squads of heavily suited-up cops in formation and running every which way, lines of police guarding any and every street leading to Grand Prix festivities; white vans with "intervention" written on the side, empty city buses waiting to be filled with people like us, cop helicopter looming above. But there's also nothing like walking for those many hours and kilometers, for the first time during my maple spring-summer stay, with hundreds of "veteran" anarchists—from CLAC, a relatively longtime anarchist organization, and people who've been to many a mass mobilization and other mayhem, such as Quebec City during the alter-globalization days--along with lots of new anarchists—many clean-cut students, such as the ones pictured below, walking from the Metro to the 5 p.m. planned disruption of a fancy Grand Prix dinner by anticapitalists/anarchists. There's nothing like being on the streets of a city where people, anarchist and otherwise, don't seem to be afraid of the police anymore.

The police always try to find ways to make people feel afraid, of course. This morning at 6 a.m., at the start of this weekend's Grand Prix grand battle, for instance, they targeted specific anticapitalist/anarchist organizers' homes and made some arrests. And after only a few minutes of anarchists and other radicals meeting up at the appointed spot at 5 p.m. to attempt to block elites from eating together—with one anarchist contingent arriving in a bloc fronted by two banners (pictured just below)—riot police swooped in from all sides so fast, we didn't know what hit us, and suddenly, I and several hundred others were kettled, pushed together by heavily suited cops with batons racing toward us menacingly. Then just as suddenly, four riot cops ran into our packed kettle, snatched a person, and pulled them out for arrest.

All this did, however, was kick people into organizing gear. Some folks handed out bilingual flyers made by CLAC with a CLAC legal support number for this weekend. Someone else gave me and many others something to use if the police used tear gas. People shared water, and wrote friends' numbers along with the legal number on their bodies, loaning out pens. I was supposed to meet up with a friend for this demo, but he got delayed, and some new Francophone acquaintances (swiftly turning into friends) took this Anglophone into their temporary affinity group.

Beyond organizing, the fear tactics only served to increase people's resolve. As cops shoved into our imprisoned mass with batons and some pepper spray to grab other folks (we heard they wanted people in masks, or as one friend tweeted to us later, "people in black with umbrellas"), anarchists linked arms, stood their ground, and tried to repell the police—and actually managed to "unarrest" some folks within the confines of our kettle. People screamed at the police; police made fun of them; people looked them in the eye, up close, when they charged in. After some ten to fifteen arrests, they police pulled up a white van with "technology" written on the side, pulled out a microphone, and suddenly—after maybe an hour—declared our kettle an illegal assembly and that we should disperse. As one of my comrades yelled back, "It doesn't look like your own police can follow orders," since not a one of them moved to let us out. This only increased the sense of nonfear and courage among us. And then, oddly, the riot cops parted, and we raced out--quickly reforming into another, even bigger anarchist bloc—thanks to other folks waiting for us outside the kettle—taking over streets and heading toward Crescent Street, where other Grand Prix visitors were partying.

One of my new friends needed to get his bike, so we left the march for a bit, and on our way to find it again, we saw police cars whizzing by, and a random woman near us suddenly screamed at the police with all her might and gave them the finger, many times over. My new friend looked at me, and basically remarked, "See, people aren't afraid anymore." This happens a lot, increasingly, he told me. He himself hadn't ever really gone to demos or done any organizing before this, but when the government decided not to negotiate with CLASSE, probably the most radical and articulate of the student organizations, and isolate it a couple months ago, he suddenly realized that he couldn't stand on the sidelines. In our kettle, he was among the first to link arms and push back against the riot cops when they pushed in with batons & spray to grab person after person.

We found one of our comrades from the earlier kettle, and she told us that the police had again attacked the anarchists, much more heavyhandedly this time, and arrested some more people. But for a third time—or at least third to my knowledge, because there seem to be different illegal marches each night in several or many places at once—anarchists regrouped, this time for the 7:30 p.m. "naked" student march (as in, I presume, the government isn't being transparent with us, so we'll be transparent to them). The numbers of fearless folks increased dramatically, into the several or many thousands, in a park, where to start this Grand Prix disruption march, some students draped a huge statue with a red cloth, and then several male-bodied students climbed up to the statue's pedestal and stripped off their clothes to the cheering crowd below—with one of them sporting a red square stuck just above their penis. (Here's a nice panoramic view of that scene, courtesy of a twitter post: http://fr.photojpl.com/manifestation-etudiante-nue-au-grand-prix-de-montreal/-/AfoHU4SYJz/#.T9FgP6Jpdio.twitter

With enormous red flags on tall poles leading the way, our semi-clad, barely clad, and completely naked mass struck out to push our way into a section of the city where Grand Prix visitors were lavishly wining and dining on public streets set aside for that purpose. And fully and overly clad riot police were soon everywhere, diligently shadowing and hounding us, but the march only grew louder and prouder and more naked, until we reached a point where it seemed we'd been kettled again. My anarchist crew and a bunch of others darted into what appeared to be nearby escape areas (one of my new friends laughingly said, "You don't want to be arrested again, do you?" and gestured for me to follow into a big parking lot filled with fancy cars). In a flash, big riot cops with batons raised were racing toward us, as we darted between cars, and I along with my friends got shoved away from the cars with those batons. Lots of chaos; still no fear; and yet another regrouping and massive march.

