Next week I am going to Lancaster, UK to present a paper at Mobility Futures at Lancaster University’s Centre for Mobilities Research. My supervisor Kim Sawchuk is one of the invited speakers! Going places with my supervisor always leaves me feeling so badass, even now. I can’t believe I’m entering the third year of my PhD in September—I still feel like such a kid.
I’ll be spending the weekend after in London seeing some friends, dancing my ass off (even though everyone will be gone to Outlook Festival) & shopping at YMC and MUJI.
I am pretty stoked on my paper presentation! I hope people dig it & give me some constructive feedback. It’s a similar but more mobilities-centric version of a paper I was invited to present at the Sound & Dissent symposium in February. I want to get this published somewhere because I reckon it’s a significant departure from anything that has been written on the strike & protest in general. But if you know of similar work, please point me in that direction. Chiapas rejuvenated me to recognize all the work I have already put into preserving the strike’s legacy and to keep pursuing it.
Title: The 2012 Quebec Student Strike: the movement of protest as a plurality of resistances
Author: Magdalena Olszanowski
For six months in 2012, people took to the streets of Montreal, Canada to protest a 75% tuition hike. In this paper I draw attention toward the soundscapes of daily nocturnal protests of the 2012 Quebec Student Strike in order to develop a means of articulating the plurality of resistances at play through the mobility constituting these events. By using these ambulatory nocturnal protests as a case study, I argue that a dichotomous, or what I call a singular resistance discourse, fails to account for the multi-layered complexity and intentionality of resistance by reductively signifying a given occurrence of resistance as either positive or negative. Mainstream media reinforces the ideological terrain and flow of a city by neatly circumscribing the protest movement as “criminal” and “disruptive” and the city as “victim”, marking the city as passive rather than as an active player processing flows of communication in a network. By defining the city as event as “the relationships constructed in and around the network processing the flows of communication” (Castells, 2010: 232), we can situate the resistances at play in the student strike in explicit relation to each other and to the urban environment through a coordinated movement. By drawing upon Alfred Whitehead’s (1933) terms occurrence and event I contrast two different ways of thinking of resistance. If we think of resistance in the plural —as resistance already applying to an arrangement of related occurrences rather than as a dichotomy between a resistance (i.e., the student movement) and an establishment— then we move towards ways of thinking the sounds and movements of protest in their reshaping of the city as event. This paper argues that the city as event is a site of multiple, mobile and fluid resistances that take place through sets of occurrences that emerge iteratively. These location-specific occurrences include the sounds of protest; forms of sonic crowd dispersal; traffic jams; police blockades; (un)willing listeners such as denizens and tourists; as well as sounds and movements absorbed by architecture and animal life. By analyzing the social and physical environment this paper presents a nuanced understanding of the complex relations of resistant, perhaps even parasitic (Serres, 2007), movements and activities within the human and non-human context of a “host city” and their consequences for mobilities scholarship.
I build upon mobilities scholarship on affect and urban space theory to develop an account of how the mobile occurrences of protest rearrange the city as event. By thinking of resistance in the plural, the boundary between the “criminal” and “victim” dichotomy that is ever-present in protest events becomes blurred, constituting the city as a site for a symbiotic movement of resistances.
Castells, M. (2000). The rise of the network society: Rise of the network society. Oxford: Blackwell.
Serres, M. (2007). The Parasite. (L. R. Schehr, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Whitehead, A. N. (1933). Adventures of ideas. New York: Macmillan Co.
As a result of the draconian measures during the QUEBEC STUDENT STRIKE — One year ago today I was kettled, arrested and humiliated on a STM bus that served as a makeshift holding cell for the 400+ of us that were kettled on the corner of St-Denis and Sherbrooke, a Montreal corner I have not been able to move past since then. Surely, the kettle of that many people did not just happen because of some thrown rocks or whatever else kind of vandalism the SVPM (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal) made up to justify innocent protestors to get arrested. To kettle that many people takes planning, organization and impeccable timing. It also requires a lot of moles. At this point I had been going to many day and night marches, wore my red square with pride and engaged in many intense debates and negotiations with my university and colleagues on the issue.
I wrote a reflection on the strike “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” and had a photo essay “#Casserolesencours St-Henri” in open wi: journal of mobile media, a special two-issue edition which I co-edited with Kim Sawchuk, Alison Loader, Owen Chapman and Ben Spencer. I also co-edited a special issue of Transmutations journal, in which I have a sound piece collab with Dave Madden called “The nocturnal sound moves of the Quebec Student Strike” that came out of a paper “The Nocturnal Sounds of 2012 Quebec Student Strike: Experiencing Protest as a Plurality of Resistances“ I presented at the Sound & Dissent symposium at Concordia 1 February 2013. I’m presenting another version of this paper in Lancaster, UK at the Mobility Futures conference, and hope to publish it following that feedback. I also had a long-form interview on the CBC “As it Happens”, a spot on CTV, CKUT roundtable and Guardian UK interview discussing my arrest. Clearly, the student strike has inscribed my body and my artistic and scholarly practice in endless ways…
The story I wrote regarding my arrest was published in n+1: montreal diaries (all the photos are mine too) and open wi: journal of mobile media is below.
Detention on St-Denis
May 27, 2012
The night I am arrested is a warm spring night, the thirtieth night of continuous protests to be exact. It’s the day after the May 22 rally that inspired over 200,000 people to walk through the streets of Montreal. My friend Paul and I are riding our bikes in the demo. We talk about the people around us, their families, their children; about how happy we are, how incredible it is to be marching here, and how much we love the city. The crowd moves fast. Unlike the other nights we’ve marched, which felt tense and uncomfortable, tonight is jovial and vibrant.
