Friday, August 24, 2007

Of Protesters, Trouble-Makers, Police And Agent Provocateurs

The one and only reason I have so far remained "silent" on the SPPNA/Montebello protests and all that has happened is very simple: many Canadian bloggers did an excellent job at covering the events and developments there (nice list of them here). Hence, I felt that my adding to this would not have contributed much more than what was being superbly written and exposed already.

However, now that the SPPNA summit in Montebello is over, I would like to reflect upon a few things.

Let me begin by quoting the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, who does have (easy) access to government leaders and representatives, by virtue of the organization that he is currently presiding:
"I do not say to myself, 'If I don't get an hour with the prime minister in the next six months, I'm going to go out and protest and reject the system outright' (...) I don't do that because civilized human beings - those who believe in democracy - don't do that."
While I agree with him on "rejecting the system outright", I find his pedantic and arrogant contention with regards to "civility", "democracy" and "protesting" quite the typical point of view of the spoiled and privileged - in a similar manner to the idea from the rich and powerful that the poor are "lazy" or "don't want to work".

He probably sincerely thinks that everyone has (or can have) the same access as he does - just like the kid who gets a hefty weekly allowance from his parents thinks that every kid out there is likewise getting the same.

That man either needs to grow up or "get out" more often - or both.

The fact remains that protests are part of a citizen's means and tools of attracting attention to the public on important issues which are little or not covered by the MSM. It is also a powerful means of expressing opinions publicly with numbers on your side, or of showing approval or disapproval of political decisions or governmental policies, or of decrying injustice. Or all of the above.

To this effect, the first and foremost objectives of the Montebello protests were to A) attract attention to the SPPNA; B) raise concerns and issues with the SPPNA; C) point out the lack of transparency in the SPPNA talks; and D) demand a democratic approach to the process of establishing a SPPNA. I'd say here: mission accomplished.

Peaceful protests and demonstrations constitute competence on the part of concerned and engaged citizens. I not only applaud such good folks, I have often been one of them (and will definitely be again numerous times over before I see the end of my days).

But then you have the anarchist kiddies (a clear reference of mine to the rightly and deservedly much maligned script kiddies).

Steve V. at Far and Wide puts it best (emphases mine):
"(...) is there anything more predictable, and frankly boring, than hearing about the latest clash between police and a group of anarchists (...) these constant clashes, every time there is any type of summit, where a camera might be (in) attendance, has lost the power to have impact (...) It is now a pre-requisite that things must deteriorate to the point of tear gas, so that certain groups can claim success at any protest. A badge of honor, a self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein people provoke, to solicit a response, so in turn they can say 'told you so'. I find the entire spectacle mostly distraction, rather than a relevant 'struggle' (...) When you read the press pieces today, the coverage revolves around the violence and the reaction (...) That behavior detracts from the message of the more civil protests, and tends to paint the entire exercise in a bad light. To clarify, there are times when violence occurs, wherein it isn't justified, but sadly, it seems to be a 'must do' when it comes to the black and red gang. I'm sure the small band of borderline hooligans take great pride in their exploits, but for someone who sees the value in civil disobedience, I find the predictable behavior more dull than thought provoking or relevant."
And of course, the anarchist kiddies did not fail to show up at Montebello.

Serious, competent protesting citizens do not pay attention to the police. When, or if, they encounter a police line, they stand in front of it but refrain from engaging the police officers - after all, the objective here is to express your message, not duke it out with the police. Strangely enough, the riot police will very rarely engage such competent, peaceful protesters (unless being so ordered by an incompetent superior - but such things do happen very rarely). In fact, from the many police officers I have known as friends or acquaintances throughout my life, I have found that they always hope that no protester will "light the fire" and are usually sympathetic, if they do not actually agree, with the issues brought up to public light by peaceful, competent protesters. The police officers are only there to do their job and duty - ensuring peace, law and order, to serve and protect. Accordingly, they are very thankful when they are (not) "confronted" by peaceful protesters and are among the first to be relieved by the absence of violence once a protest, or demonstration, is over.

Unfortunately, the mere presence of police constitute an opportunity for violence in the intellectual sloth-driven, immature and adolescent minds of the anarchist kiddies. These four pictures are worth a thousand words each:

See a police fence or line? Do make a "stand off" in front of it. Do taunt and yell at the police officers. Do push against the fence/line and do push back even more when they push back at you. Do bring dogs, batons, rocks and other "weapons". And of course - do light fires and break stuff.

Then you will get your arrests and tear gas, and then you can predict more police violence. You can even blame such police actions for the dwindling of protests. Self-fulfilling prophecy indeed.

The point here is that anarchist kiddies, in their little adolescent minds (regardless of their actual age), can do one thing and one thing only: "rebel" against authority. They must confront it to satisfy their petty needs at "self-expression". All in all, this is nothing more than empty, self-gratifying, pent-up-emotions-liberating, immature protesting.

Violence is the last refuge of incompetence - the Sixth Principle of Incompetence - and anarchist kiddies are the epitome of this.

Unfortunately, it is in good part (although not all) because of anarchist kiddies that police will put undercover agents among protesters in order to identify the rabble-rousers and trouble-makers (and yes - law enforcement and security agencies will do so likewise to actually spy on activist groups, something which I find utterly gratuitous, reprehensible and unacceptable ... but I digress). Case in point in Montebello: those three undercover officers which were outed by peaceful protesters. That these guys were indeed police left little doubt to begin with, as evidenced by their very peculiar behavior and the police-issue boots that they wore. In any case, the Sureté du Québec had no choice but to admit that they indeed planted undercover agents. However, the question does remain whether these three guys were there to spot anarchist kiddies only or whether they were there as actual agent provocateurs, i.e. to stir up the anarchist kiddies into acting incompetently. Indeed, one of the agents carried a sizeable rock in his hand.

Consequently, I add my own voice to calls for a public inquiry on this incident - if only to expose SQ incompetence and attempts at disinformation in this matter, as well as to publicly discuss the twisted approach of using agent provocateurs, its purpose, its justification and its actual usefulness. To this effect, Dr. Dawg has very pertinent questions for such an inquiry.

I reiterate: violence is the last refuge of incompetence.

Legitimate, peaceful and, therefore, competent activist groups and protesters must do a better job at media sensitization so that whenever anarchist kiddies enact their incompetence, whether spurred on by agent provocateurs or not, the media will make a better job of discerning between the two groups - instead of usually conflating them together, as they are lazily prone to do, and thus furthering the perception that protests or demonstrations invariably have an underlying violent intent to them.

A perception which could not be more wrong.

(Cross-posted at DKos, at NION and at Suzie-Q)


  1. Of course, we have no idea now if those "anarchist kiddies" were just more cops.

  2. Good point there, dr. dawg - however, I doubt all anarchist kiddies are agent provocateurs ... having know quite a lot such "kiddies" in my life, sadly enough. ;-)

    But your point illustrate exactly why a public enquiry is needed - to shed light on the practice of using agent provocateurs and thus getting to understanding what is their impact on violent events, as well as their roles in the frequency of such events ...

  3. The thing that got me out of the protest movement at the end of the 1960s was the manner in which it was taken over over by those who advocated violence as a tactic. Their argument was that the pigs would attack us anyway, so we might as well fight back. They were wrong. The whole point of nonviolence is that the willingness to suffer violence without responding in kind gives maximum credibility to the protest.

  4. "The whole point of nonviolence is that the willingness to suffer violence without responding in kind gives maximum credibility to the protest."

    Exactly - and that is how the rest of the public at large becomes at least willing to listen ...

  5. Oops! I forgot to mention that this article was promoted to the Front Page at NION.



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