More fearless and illegal taking of street after street, and more riot cops chasing and blocking us, as we headed for the opening night of a big outdoor French-language music festival near the Place du Arts. Yet again, kettling seemed likely. Yet again, people dispersed and regrouped, and suddenly we ended up in front of the free festival's free entrance, with a line of riot cops keeping thousands in and us out. Hundreds of people on the inside, right behind the police, waved red pieces of cloth, joined us in chants, waved their solidarity, raised their fists, and some folks inside the free music festival dropped a big "FUCK CAPITALISM" over the side of the Place du Arts, also waving to us. We stood by the police line, facing them, ignoring them, looking at our comrades—people, so many varied types of people, who seem to be supporting this day-after-day-after-day struggle with both less fear and heightened hopes.

We heard there was another demonstration on the other of the festival--the group that had met up at the usual 8:30 p.m. nightly rendezvous point. My impromptu affinity group (all publishers, writers, and editors, and all or most of them anarchists) had mostly gone home by this time, and the last to stick with me, another new friend, said she was tired and was going to call it a night. I headed off in a different direction, and instantly saw 50-75 or more police guarding their own police station, and then in another block, a city bus sat idling with the destination "special" illuminated on its front and its lit interior filled with police; it soon raced off, followed by dozens and dozens of cop cars with their sirens blaring, and I heard the helicopter moving off with them too--off quickly, toward what was likely the other demo a mile or so away.

I kept heading home—about a 45-minute walk—and soon came upon another street festival. St.-Laurent was closed for blocks, and its bars and restaurants were extended with tents onto the street. People were drinking and eating, as if the scenes of radicals and police engaged in far more confrontational and tense situations than usual had not happened. Were not still happening. It's hard not to start disbelieving, I thought, as I trudged wearily; so much boldness, and talk of that only increasing as the summer wears on and especially the school year starts (or doesn't!); so much talk of not simply striking students but widespread unrest and anti-austerity sentiments. Widespread politicization and radicalization, and it's spreading, inspiring others in provinces outside Quebec and places outside Canada. As the rain started to lightly drizzle, and I turned onto yet another street—St.-Denis—closed for yet another summer festival, still filled with tourists and bar-goers and others seemingly oblivious to social strike, in the distance, I heard the faint sound of pots and pans, the faint sounds of now-familiar French-language chants. (These chants are spread far and wide across Montreal nightly with the casseroles and marches that they are hard to get out of your head; earlier today, for example, I heard what looked like a four-year-old absentmindedly singing one of the chants while she waited near me for the Metro—here probably home to dinner, and me heading with dozens of others marked by a red square on their backpack, hat, or shirt to the 5 p.m. anarchist convergence/disruption.) The clamor quickly grew, and there on this Montreal summer festival street appeared about a hundred people in an 10:30 p.m. casseroles, making this uprising a festival of their own, as the rain started to come down harder. Because likely it will get harder, this weekend of attempted Grand Prix disruption and in the weeks and months ahead. Yet it doesn't seem like much of anyone fears the difficulty.

As I reached my temporary home, I heard sirens and a helicopter, switched on CUTV's livestream and glanced at twitter, and realized, yet again, on this night and probably a whole bunch more, anarchists and would-be anarchists and people acting anarchistically were taking over other streets, in flagrant and increasingly fearless defiance of special law 78, even as the cops were probably trying to stop them.

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If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/


Montreal, Night 44: Some Short Notes on Another Long Evening


Last night I joined about nine people in a casseroles in Montreal; tonight, consecutive evening number forty-four, there were thousands, boisterous and carnivalesque, overtaking the streets to the cheers of people in houses and bars and cafes as we marched. I also stumbled across the Ecole de la Montagne Rouge crew at the start of the march. They were all wearing red coveralls with their collective name screened on the back, printing big posters on white paper in red ink to connect cuts to the arts to increases to education, as long lines of folks eagerly waited their turn for a fresh print, which many then pinned to their bodies for the march or took home as a revolutionary souvenir. A couple hours later, when the march passed the art students as they were packing up, I asked them if I could stop by their studio sometime in the coming week or so, and they said, "Come with us now!" reaching out a red-ink-stained hand to shake mine but quickly realizing a hello and smile was a better idea, as I trooped after them to their studio.

I want to write more on the culture & geography of resistance, and some of what I saw at Ecole de la Montagne Rouge's giant two-room studio, with their many screen-printed posters crawling up the high walls, and big cardboard posters leaning against walls, with sticks still attached so that two people can easily carry one sign in a demo. But for now, since it's late yet again, seeing this space where striking students have been making art for months now—inspired by May 1968, Black Mountain, and Poland, as one of them told me, but also this movement and their excitement about it—only confirmed what I've felt on the streets when seeing art & revolution: that the two (movement & art) are hand in hand. Here, in this gorgeous studio, with the friendly group of artists happily showing me around, it was clear that their art is of and for the moments, the many moments, of maple spring. As one of them explained, they pull from the ongoing current events, quickly responding by quickly making a new design, trying to use French word plays and double meanings within images that, too, offer double or multiple meanings. We want to keep our art open, said one of the artists, so people can interpret it and make it their own.

