November 18, 2001

" 'Precisely wrong time to be silent'; N.S. activist acknowledges Sept. 11 sapped strength of anti-globalization forces"

The Sunday Herald
Nova Scotia, Sunday, November 18, 2001, p. A3

'Precisely wrong time to be silent'; N.S. activist acknowledges Sept. 11 sapped strength of anti-globalization forces

Chris Arsenault
Special to The Sunday Herald

When Halifax activist Rob Parker strapped on his protest gear - a waterproof jacket, bottle of vinegar and red bandanna - and headed out for the first major anti-globalization protest since the Sept. 11 attacks, he didn't quite know what to expect.

The Saint Mary's University political science student, who had been in Quebec City to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas talks, said that given the current climate of "hyper-patriotism and the us versus them mentality," he felt the antiwar protest would be different.

"I believe this is precisely the wrong time to be silent, because politicians are trying to take away civil liberties which they couldn't have touched before Sept. 11," he said.

Parker took a week off school to drive to Ottawa to protest against meetings of the G-20, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He was among two busloads of Maritime activists at the weekend demonstrations.

Friday's events began at noon in a downtown park on Somerset Street, with a series of speakers and free food. From there, protesters embarked on a snake march, a procession with no set direction or leader, through the streets of downtown Ottawa.

Despite the presence of fully equipped riot police and rumours of violence, the protest was calm but certainly not quiet. Demonstrators chanted: "World Bank - shut it down!" And: "There ain't no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don't stop!"

One of the loudest groups in the procession was Halifax's anarchist marching band, a group of black-clad demonstrators banging drums, waving flags and tooting instruments.

"It's a hard time for this movement," said the band's second-chair whistle-blower, who used the alias Tantrum. "We are trying to make a lot of noise so people won't forget about these issues."

In the late afternoon, the march joined forces with antiwar activists at a downtown intersection to listen to speakers from Ottawa's Muslim community and other groups.

Police fired a round of tear gas, but protesters held their ground and the speeches continued.

"We had a really hard time organizing the logistics for coming to Ottawa," said an organizer with the Mobilization for Global Justice, the umbrella group for Halifax activists. He asked not to be named.

"We had more than a year to fundraise, book buses and plan the Quebec protests. We only started organizing for these ones a little over a month ago."
The meetings and protests, which continued Saturday, were originally scheduled for Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., where 100,000 protesters were expected. But the actions were cancelled and later moved to Ottawa.

Activists took to the streets because they blame the IMF and World Bank for the Third World's debt crisis and for programs they say force countries in debt to privatize public services, grow food for export rather than local consumption, destroy the environment to profit major corporations and cut social spending.

They say the G-20 is a way for rich countries to give lip service to the concerns of the poor by including less-developed countries in their meetings.
Supporters of these institutions claim trade liberalization, open markets and increased foreign investment will lead to prosperity for the third world.

"The IMF, World Bank and G-20 are part of a new imperialist conquest where resources are taken from the impoverished south and given to the industrialized north," said David Pal, a student from Dalhousie University.

But most activists say it will be an uphill battle for the so-called global justice movement to regain the momentum it had before Sept. 11.

"This protest was a lot smaller than previous ones," Parker said.
"But today I talked to a taxi driver who recognized that the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor, due to the type of globalization enforced by the IMF and G-20.

"When the smoke clears from the terrorist attacks, I think the movement can regain strength, but I guess only time will tell."

Category: News

Uniform subject(s): Foreign policy and foreign relations; Human rights and freedoms; Riots and demonstrations; World economy
Length: Medium, 556 words
© 2001 The Sunday Herald - Halifax. All rights reserved.
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