Old stone ramparts will soon be flanked by tall, chain-link fencing. Surveillance cameras will scan the narrow streets. Citizens will be required to produce passes proving they belong, for strangers will not be welcome.
Jim Ranks and Robert Mackenzie, Toronto Star
In spring of 2001, the FTAA Summit of the Americas took place in Quebec City. The FTAA (Federal Trade Area of the Americas), a proposed trade agreement aimed to eliminate or reduce trade barriers between all countries of the americas, was seen as yet another example of neo-liberalist capitalist economies in action and therefore the focus for anti-globalization protest. The Quebec City protests (called A20) brought protesters from around the world, whose enthusiasm was fueled by previous battles in other cities such as the WTO protests in Seattle in June of 1999.
At the very beginning the authorities indicated their intention to use extensive security measurements to restrict the movement of the anti-globalization protesters. A 6,700 man police force, 1,200 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel, tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, attack dogs, pepper spray, helicopters and surveillance system were some of the security implementations. By far what drew the most public response was a 3,8 km fence, dubbed "The Wall of Shame", which enclosed a large part of the old city, government buildings and also cut through the residential neighborhood of St. Jean Baptiste, turning the city into a high security fortress. Access was restricted to those who either lived or worked within the fenced area who required a pass to enter and exit. As the conflict escalated, access become even more limited, as many people on the 'outside' found it difficult to return to their homes, located within the perimeter.
The presence of the fence created a situation of resentment, many questioning the excessive of force and anti-democratic control of its citizens, and the temporary occupation of their city. Many were brought into the conflict through what was perceived as an external invasion, by both the police but also by the anti-globalization protesters coming from other parts of Canada, The United States and other parts of the world. Battles between protesters and security forces around "The Wall of Shame" eventually migrated to the 'green zones' on rue St. Jean, a street populated with trendy bars and cafés and designated for peaceful protest, and even into St. Roche, a working class neighborhood in the lower town, away from the summit. Within a 72 hour period about 5,000 tear gas canisters were deployed, some entering into people's homes, requiring a massive clean up effort for weeks following the event.
I write with eyes burning from teargas. Not from mounting the barricades for democracy, but from playing ball in my neighbours' back yard on this most beautiful of spring days. Suddenly, we all felt pain in our eyes and throats and gathered up the children to go inside. The beautiful day was suddenly sinister - we had no idea what was happening.
Citizen #R7263 of Quebec City keeps a journal documenting her experiences during the Summit of the Americas.
The temporary militarization and occupation of Quebec City is representative of what are now common strategies for 'fortified global summits'. As transient architectural incursions and occupations, these fortified areas function as temporary, mobile cities, a kind of 'postmodern medievalism' employed to 'orchestrate the geographies and political economies of neo-liberal capitalism'. These strategies, which first appeared in Quebec City, have become progressively efficient and sophisticated in their deployment.
During the recent September, 2007, APEC summit in Sydney, 6 km of fencing was used to block out the downtown core from most of the city's residents. The fence and summit in Sydney have many distinguishing features that link to a pattern of events in other cities and locations, such as Quebec City. A space that is marked and emptied out to enable an operation of power. A fence that divides people into two classes, an "Us" or "Them" mentality. A fence that creates a conditional flow of movement. The city resident who becomes a potential threat. A state of alert that becomes part of a established historical pattern of events, such as previous riots or protests in a city. A fortification that incorporates pre-existing urban (class) borders and/or natural barriers such as waterfronts. Sporting or war metaphors that are used to describe both security and protest tactics. A fence that becomes a type of tourist attraction, the protest a spectacle.
What are the psychological effects of these events? When the fence has been dismantled and removed, and the city resumes its normal flow, what are the residual traces of these events within the cultural memory of its residents?
These questions form the basis for A20 Recall, a collective exercise in recall carried out with residents of Quebec City.
In the month of August, 2007 I spent three weeks walking through streets in the city where the perimeter fence formerly stood. While retracing the border lines, interviews were conducted, in parks, on sidewalks and benches, in city workplaces, private businesses and homes, from which memories, perspectives and opinions were shared. Images, text and tracings from this journey form a collaborative online map that are overlays of individual perceptions, experiences and consequences. This map, created through walking, is but one view, drawn from a much larger cultural memory of the FTAA Summit of the Americas and Quebec City (A20) protests, an effort to understand the different ways these global events impose on, transform and affect their local 'host' environments.
A20 Recall, a project by Michelle Teran, was developed during a web residency at La Chambre Blanche.
I would like to thank everybody within Quebec City who generously and openly offered their stories and experiences. I would particularly like to thank Maude Lévesque and François Vallée from La Chambre Blanche for their support. Stéphan Paquet for his very astute programming assistance and Jeanne Landry-Belleau for being a very amiable and considerate guide. I would also like to thank Alain Lalancette, Bernard Grondin, Marcel Fillion, Joseph Bergeron, Sébastian Pichette, François G. Couillard, François Belleau, Nicolas Bélanger and David Nadeau-Bernatchez.
Archival video used within the map is from 'Zones Grises', a film by Nicolas Bélanger and David Nadeau-Bernatchez. Images used within the film were created by David Nadeau-Bernatchez, Nicolas Bélanger, Roy and Karen Harvey, Isabelle Plourde, Maïté Mardomingo, Jean-François Valdenaire, James Partaik, Simon Cossette, Nicolas Renaud, Karen Côté, J-F Richard, Thomas Bégin and Collection d'images médiatiques.
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