One of the Ecole de la Montagne Rouge's recent comrades, a sociology student this fall ("maybe," he joked), went image by image with me, translating the varied meanings of words as well as art, and filling in some history, especially Quebec movement history, for me, such as the "Refus Global" (Total Refusal) manifesto by a group of 16 artists and intellectuals that is viewed as one of the influences for Quebec's Quiet Revolution in the 1960s and, as my guide explained, for the students now. As he talked to me about the Total Refusal's manifesto, he pointed to his arm with a finger, ran the finger up his arm, and smiled, "Look, I have goosebumps just talking about it."

One of the red-outfitted artists, with ink spots decorating his coveralls, said that the student strike had always been about something larger than a tuition increase. The increase, he noted, wouldn't even impact the current students, since it would take several years to go into effect. It was always about future students, he went on, but more than that, about anti-austerity and, indeed, the future. He gestured with his hands, drawing them from his sides upward, saying that this student strike has brought out what was underneath: the feelings, concerns, and desires of people generally. For him, that was also about Quebec removing itself from Canada, not being under Harper, but being, in his words, its own state instead of a province--and a French-speaking one.

He and my impromptu guide both indicated a phrase on one of their posters in particular: "le combat est avenir." It was printed on cardboard, back when they used to print more of their posters in quantity on cardboard as signs for demonstrations (paper is now easier for them to carry and print on in larger quantities, my guide said). I hope I'm not doing an injustice to the translation that they described, but they said "avenir" offered the mixed meaning of "in the future" and "to have" or "with a future," and if I understood correctly, "for a future"--all added to "le combat" or fight. One can then see the waves as moving toward a future or creating waves now to make a better future, or other interpretations. Again, that's the intention, the artist said: that even if I am translating it incorrectly, I'm drawing out my own meaning, engaging with the art and its words through the lens of my (and thousands of others) participation in, to borrow a grammatical phrase in English, a "future perfect."

As for the march itself, there were so many poignant scenes on tonight's manif in Montreal, from hearing and then seeing small casseroles after casseroles at various intersections as I walked about 2 miles to the usual 8:30 p.m. march meet-up spot, including going down one whole block where people filled nearly all the balconies on both sides to bang their pots & pans (all of them cheering enthusiastically when I strolled by and banged on my lone pot in return below them), to finding thousands converging at 8:30 in costumes, with big banners & flags & signs, a variety of instruments, and so much cookware making so much noise it reverberated for blocks away as I approached, to whole open-air bars full of people who stood up to applaud and bang whatever they could when our march quickly & loudly went by.

I felt on a rollercoaster of emotions, propelled by the sense that this is what revolutionary social transformation really feels like. Night after night, and often day after day, people are engaging in widespread direct actions. It is not "just a march." It is a walking toward the future, grabbing the future now. People are daily defying the laws of state—and have been now for months—to begin to make their own promises to each other, from students finding their voices and own education through blockades, pickets, making huge free meals during them, teach-ins and media (the art students showed me a weekly journal/booklet they've been designing for student writers and poets), to the populace now reshaping civic space and creating a people's festival season (as I watch the Grand Prix start its build-up of a festival for the rich), to starting to meet more of one's neighbors and also rethink neighborhoods via the beginning of assemblies. It's hard to capture in words, but being on the street here each evening feels utterly distinct from the word used to describe it: "demonstration." My reinterpretation or misinterpretation of the French word "manifestation" for that English-language term feels closer: something is continually being manifested on the streets.

So especially as the several-thousand-person march I was in almost ran the last long block of St.-Denis toward the Mont-Royal intersection (some 2 miles back right from where I'd originally come) where another thousand people "waited" for us with their march and a sit-in against arrests and repression—with the volume turning up so much I could barely hear myself think—I shed some tears at the beauty of it all. Equally, I felt the joy that accompanies the struggle of change, tonight in many forms, including several instances of anarchopanda echoes on hats, stuffed animals, and backpacks. And I felt awe at how doggedly determined this increasingly dispersed "refusal" and "reclaiming" is when, walking home after midnight from the Ecole de la Montagne Rouge folks—so awe-inspiring in themselves, already having produced this huge, living, useful, agitational, and remarkable body of work that continues to grow, alongside a movement that's growing in similar ways—I ran across a small troop of extremely loud marchers-casseroles-chanters making their way along the bar area of St.-Denis, just as exuberant as when they likely headed toward the future some four to five hours ago, some many weeks and months ago.




Montreal, Night 43: Sometimes Less Is More


This evening, I returned to Montreal for another taste of maple spring, stepping out of the Metro at 7:45 p.m., just in time for a chilly rain to start falling in the Plateau, and then made it to where I'm staying by 7:55 p.m. After some 2.5 weeks of almost no sleep, exhaustion finally caught up with me. I had this notion that I'd be sensible and take it easy—on the forty-third night in a row of illegal street demonstrations in this city. But about 8 minutes later, in the distance, slowly growing louder: pots & pans.

Three days ago, while I was far away in Baltimore at the Mobilizing and Organizing from Below conference (where I heard a Quebec student striker, also at this conference, say that the key to this Canadian uprising was and is the assemblies), there was a daytime demonstration here in Montreal. It was raining then too, but several thousand people marched through the streets anyway—yet again—with their resolve seemingly only strengthened—yet again—by the government breaking off of negotiations with the students last Thursday. A banner at the front of this march read: “This isn’t a student strike, it’s a society waking up.”