We get off our bikes at Rue St-Denis. Boom! We hear a blast, and a cloud of smoke hovers over the intersection. I’m not sure where we are. People start running toward me.
“Get your fucking bike out of the way!”
I try to run north on St-Denis in the direction of the crowd, but they start to head toward me, pushing me back. I yell for Paul. “Please don’t leave,” I say, as we both try to maneuver our bikes northwest, but there’s no getting them above the high curb and through the throng of bodies. North of us are two rows of Montreal police (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, or SVPM). We’re turning around to go back down when the tear gas grips the back of my throat. I wrap my shawl around my nose and mouth, scrambling and anxious, wondering what the fuck is going on. I feel like I’m going in a circle. Suddenly the police are charging us, and I try to run the other way, but the bike is unwieldy and I’m nervous I will lose Paul. The cops start shoving from the other side, and every time I turn my head there are more cops with masks and shields lunging toward us, smoke hanging overhead, until there’s no way out. Then it starts again: “MOVE, MOVE, MOVE, MARCHE, MARCHE.” So we move, but more cops on the other side are shouting the same thing from the other direction. I hold onto Paul’s arm, unable to think, dizzy from tear gas and anxiety, my heart pounding through my rib cage. Every time I move one way, I am pushed back the other way. I tighten my shawl for fear of more tear gas and can hardly stand. We ask the cops if we can lock our bikes to a stand. We beg enough that they concede, and then promptly shove us back into the streets. I imagine this may be the last time I see my bicycle.
“What’s happening?” I ask.
“I think we were just kettled,” Paul says.
“What? No, after the G20, they’re not allowed to do that.”
“Oh, I think they just did.”
I don’t believe him.
We stand around for a while. I tweet uncertainties. Everyone is milling about in a circle. People start shouting chants about freedom and civil liberties. Eventually most of us sit down.
I sit in silence, staring at everyone around me. Their faces are at ease, comfortable.
“What do you think is going to happen?”
“I don’t know—they’ll probably arrest us.”
“They can’t arrest us all . . . there’s so many of us.”
“Sure they can,” Paul says, and walks off.
I let him go and stay on the curb, hugging my knees to my chest, waiting. When Paul comes back, I tell him to sit beside me. We watch a makeshift football game with a ball made out of a plastic bottle.
Paul notes that several public buses have arrived.
“Why?” I ask.
“To transport us.”
People start getting up, and I hear a police officer announcing something.
“ . . . anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. . .”
“The cats!” I suddenly remember.
“I left them without food because I’m trying to put them on a diet!”
“Can you call any friends to feed them?”
“I will call my superintendent, but it’s so late, and what will I say? I got arrested, will you please feed my cats?”
“We should line up,” Paul says to me. “Imagine how long it’s going to take to process everyone. If we line up now, we’ll get out earlier.”
I grab his shoulder as he leads me up to the front, where some elderly people are already in line. I am nervous. There’s so much misinformation about where we’re going, where we will be held, what we are getting arrested for, and whether Bill 78 will be enacted. No one seems to know and the cops say something different every time.
I walk up.
“Do you have ID?”
“Yes,” I reply as one of the cops searches my bag.
“What a mess in there,” he mutters in French to his colleague.
They find my ID, search me, grab my shoulders to turn me around, and handcuff my wrists together.
Two policemen walk me to the line by the bus, holding my purse, and wait until it’s my turn to get on. They write down my identification information and give me a wristband with a number to claim my purse later. I sit down and wait. The bus fills up with people younger than me. Then we wait. Eventually, the bus starts moving and we drive, and drive, and drive. Once in northeast Montreal, we wait some more. The buses become holding cells. I feel sick—tear gas, nausea, and my bladder kicking in. Lightheaded, I ask a cop if I can go to the bathroom. She rolls her eyes and tells me to sit down. I ask again. I wait. I ask the other cops. Each insists that everyone on the bus has to urinate and that, like them, I have to wait.
“What if I pee my pants?”
“Then you have to live with it.”
“So then if I pee on the bus I won’t get in trouble?”
“Go away, you won’t do that.”
I return to my seat but the pain is unbearable.
I crouch down in the middle of the bus and a few women stand around me creating a human shield, while I pull down my leggings with my handcuffed hands –— I piss, and I piss, and I keep pissing until the stream of urine rolls around the bus under everyone’s feet.
“You are brave. Be glad you did that. Fuck ’em.”
I smile sheepishly and appreciate the camaraderie, as the rest of the bus erupts in anger at the police.
“How can you let a woman pee on the bus? How can you treat us like animals?”
“Because you are. Shut up and stay put,” the police shout back, which only causes more yelling.
“A woman peed on the bus! A woman peed on the bus! You should be ashamed!” some of them chant in unison, but the police don’t even turn around to look at us. I watch my piss run back and forth. By now, another man is doing the same thing: flooding the bus with urine. Somehow this makes time pass more quickly. An hour later our bus pulls up to the processing table and a smiling policeman hands me a ticket as the morning sun hits my face.
That night over 400 people were arrested at Sherbrooke Avenue and Rue St-Denis. Most of us were given $634 tickets for breaking the newly revised municipal bylaw P-6, which, among other things, does not allow face coverings, such as the shawl I used, and requires that protest organizers submit exact march routes to the police. Free speech is now only free when the police grant us permission.