First Published: In Struggle! No. 127, October 3, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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On Friday September 29, the police, mounted an operation unprecedented since October 1970. The operation took place at a vacation retreat in the Quebec Eastern Townships 20 miles south of Sherbrooke, where a seminar was being held. Among the participants in the seminar were some IN STRUGGLE! members.
The whole thing started at 10:15 am when more than 15 vehicles, including radio-equipped cars, three paddy wagons and a couple of vans, drove up and parked themselves all around the 240-acre resort, the Summits, on the secondary roads as well as on the main road as far back as the nearest village. It was clear that they were there to prevent the participants in the seminar from leaving the resort. Within 15 minutes, about 50 plainclothes officers armed with long-range rifles and carrying walkie-talkies, binoculars and cameras surrounded the resort.
Seeing what was happening, the participants in the seminar sent an official delegation to meet with the person in charge of the police operation to ask him what was happening and why. The policeman refused to identify himself and told the delegation to mind its own business. Yet, minutes before, a policemen had told one of the participants that the operation was a serious matter and that they knew very well that there were IN STRUGGLE! members taking part in the seminar.
The participants were kept in total isolation and ignorance while 50 armed policemen kept watch and, as they themselves admitted, “waited for a warrant”.
Meanwhile, the police forces and the Quebec Justice Minister refused to comment on the matter. The Quebec Provincial Police (QPP) and the RCMP both denied that their men were involved in the operation. In Coaticook, Corporal Morin of the QPP even revealed that he had received the order to withdraw his men from the operation and said that all inquiries should be addressed to the RCMP. As for the RCMP, Sergeant Lemire of the Sherbrooke detachment declared that his job was restricted to applying the federal laws against drug traffickers and UIC “cheaters” and that he couldn’t send any men out there because “he hadn’t received any complaints”. But the policemen surrounding the resort told a journalist that they were from fhe RCMP. Despite promises to the contrary, neither the RCMP in Montreal nor the Minister of Justice’s office in Quebec City returned calls of inquiry.
It became increasingly evident that the operation and the number of policemen involved were designed to provoke, intimidate and spread panic among the participants.
The participants in the seminar reacted correctly: they were disciplined, sought to protect their work and demonstrated clearly that they were not afraid. There was no question of giving into intimidation. Measures were taken immediately including a rigorous division of work, methods for ensuring that no information fell into police hands, and that the participants’ identity and documents be protected.
The participants also set up a special surveillance team to keep the police at a distance and keep an eye on them. The team didn’t just apply “preventive” measures. They walked to the edge of the woods where police disguised as hunters were hiding and took close-up pictures of them. Some policemen tried to cover their faces and then started screaming in the hope of scaring off the surveillance team, but all this was to no avail. After photographing the police, the team continued its rounds calmly.
But the counter-offensive went even further. If the police forces had been counting on the participants’ fear and silence, they were disappointed. After contacting the RCMP and QPP to force them to comment on the operation, participants phoned the main news media. This provocative police act would not pass unnoticed as so many had in the pest! Acts that are today coming to light at the hearings of the Keable and Macdonald Commissions! CHLT radio and TV in Sherbrooke, the newspapers La Tribune (Sherbrooke), Le Progrès (Magog) and Le Devoir, and the Ligue des droits de l’homme were contacted. Some came directly to the resort to cover the event while others kept in telephone contact throughout the incident.
At the end of the afternoon, the participants in the seminar left the resort accompanied by lawyers and reporters while the police tried to photograph them. But although the police left the scene soon after, their work wasn’t over yet; they tailed the participants as far as Sherbrooke and Montreal.
The most important lesson from the incident is that the State is increasingly using weapons like intimidation and provocation, that it is using them against mass organizations, community groups, unions, and revolutionary political organizations.Security and prevention measures are essential to protect ourselves against such attacks – such measures are not a symptom of paranoia.
Another important lesson is that it is possible to fight back. Rather than turning inwards and saying nothing, we, must immediately and publicly denounce such repressive actions. Answer intimidation by protecting our work and by being combative. Answer provocation with discipline and, without panic or adventurism. Fight those who are counting on our silence by alerting the progressive and democratic forces.