It won’t be Seattle, or Genoa, or even the Hells Angels. Actually, organizers and local officials are expecting the Global Justice Action Summit (GlobalJAS) and any ensuing demonstrations in Canada—any that involve Missoulians, at least—to be more like a tame college teach-in.
About 50 Missoulians will be heading north to the Canadian border after GlobalJAS ends, just as the G-8 Summit in Calgary begins. However, because of concerns about border restrictions and winter-like weather conditions, they may not try to cross the border at all.
“We’ll just be playing it by ear, weather and politics,” says Bob Giordano, an organizer of the Sustainable Transportation Caravan for Peace and Fellowship. After GlobalJAS wraps up, the caravan—made up of bikes, carpools, electric-powered vehicles, and two biodiesel buses—will leave Missoula on Sunday and head for Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The plan had been to spend one night on the American side in Apgar, and then cross over to spend a night on the Canadian side. There they planned to meet up with people gathered from around the world to discuss global justice in the wake of the G-8 Summit, a gathering of leaders from the world’s eight major industrialized economies.
However, heavy snow in Glacier Park has become their first obstacle, although Giordano says the group may consider alternative ways to push north, such as taking Amtrak or putting on their snowshoes and hiking. More troublesome are potential political obstacles.
“We’re not sure what to expect,” says Giordano, who, despite talks with some customs officials has received only vague answers. “On one hand from what I’ve read it can be justifiable that they don’t want people coming through with handcuffs and things like that, but the way they’re doing it they’re suggesting that people could be turned around either based on looks or if you don’t agree with everything the G-8 is doing.”
GlobalJAS organizer Christophe Olsen has been in touch with a Glacier Park law enforcement official who has been monitoring GlobalJAS. Although his conversations with the official have been positive, Olsen says, it shows that border agents might well be on the lookout for particular activists.
“I think it’ll be pretty tough for most people to get across,” Olsen says. “I want to go up to Canada later in the summer, and so I don’t want to get denied now.”
Instead, Olsen and his group plan to have a peace rally at the U.S.-Canadian border.
“They’re restricting out rights to cross the international borders freely,” he says. “I think that’s a basic infringement on our rights.”
Veteran Missoula activists Rita Jankowski-Bradley and Cliff Bradley, both organizers of GlobalJAS, are determined to cross the border, but only for peaceful means.
“People think of a protest as violent and confrontational and we don’t want that to be the case,” Jankowski-Bradley says. “Most people who are going on to Canada are going to be part of the caravan, to spend time together as a group and have a peace celebration in Glacier. Then the people who go on to Canada would like to participate with some of the alternative meetings going on in Canada, like educational meetings and gatherings of people around the world to exchange ideas.”
Jankowski-Bradley’s group will include a GlobalJAS speaker from South Africa whom she is hosting in Missoula. If the speaker, who travels with a British commonwealth passport, cannot get into Canada, another commonwealth country, then it creates a troubling situation.
“If we can’t get her across the border our civil liberties are in deep trouble,” he says. “We’re not gonna engage in protest or street actions. I would say if we don’t get across the border, if people like us don’t get across the border, any chance of Democratic discussion would be a pretty difficult exercise.”
Meanwhile, the Missoula-area activists who did plan on engaging in street protests in Canada are vacillating because of border-crossing worries and because they are distracted by environmental causes back home. Many activists, particularly those involved in Wild Rockies Earth First!, have turned their attention to logging in the Bitterroot National Forest.
One Bitterroot Valley activist still deciding on whether or not to go is Delyla Wilson. Wilson, who is also involved in the Rocky Mountain Health Collective, conducted street medic training in Missoula in April in preparation for the G-8 Summit. Wilson has done medical work at street protests in Seattle, Washington, D.C., Quebec City, the 2000 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and numerous other hot spots.
“I think it’ll be really difficult to get across the border,” Wilson says. “They’re trying to silence dissent about the things G-8 is trying to accomplish.”
There is some disagreement about where those turned away at the border will go, although most doubt Missoula will become a focal point for major demonstrations.
“Say you drive four hours back to Missoula, what are you gonna do once you get here?” Cliff Bradley asks. “If the protesters can’t get across I’d assume they’d stay at the border and do whatever civil disobedience they’d do at the border.”
At the most, Missoula might see some lower-key demonstrations, activists say.
“I’m not talking about a riot here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if an impromptu demonstration at least happened in Missoula that weekend,” Wilson says. “Because it is the closest community with a real activist community to Calgary.”
Wild rumors had been floating around Missoula, some even suggesting that the border lockdown would flood Missoula with anarchists and a street showdown would ensue.
“I’ve met two or three times with some of the organizers and they’ve assured me that things got blown way out of proportion,” says Missoula County Sheriff Mike McMeekin. “They’re pretty credible folks and we have a good dialogue going. This is not the Hells Angels.”
Both McMeekin and Lt. Greg Willoughby of the Missoula Police Department say their departments are not taking any special precautions. No off-duty officers will be called up for the weekend, for instance.
“Everything I’ve seen with it indicates that the people who are organizing it are very organized themselves,” Willoughby says of GlobalJAS. “And [they] are looking out to make sure people don’t get hurt or create any damage or anything.”