So despite my weariness, I grabbed my now-trusty pot and what's left of my metal spoon (sans the spoon, which decapitated itself after three nights of beating last week, and thus is now a metal stick), and headed out into the dark drizzle. I was glad to see a bright red fabric square hanging off the balcony of the apartment where I'll be staying--added after I left last Thursday. At the same time, I felt sad not to have the apartment's resident and my new friend by my side tonight. We met through an old friend, on much more riotous streets a couple weeks ago, before the casseroles began yet right after the "special law 78" had passed, and she's kindly been my host ever since. During my previous visit, we went out every evening together to the disobedient demonstrations, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of people, as well as on the enormous day-100 march, which saw something upward of 500,000 clogging the streets. Now, she's away for a couple weeks, and is doing me the incredible "mutual aid" of loaning me her home; it felt funny to head to the casseroles without her.

The bustling intersection a couple blocks from her apartment had been a hot spot for pot and pan banging before, so I expected the same this evening. At 8:15 p.m., though, when I rounded the corner, there were only three women, hooded up in their rain jackets, banging away. They cheered as they saw me coming with my pot, raising their pots in unison and greeting me warmly—in French. I somehow explained that I don't speak French, and they somehow explained that they don't speak English, but that only increased all our smiles, as we all raised our pots and the volume together. Some other kind of language was happening in the intimacy of our tiny casseroles. And so perhaps 10 minutes later, after 1 more person joined us--again to happy cheers and raised pots—a police car also pulled up, and one of the women turned to me, laughing defiantly, and said in bad yet discernible English, "Cops!" She grinned widely, then banged her pot all that much more loudly, this time in the direction of the police car.

Still, not so disobediently, we walked back and forth across the intersection, in the crosswalk, when the red light stopped traffic for us. As the rain kept lightly falling, I felt the dampening of the magnificant and massive social strike I'd experienced on my prior recent visit. I kept glancing up the busy street in one direction and then the other, hoping that a large group of people would come marching down the street--in the street, illegally—to meet us, as had happened before, but no, not tonight. My 4 companions, strangers all but likely neighbors, chatted away happily with each other, in French, and kept smiling happily at me, and all the while kept banging away at their cookware. They didn't seem to notice in the least that we were so few. I recognized half of them from earlier casseroles, and it was clear that they were glad for the chance to converse and glad, too, for the opportunity to keep up the momentum of these nocturnal manifestations of people power. I was just about to leave, because it felt so dispiriting, when in the distant we at last heard other pots, and then saw a loud and rebellious crew—of four. They swiftly marched up to us, yelling happily at the tops of their voices, and that in turn dramatically increased our collective noise.

The 9 of us created metallic, grating music of solidarity, and I decided to stay. We weren't exactly breaking the law—a small group of us on the sidewalk. But when our miniscule numbers converged, everyone's spirits seemed to soar, as if there were indeed thousands of us, as if we were indeed holding down what's almost become a tradition of nightly resistance, as if it mattered that we were offering ourselves along with our lungs and our arms and our legs to this uprising. Despite the language barrier, for now a few others spoke English-only, we all gestured that we needed to march, and I had the feeling that all of us suddenly thought that yes, of course, there must be many more people in other parts of the city doing the same as us. Perhaps we'd find them and become a large demonstration?

What we found instead were lone or small batches of wanderers, who afforded us an unending maze of individual acts of solidarity and rebellion as they crossed spontaneous paths with us.

Over the next couple hours or so that I marched, cars stopped to join us for a minute or two, repetitively honking their horns, or people pulled their car over to temporarily park so they could jump out with a pot and bang as we walked past. A passenger in one car waved an open umbrella out their window at us, with a red square hand-colored on its cloth. People walking by clapped in tune to our pots, or jangled keys, or used their umbrella against a lamppost to make noise; one person pulled a whistle out of their pocket and blew hard as their momentary contribution. Solitary folks leaned out windows as they heard us coming, ran back into their apartment, and then reappeared with kitchenware in hand. People sitting in restaurants tapped on their glasses with utensils as we raised our pots and pans to acknowledge their support. Workers ran out of stores and cafes to make whatever sound they could as we passed, and many who couldn't come outside instead held up raised fists and offered us enormous smiles. Bicycles careened joyously toward us, so they could ring a bell or simply wave. And on and on.

Hundreds upon hundreds of separate people lent solidarity for short bursts. With each interaction there was a distinct acknowledgment of us as a tiny but hardy casseroles crew, and we in turn gave our impromptu collaborators a distinct recognition for pitching in, if only for a second or minute. Most of the time, we were able to make eye contact with those joining us, and then we all made eye contact with each other, and I don't think there was a minute in all our marching when we stopped smiling and laughing—the language that was binding us this evening.

