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Section II :pdf
A Diversity of Tactics


For those who were not in Québec during the spring of 2012, it may be difficult to conceive of the multiplicity of forms the strike took. Chameleon-like, the strike adapted itself to different circumstances and audiences, responding to the political and tactical terrain day by day, and becoming infused with the visions and talents of people from a huge range of backgrounds and perspectives. Student unions and afinity groups of strikers and supporters organized hundreds of thousands of events ranging from yarn-bombing to bank blockades, teach-ins and debrief spaces, and mega-demonstrations. By the end of the strike, tactics had included snake demos, manif-actions, sit-ins, art installations, casseroles, maNUfestations (naked demonstrations), informative/propagandist projections on buildings or other sites, 100+ nightly demos, property destruction of various sorts, giant parade-like demonstrations on a historic scale, campus blockades and levées de cours, baby blocs, masquerades, a masked "pirates versus ninjas" demonstration, ironic pro-hike demonstrations complete with individualist slogans, and more.

While Jaouad Laarousi reveals how the tactical transformations of the strike were a necessary part of a great game of cat-and-mouse played by strikers and police across the landscape of Montreal (as well as the rest of Québec), the relatively low profile of on-campus action in 2012 marked a deviation from the traditional sphere of student organizing. Experienced student organizers point to the necessity of a strong campus presence for mobilization, discussion, and information sharing. Although that purpose was sometimes served in Montreal and Québec City by the huge numbers of people in the street, the rapid collapse of mobilization after the Law 12-imposed lockout proves the importance of campuses as an organizing space.

This tension between on-campus and street-oriented organizing corresponds, to a certain extent, with a similar tension felt between the organized student movement and autonomous organizing, both by students and others. The formal student sector launched the strike and in many ways provided the framework for it, but the autonomous initiatives that emerged to fill that framework were often accountable to no one but themselves, and it was in the back-and-forth between the various strands of the movement that the overall shape of the strike was forged. Thus, Xavier Lafrance's chapter on the lessons learned from the 2005 strike sets up the conditions within which the street tactics Jaouad discusses emerged.

Where Montreal's strike was visible daily in the streets, in areas with fewer major economic targets the strike tended to hold onto the tradition of being more campus-based. David Clément describes the mix of public demonstrations and campus occupations that characterized a critical moment in the strike's history: when the first injunction was served forcing students back to class, and the Sûreté du Québec occupation of the Université du Québec campus in Gatineau (north of Ottawa) brought home that this movement might not be ended by demobilization or co-optation, as recent student strikes had been, but by force. Though the rumours the army might be brought in were never realized, the presence of armoured riot police with "less-lethal" weapons became an increasingly common sight from then on.

     » 'manifestation'