I found this first-hand report of what happened at the past two Vancouver Casseroles marches on Facebook today. Read this in comparison to the radicals like Sasha Wiley-Shaw who were saying that the arrests were all a part of a Stephen Harper led conspiracy to ‘criminalize dissent’. Sounds much different- doesn’t it?
The arrests at this week’s casserole were a continuation of what started last Friday, the 22nd at the 4:00pm casserole. The folks there tried to block a major bridge in the middle of rush hour traffic to cause maximum disruption.
Some of them defied the police when they were asked not to walk into oncoming traffic and, surprise surprise, were arrested. Others there got pissed off and from there on in there’s been a string of arrests, confrontations, jail solidarity, discussions etc all focused on the VPD. (Sasha, unfortunately, you got caught in the crossfire and for that I’m truly sorry).
But let’s get down to the real question here: What does any of this have to do with showing solidarity with the Maple Spring in Quebec? As much as I dislike and distrust the VPD they didn’t pass Bill 78, nor are they trying to enforce it. They may be an arm of the state but they are not the ruling class themselves.
In fact, the VPD seem to have been going out of their way to accommodate the casseroles up until the 22nd action. The fact that last Friday’s 15-person casserole at 4:00 pm was allowed to march in the street and block traffic at all is testament to that fact. I can’t remember ever having that level of cooperation from the police for such a small protest. They would usually tell us to stay on the sidewalks.
They let us block the Cambie street bridge in both directions the previous week with less than 100 people! My sense is that they were wary of doing anything that would appear to be suppressing the democratic right to protest and end up provoking wider sympathy for the casserole.
I’m sure the local ruling class in BC do not want the Quebec spirit to spread here. We probably could have gone right on having effective Casseroles and they would have gone right on accommodating them at least until they got too big to accommodate and the local higher ups started to get nervous.
So, as much as I detest the way police treat people, I think it was a tactical mistake to get pushy and confrontational with the police on the 22nd and then to orient on protesting the police since then. If you make the police the enemy before they’ve actually tried to suppress the movement you’re just handing them a golden opportunity to shut things down.
While there is a broad level of support for solidarity with Quebec, the level of support for protesting the police is much much smaller as should be evident from the very small level of support that has been seen since the 22nd.
If you focus on the police it’s going to alienate a lot of people. And that is exactly what has happened. Of course at some point all movements will likely have to deal with police repression, but the smart ones do their best to avoid that until they have a fairly broad basis of support. That is the strategy that all of the speakers from Quebec last week outlined.
If people decide they’re ready to reorient on building solidarity with Quebec and drop the focus on the VPD I’m all for getting together and having productive organizing sessions to develop materials and methods for informing and winning over wider sections of the 99% to supporting and/or participating in that struggle. As long as the focus remains on the VPD I won’t be there and neither will a lot of other people.”