Over the course of our two-plus hours of marching and sometimes skipping, always at a brisk pace, we'd subdivided a couple times, and added a person here or there—but always remained at five or eight of us. One person who joined us was a woman who ran up with her backpack, indicating that she had a pot inside and was it OK to become part of our group, to which—yet again—everyone cheered and raised their pots in unison while banging them loud as hell. The women I'd started with went home after about forty-five minutes of walking, and I then mostly spent time with the four people who'd originally joined us, which included a teenager who couldn't get enough of shouting and laughing and banging as loud as she could whenever anyone acknowledged us—which was pretty much constantly--so I started shouting and laughing and banging as loud as I could too. We both spoke English, but for some reason, the shouting and laughing were far better and more accurate communication much of the time. Still, at one point she turned to me after we'd seen a man behind the plate-glass window of his gyro fast-food place raise his fist to us and grin, and she tossed back her head, wrapped in a red bandana, and laughed until I thought she'd burst: "You love this so much too!"

About halfway through our casseroles, one of our crew got the idea to start banging his pot against metal street-sign poles, and then it seemed as if there really were well over 49 of us, the legal limit under the new law for groups of people. So we began to stop and do this often, and my new-found comrades particularly took pleasure in doing this outside fancy restaurants in which the patrons weren't paying us heed. Two of my posse started to scream chants as well, including the French version of "fascist" and some other insults in relation to Charest, and my comrades this evening began to take special delight in hollering at police cars when they passed by us. At one point, we came upon an intersection with a big street post that featured a handmade sign I'd seen last week: "FUCK C78 CHARESt." The intensity of our participatory show of force for this sentiment grew to new heights, and silently (since at this point we could hardly hear each other anyway), we stood our ground by this sign and made a racket, gathering many onlookers.

Two new people had recently joined our tiny group, both quite mild-mannered looking, and each with two pans lids that they could bang together. They awkwardly hesitated for a minute, and I was convinced they were going to leave, because it was getting wildly loud. The four folks who had merged into my original group were now all banging their pots against the same metal post with the "FUCK" sign on it, and the noise was deafening. Their laughter also seemed to increase, if that were possible. Our two new companions were suddenly overcome with the exuberance of the moment, and it was like we were some big brassy band that couldn't be contained or controlled, mostly because many of the onlookers were also just as eager to spontaneous add their nods or smiles or claps or cheers.

I did see more people this evening than before we ignored us or seemed displeased. Two or three folks took the time to complain about what we were doing—in French, but from their faces, the general content was plain enough. And we never did find any other casseroles, much less a large demonstration. We walked past groups of two to three with pots and pans, such as two punks, one with a Crass T-shirt, who asked me where the big march was, and when I invited them to join us, they ran off in search of bigger and better prospects, but again, our numbers never rose above nine all night.

Perhaps this is the beginning of the end. Or the tiredness and routine that starts to set in when an uprising stretches past its initial upsurge and innovation. Perhaps people are becoming more polarized, drawing different lines in the sand, or maybe many are sick of the nightly noise (one man clearly yelled at us about being woken up evening after evening). Maybe it's becoming difficult for students strikers and other social strikers to figure out a strategy to win something, or perhaps folks are resting up to contest the Grand Prix starting this Thursday (with its excess of wealth and power in contrast to the excess of social good that this strike is increasingly demanding).

I should have felt disappointed tonight. And I should be sleeping. But again, I'm awakened by what's going on here, for in all the little interactions this evening, there was something that was thoroughly qualitative, thoroughly defiant, as our casseroles uncovered the many, many, many varied instances of shared solidarity—shared enthusiasm and a shared sense of injustice—made possible precisely because we were so few, yet nonetheless still so determined way beyond our numbers, as if we were many. For everywhere we went, individual by individual, there were many.

As we marched by the street where I'm staying, I waved goodnight with my pots to these strangers that now didn't feel strange at all, thinking 2.5 hours was good for tonight. I also thought how odd it was that we felt comfortable, rather than odd, in creating a loud demonstration up and down busy streets; how odd that it didn't feel weird to simply bang pots together with four or five people when no one else around you was doing the same thing. The teenager ran over to me, hugged me tight, and whispered in my ear, "What's your name?" We both smiled, whispered our names in each other's ear, and she leaned back to grin and then yelp, "It was so great to meet you!" then ran after the rude metallic orchestra continuing on, noisier—somehow!—than ever. Once home, I could still hear them, four blocks away, for another five minutes or so, as I perched on the balcony outside where I'm staying, on a quiet residential street in this yet-disquieted city.

* * *

If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/


Montreal's Magical Manifestations


Whether during anticapitalist mass mobilizations, Republican and Democratic National Convention protests, reclaim the streets, occupy (everything or somewhere specific), or a host of other riot, riotous, or rebellious large-scale street situations (housing takeovers, antifascist actions, antiwar demos, and many more), there's always a certain intensity, a certain adrenaline rush—a marathon of heightened emotions that race through everything from anger, fear, and euphoria to sorrow, exhaustion, and delirious happiness. Thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands) of people find themselves serendipitously together in these convergence spaces, collectively experiencing profound anxiety but also equally profound anticipation. There's often a sense that we have everything to lose and everything to gain; that such spaces are completely fragile and temporary, yet also ours to shape, sustain, and nurture, offering a freshness that feels as if we're the first to ever engage in such a grand experiment in self-organized consociation.

