Montreal. QC. On Monday, December 7th at 7am over 50 people attempted to gather outside the Notre-Dame tent encampment in support of residents facing eviction by the cops that morning. This camp was established earlier in the summer of this year by those living without safe and secure shelter. The SPVM had already set up a perimeter, and they defended it to prevent supporters from approaching the camp. As a result, the police were able to easily remove the camp’s residents, as planned.
Originally published by Montreal Counter Info.
While it was inspiring to see so many people come out to demonstrate, the morning’s solidarity demo ended similarly to many of the anti-fascist actions at the Lacolle border – the cops immobilize the crowd, and then they are prevented from achieving their goals. By this point, the only thing left to do was to shout profanities. It was disempowering and ineffective considering that the objective of that morning’s action was to stop the evictions.
How might this have looked different? How might the people showing up have related in a manner that deterred the cops from forcefully removing people from their homes and community they had established? This reflection recalls another possible ending, one that is entirely speculative.
I want to begin by acknowledging a few important points to situate how I relate to Monday’s morning call for solidarity: a) while some residents from the camp expressed a willingness to be relocated by the SPVM and social services, several residents expressed an ardent commitment to remaining there despite the threat of eviction. This reflection is an attempt to imagine how supporters could have facilitated conditions so that these residents might have been able to stay; b) there are no certainties in any strategic (re)imagining, so I offer this as a way to consider future responses; c) there were several people present that morning who had already been collaborating with the residents of notre-dame’s encampment and they shared critical information that permitted the solidarity action to materialize. These existing relationships are crucial to any solidarity response; d) I do not have existing relationships with any of the residents or organizers of this tent city.
With the above in mind, I would like to reimagine Monday morning’s action through the lens of deterrence. So, permit me to speculate…
Back in early November, when the weather was changing, the nights becoming colder and the days shorter, many people in the constellation of Montreal’s radical left, anarchist and autonomous organizing community came together to discuss what to do when the residents of the Notre-Dame encampment would face an eviction. They expected this scenario not only because of past experiences, but also because they had prior relationships with people at the camp, and the police had already done similar evictions in other parts of the city as well as in other large cities, like Toronto. They knew to expect a police perimeter restricting access to the camp beginning early the morning of the eviction.
Through conversation and collaboration, organizers of this rapid response coalition arrived at a proposal to bring to the residents of the tent-city: when police came with their eviction threat, supporters would discreetly move into the camp the night before, pitch their tents and be ready in the morning to respond when the cops, firefighters, and social services arrived.
The response by residents to this proposal was mixed. Some were willing to relocate with the support of social services and expressed concerns that such an action would prevent them from being relocated with the limited support they knew the city could offer. Other residents expressed some hesitation, but were generally down with the overall idea of remaining in place and keeping their autonomous community intact. This was super important to many given the fact that for the last 4-5 months many of them had been building relationships of support within this camp. After much discussion, the decision was made that this proposal would go ahead with the understanding that no resident would be blocked from receiving the support the city was offering, even if they knew the support being offered was limited and superficial at best. Everyone walked away from that meeting with a clear understanding of what would happen when the threat of eviction arose.
One month later…
Sometime around 6am, on the morning of December 7th, the first cruiser pulled up. The cops thought they had the upper hand given that the solidarity actions had been posted on Facebook and Twitter for later that morning. However, the organizers of the overnight action made sure to spread the word via secure communication tools and word-of-mouth only. Forty people showed up the night before with tents, and they were all ready to respond. As the cops approached the camp, supporters poured out of their tents and formed a perimeter around the camp’s core area. In the meantime, they were able to get word out to people outside the encampment who were on stand-by. Once these people got the word, they could tell more people to show up so as to reinforce the lines around the eastern and western edges of the camp.
The cops were taken aback by the outpouring of support as well as the willingness of supporters to hold the line. By 730am, the cops were surrounded by an outer and inner line of supporters and people were still showing up by 8am. The police assessed the situation and concluded immediate action could not be taken. While the eviction was avoided that day, the threat was still present. The morning’s action emboldened many residents who began discussing the ways they could try and reinforce their position. The outcome remains unknown, but both residents at the camp and their supporters felt empowered by this initial success.
And while this is just a speculative outcome, I hope it offers something for further reflection about the ways we can shift from a reactionary stance of solidarity towards a stance that carries within it the possibility to truly deter the cops from fuckin’ with the neighbourhood.
Vers une vie sans flic.
Keep the Enough 14 blog and the Enough 14 Info-Café (now more than ever, we need a new space) going. You can do that with a donation here, or by ordering stickers, posters, t-shirts , hoodies or one of the other items here or click at the image below.