It becomes addictive. And usually, following such mobilizations or occupations, there's a slew of criticism of those who remain addicts—who want more: more of those feelings, more of the highs (& even the lows), more of this community and belonging and pleasure, even if there's also pain or trauma, even if the disappointment at what we can't or couldn't achieve in these extraordinary flare-ups of promise becomes more heartbreaking with each lose. The critics lash out with, say: "you shouldn't summit hop! you should stay at home and do local organizing" (a familiar refrain during the heyday of the alter-globalization movement--as if this were the only choice, and the only rationale [that is, healthy, productive, nonaddictive] choice). Binary choices, though, rarely reflect the beautiful complexity of phenomena, and such beautiful complexity is usually precisely the overflowing stuff in our tool box against binaries like capitalism, the state, racism, heteronormative, and other debilitating divides.

But Montreal's manifestations (demonstrations, marches, and now casseroles, or the banging of cookware and other usually ordinary metal household objects) are forging an extra magical addiction, thereby "troubling" the either/or binary so that it hardly makes sense as a critique or even personal dilemma. Whether one heads out nightly to the streets, walking for hours, far from one's neighborhood; travels to Montreal from another city in the province to join in, especially on the gigantic demonstration days like May 22; or stays at home to lean off one's own balcony to bang a pot when several thousand people clanging on pans as they pass by on the street below—the where, how, when, and who of resistance gets all mixed up, into the simmering start of a marvelous, miraculous stew of social strike that is equally social reconstruction.

No doubt this is the same magic felt in other moments, sadly few and far between, when people aren't simply converging in mass numbers but also are constituting a counterpower: winning each other's hearts and minds through their own doing and making of an alter-lifeworld that's so much more compelling and convincing, that works to meet our own needs/desires so much better, that it has real power-together, and so masses of us begin to abandon that other world, the one composed of power-over. There's a mass exodus, away from the current society of control and discipline that estranges us from each other, toward one where we no longer feel like we're exiled from our own lives and each other, not to mention the ecosystem around us.

But for those experiencing it for the first time, here and now, in Montreal and across the coming-alive province of Quebec, the compulsion—the addiction—to come out night after night after night is also about wanting the world to feel this way again and again and again. The emotion running high is joy, festive joy, joy at the countering of power with self-made counterpower, a joy made manifest in the music of metal kitchenware.

And so a curious related phenomena has emerged from this: the desire to capture the casseroles on film, so as to relive them, share them, circulate them. This isn't new per se. With the rise of indymedias and YouTube, among others, such mass mobilizations have and continue to generate their own cinematic memory. Oftentimes, however, such images are of the spectacular or "sexy," with "riot porn" being perhaps the biggest DIY box-office hit, followed as close second by footage of police doing things both brutal and stupid. So much of what has been videotaped and shared in recent North American moments of large-scale resistance has been just that: fighting back, against powers that largely keep us on the defensive or only scratching the surface of moving toward the offensive, toward renewal.

What's curious about the filmic gifting going on is that it's an attempt—difficult as it is—to share the counterpower magic of Montreal's streets and balconies right now via the simple yet powerful act of these casseroles—and the related courageous and/or carnivalesque illegal retaking of the streets. As someone wrote in an article in one of the worst (i.e., government-friendly) French-language newspaper in Montreal the other day, to paraphrase: when people threw rocks, the government wasn't really worried; now that they are banging pots and pans, the government is scared. Or to put it more accurately: Montreal has become ungovernable for them.

It's near impossible to use film or videotape to really offer an sense of the magic, but people try again and again and again—yet another addiction, or healthy addictions that are what keep people fighting for some better, still-unimaginable world. So far, there have been two broad categories of making short "movies" about the pots and pans:

1. The high aesthetic B&W depiction that went viral, which among other critiques that could and should be leveraged (such as focusing on white people as actors in this moment), wholly take the life out of the casseroles, making them seem at once a thing of the past, quiescent, and something already commodified as an ad campaign to sell jeans. (I would post a link here, for those who haven't seen it, but I'm feeling cranky about adding to the viralness of its depoliticizing impact, even as the maple spring-summer becomes increasingly inspirational.)

2. The hundreds and probably thousands of fragments made from cell phones, cheap cameras, or whatever people can get their hands on to film themselves, to film their friends, to film the cute kid holding a small frying pan, to film the casseroles snaking its way past their house, to capture the pots and pans in a small town or suburb. Blurry, shaky, sometimes dark (it is nighttime, after all), sometimes too short or too long—most are awful.Yet nearly all share this seemingly desperate-passionate awareness that we need to hold these moments in our mind's eye, not let them go, not give up.

Neither high art nor low art, professional or homemade, has yet, to my mind, been able to contain this uprising, nor make it history (yet), nor sadly, translate why it's been so crucial to the maple spring (and thus, not something that can be simply replicated by banging a pot in the United States, for instance, in feeble hopes of the cookware itself catalyzing the magic of ungovernability).

Today, a dear new friend I made in Montreal—my constant street affinity grouplet and constant obsessive-compulsion comrade in seeking out news when we weren't in the streets—shared a third filmic category. It too falls short of making you feel what it feels like to be there. At the same time, it comes closer than anything else to illustrating the magic, via fantasy as well as taking real-life characters from the streets and making them extra fantastical. What is gets at, rather than offering a mirror to the joyous reality, is the reality of joy--an additive, rebel joy and mutual acknowledgment of what people are doing collectively in this part of the world that too often gets ignored by much of the world, especially those of us in the United States (witness how global and U.S. media basically only "discovered" this uprising within the past week!). And I will share this one—so finish reading this blog post (or not!), and then watch it (again and again), or rather follow it along, like you too are on a nightly march through the streets of Montreal. You'll need to scroll to the right, past joyous participant after joyous participant, after you click on this link:

http://manif.aencre.org/

Joy.

If we have any hopes—and hope at these moments is both key and also, sadly, likely temporary—of sustaining such magical manifestations of counterpower, toward some society that doesn't replicate domination and oppression, but tries its best to experiment with other ways of living and being, joy and its rightfully addictive quality have to remain front and center. Have to remain lived, felt, common and common sense collective experiences, something that no YouTube moment can grasp.

Joy isn't going to be enough. And the underside of the pots and pans of joy is the nagging, perplexing, so hard and heartbreaking question: How do we really transform society? How do we move from street counterpower and making our cities ungovernable, to figuring how ways to shape a society of plenty, self-governed by us all, still with joy? If anarchists or anyone else thinks they know the answer, this year and then some of uprisings hopscotching around the globe is showing us that the answers are even more confusing and distant then ever.

Hence the need, as people fan out in haphazard, ragtag casseroles going every which way throughout Montreal's street and balconies, to become addicted to the joy of trying, again and again, to begin to see and hear and share in person what it feels like to experience the noise of uprising, sans ear plugs, at least metaphorically, because uprisings also have their fair share of pain too.

* * *

If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/


Good Ingredients in the Casseroles


As is true with occupy, time has its own logic with the maple spring—a logic outside that of capitalist time.

So much that's extraordinary happens in such a short time, it creates a dissonance in how we're used to understanding the temporal experience of daily life, or a way in which it's hard to process all that seems different from week to week, day to day, and often hour by hour because it's simply moving too fast. Faster, that is, than the sped-up logic of contemporary capitalism, which seems to be increasingly producing "attention-deficient disorder" in nearly everyone as another way to ensure we're too distracted to defy its social order.

Yet oddly, the rapid speed of transformation in moments of uprising--with their spontaneity, surprise, and solidarity—seems to also to slow time down. Each day can feel like a week because of all that's compacted within it. Interactions can appear luxurious and leisurely, and filled with a depth that usually takes years to forge. We notice things—many things—details large and small, things about ourselves and our neighborhoods and comrades and new friends, things about what is suddenly, inexplicably possible. Our attention, highly charged and accelerated—like the racing heartbeat of new love--isn't deficient at all, but extremely focused.

The weeks, days, hours, and sometimes even seconds, like the seconds when the police appear from nowhere to kettle hundreds, operate on a different clock from capitalism, faster and slower, jumbled and nonlinear, pulling the past into the present which is already the future.

It isn't that we've stopped capitalist time, even if we're basically hitting the button on our alarm clocks at the same instant and then throwing the clock soundly against the wall across from our beds. It's that we're putting that time on notice, not clocking into the work of capitalism; it's that we're contesting and contrasting the time of capitalism, waking people up--ourselves first and foremost—with our own communal timepieces. Here in Montreal this past week, the uprising alarm goes off at 8 pm, with pots and pans (paint cans, cheese graters, garbage can lids, you name it) asking people to wake up to what's going on, but also wake up to what's inside them. What kind of time they can take and make.

For all the many other reasons that time has a different logic during an uprising, there is the enormous one: we're making history, writing ourselves into time. But equally enormous in my mind is this: we're making the minutes our own, writing our own narratives, learning what we'd do with time when it is, truly, our own. Uprisings only begin to give us a taste, and here's where rebellious time perhaps gets most interesting: in the slow savoring of each second, as if it's in ultra-slow motion.

Here I have to pause—within what should be the capitalist work time of my day—to thank some lovely folks in Montreal for inviting me to lunch. In savoring a banquet of homemade delicacies beautifully laid out on a long wooden table, enough food for a week, and each dish taster than next, ending with a heaping bowl of tiny red squares of watermelon lightly tossed in yogurt, during a lunch that stretched four hours, much of what I'm blogging about here was part of what we touched on--and hence, my gratitude. We talked about this time of casseroles over our luxurious and leisurely time of breaking bread and enjoying conversation together. None of us "had time" for this lunch; but because of what's going on, we "made time."

And just like thousands upon thousands of other people, night after night for what's now night 36, we've also "made time" to stand with the student strike and, now, to defy law 78 openly (I think it's night 36; fortunately, I've lost track of the quantitativeness of number of nights in favor of the qualitativeness of being on streets each evening, even for only my 8 or so evening visiting here).

The wake-up call of casseroles is part of that time of ours. For instance, a bit over a week ago, when marching through Montreal's wealthy Westmount neighborhood with some 10,000 others to attempt to reach Premier Charest's house—marching for hours to get there, finally to scale the hills past castle-like buildings with flags waving in some new version of a rebel commune that was part storming the Bastille and part May '68, as I already posted on a Facebook status right afterward—a young woman came storming out of her fancy house to scream at me and my friend: "Why don't you go make noise in your own neighborhood? Why are you waking us up? You woke up my 7-year-old niece!" While that particular women probably still doesn't like the now-much-louder noise of the casseroles, I now see household after household bringing their little 7-year-olds and 3-year-olds and babies out to join in the noise making, and as the hours pass, as we walk through sleepy residential streets, people spill out on to their balconies and the street, bringing their little kids with them, in their little pajamas and bathrobes, holding onto their teddy bears or tiny tin drums or saucepan, sometimes rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Bedtime isn't by the clock, it's after the casserole, for these kids and their families.

I'm sure the noise of the casseroles annoys some, disrupts their capitalism time, but night after night, street after street, one seems the joy of this taking and making of a new time. Besides simply displacing bedtime for some, cars have to slow down, and you'll see people get out of their stuck-in-casseroles-traffic car (many, many, many cars, buses, trucks, taxis, stuck, night after night--an inconvenience, one could say, or a lovely intervention in disturbing capitalist time by slowing business as usual, often with obvious monetary impact) to wave, cheer, and sometimes even pull out their own pot and ladle, to join in the noise.

In this din, a different temporal space of engagement is created. Neighbors meet neighbors, whether because at 8 pm they come to the same corner, or because they appear on their balconies to see the casseroles march by at 10 pm, and turn, smile at each other, and one can imagine/dream (as I am), that this is the start of more interactions, political conversations, perhaps assemblies or shared projects like organizing to improve their nearby park.

There is the time of finding each other, the simple beauty of a time of sociality outside commodification or contrivance. Again and again, on the streets, you experience the far-more-genuine smiles of acknowledment: that we're here, together, making this time of illegality, yes, but also a new way of seeing, participating in, and reclaiming the city. It's only a start; the city still functions, seemingly normally, by day. But the next night, those smiles seem to acknowledge more—like, "yes, I remember seeing you yesterday!" "Oh, you live down the street from me?" "Ah, the police don't know what to do! We're the ones determining where we want to go!"

Then there is the time of resistance, where people are "promising" themselves and each other to be there, night after night, in the streets until they win. What the "win" will be is increasingly unclear. It seems clear that the people have the upper hand, that it's the government "negotiating" and the students and society that has the power to ask for things, perhaps a whole lot more than they imagined. That might not happen. And as I wrote yesterday and likely the day before, each minute of our time, they (police & government & the wealthy & elites) are using their time to determine countermoves. For now, our unpredictable maneuverings and differing temporality from theirs is giving this social movement a time of its own, and the the power-that-be one hell of a time trying to keep up.

So in the time, two of the best ingredients in the casseroles appear (here's where I'm especially thankful to my lunchmates for noting this together):

First, the casseroles may start at 8 pm, but there's no telling when they will stop, where they will go, how many bands large and small there will be, when you'll be on your own with 4 friends and 3 pots between you, or suddenly hear the walk-up call of the metal din growing louder in the nearby distance. It must look amazing from a bird's-eye view, a time-defying swirl of people and noise going every which way, looping around, running into each other, breaking apart into smaller groups, diverging and converging. A sea. That red sea of red squares and silvery metal objects. And smiles. So many miles (er, kilometers) of smiles. People take so much time for that.

Second, and my lunchmates and I all agreed that this was the most beautiful moment of the casseroles nights, is that time when one casseroles crew turns a corner and sees another crew—perhaps 1,000 in one group, and maybe 3,000 in around. For some unexplainable reason, one group will speed up, rushing toward the other, with bigger smiles than ever. And the other group will slow down, oh so slow, until stopping, then a euphoric cheer nearly as loud as the pans will rise up as everyone raises their pots higher still, beating on them loudly. Suddenly, for what's probably only a couple minutes, it's as if the two groups meet in molasses-like slow motion. People look in each other's eyes, really look at each other, turning this moment over in their minds that are trying to comprehend this new time, the time they are taking and making to take and then maybe make some new world that no one has quite put words to yet here.

These nights on the street here feel so out of the ordinary, out of the routine of capitalist time, that these moments of convergence when one casseroles meets another seem like something everyone—without quite knowing it—wants to hold in a stop-action, freeze-frame embrace, like our lunch today, to savor for many more hours than they have time for. So they will remember this feeling, later, when it's gone. When this moment of uprising has past, or perhaps fallen short, or failed altogether.

The best I can understan—being a "foreign" correspondent from the place south of here still called the United States—is that by and large, people think they want to not become like the United States, where education is a high-priced commodity that's more about universities as economic engines (R&D, construction, endowments, etc.) than learning or wisdom; where health care isn't care at all, but insurance, and more often than not, not even insurance; and the list could go on. There's "austerity" here, of course, but it is far less austere (impoverished and inhumane) than what's going on in the United States. But in this demand for somehow trying to hold back time, so that neoliberalism somehow doesn't touch this place called Canada and unravel the time of a certain type of "safety net" or certain sensibility that there should be "social goods" like free or cheap education for all, a new time is emerging, hinting at a wholly different logic of how we count what's valuable, or as one of my lunch friends said, how we move from a world of things that are judged by price to one where the whole of our time is filled with the priceless.

(Photo, taken on my cell phone last night: Tail end of Mont-Royal casseroles: tree-bike w/red leaves & red blinking lights, & anarchopanda wannabe kid w/tiny pot)

If you stumbled across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, please excuse the typos/grammatical errors (it's a blog, after all), and note that you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at my Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/

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