What You May Have Missed
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Québec has imposed two curfews on its population. The first was announced on January 6, 2021, and came into effect on January 9; it lasted, with various modifications and relaxations, until May 28, 2021. The second curfew was announced on December 30, 2021, and came into effect the very next day, New Year’s Eve. A little over a week later, on January 7, 2022, an anonymous submission titled “Unanimous Support for the Curfew?” appeared on premier local anarchist website Montréal Counter-Information (hereafter MTL Counter-Info), the entirety of which appears below:
Since December 31, 2021, a curfew between 10 pm and 5 am is imposed in the province of Quebec.
I firmly disagree with this oppressive measure and I am sure many of you do. However, there has not been any posts criticizing the curfew since it has been re-instated. I wish more of us would stand against this measure.
We have witnessed a significant increase in authoritarian measures in the province. Public health has been used as an excuse to increase the state’s power.
Let’s unite and fight the police state!
Since this call, there has been no other post on MTL Counter-Info about this second curfew nor any visible, organized anarchist resistance to it. Such “resistance” as there has been has been in Montréal – meaning dozens of people defying the curfew and gathering in front of Legault’s Montréal offices on the evening of January 1, as well as a much larger daytime demonstration on January 8 – has fallen outside of MTL Counter-Info‘s remit. These events (the organizers, the people who showed up, the signage, etc.) were neither anarchist nor anti-authoritarian. Rather, they seem to be of a piece with the dominant political tendencies in opposition not just to the curfew in Québec, but to pandemic-mitigating measures of any kind in all provinces of Canada and other parts of the world (especially the United States, Australia, and China). In blunt terms, I mean that the people showing have been by and large anti-vaxxers, flag-wavers, and kooks. More on this later.
On Thursday, January 13, 2022, the government announced in yet another press conference that the curfew would end on Monday, January 17. I know for a fact that there were some initiatives brewing oppose the curfew in a properly anarchist fashion, but they obviously won’t be executed now. It seems that this second curfew will come and go without any (publicized) anarchist intervention of any kind. This is in contrast to the period of the first curfew in early 2021, when there were at least three demonstrations in Montréal – on January 16, April 18, and April 22, 2021 – organized on a theme of opposing “solutions policières au crise sanitaire” (police-based solutions to the health crisis). Additionally, at least some anarchists participated in the amorphous demonstration, which turned into a classic Montréal riot, on the evening of April 11, 2021, the date that the curfew in designated “red zones” (which had been relaxed on March 17) was re-intensified. Apart from this, there were a few articles against the curfew published on MTL Counter-Info, including the straightforward essay “Against the Curfew” from January 10, 2021.
The Second Curfew
I tend to think that one of the reasons “there has not been any posts criticizing the curfew since it has been re-instated” is that there is nothing new to say.
There is the fact that the curfew is two hours less obnoxious than last January’s. This detail has its uses for the defenders of the government, but not for us.
Another fact is that we didn’t have much warning that a curfew was coming – less warning than last year, in fact.
“Barcelona Anarchists at Low Tide” (After the Crest pt. #3), the author writes that
both leftism and the rationalist worldview it stems from train us to view the world in an unrealistic way. This generates false expectations and false criteria with which to evaluate our struggles. The crux of the matter is that we are not the abstract value both Capital and the Left see in us: we are living beings with our own autonomous rhythms that constantly fly in the face of managerial strategies and social mechanics.
“the leftist obligation to produce motion deprives us of winter. All people in struggle need a time to confront their despair, lick their wounds, and to fall back on the comforting bonds of friendship. Not realizing this animal necessity, many anarchists exhaust themselves by trying to maintain a constant rhythm, or they mistake a slowdown for a loss of strength, and they allow their gains to be washed away. But winter can be an important time to hunker down, to carry forward the projects that sustain us (and realize which those are), to test the strength of new relationships, and to sound the depth of one’s community of struggle.
I bring these passages up because it cannot be emphasized enough that it is currently January in Montréal, i.e. winter is not just a metaphor. More importantly, however, the implicit critique of the initial post on MTL Counter-Info strikes me as indicative of this same “leftist obligation to produce motion” regardless of its utility or larger circumstances. Obviously, to some degree, the curfew has diminished our capacity to fall back on our friends or to test new relationships because it diminishes our ability to see each other, but a curfew, really, is a minor part of the larger complex of restrictions on gatherings and normal sociality.
The curfew has also been proven relatively easy to defy, for those who care to try. I personally know lots of people who regularly defied curfew last year, and who have done so a bit this time too, whether driving across the entire city or meandering through the alleys of their own neighbourhoods, usually to come or go from friends’ houses or various outdoor hangout spots – because, of course, there’s not really anywhere else to go. This sort of activity is hardly the exclusive domain of anarchists, and we are altogether less likely to be stopped by the police when going from point A to point B after curfew than, say, teenagers in Montréal-Nord or Orthodox Jews in Outremont.
A larger collective defiance might be interesting, though of course, as with April 11, 2021, or the anti-vaxxers’ demo near the Olympic Stadium on May 1, that would mean associating with people whose view on ethics and basic reality lies far outside what most North American anarchists would think is acceptable. Perhaps, had the government not done the predictable thing and canceled the curfew relatively quickly, we would get to that place again, where there would be things to say about sharing space with such people. But realistically, that would only happen in the spring, just as it did last year. It is unlikely to happen now – although anything is certainly possible, and it’s clear that the government will (probably) keep throwing curfews at whichever new waves of covid crop up.
Can’t Satisfy Everyone
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a current of anarchists who have comprehensively rejected all measures aimed at mitigating the spread of Covid – not just measures that involve empowering the police, but everything, including vaccines. The Nevermore project is the most prominent example of this current in the Canadian context. Personally, I am okay with vaccines and a lot other measures that make sense to me, and I don’t see much effective difference between these anarchists (who, in many cases, are people who have been involved in our scenes for years) and the mainstream of the anti-vaxxer right. I personally helped to organize an anti-curfew demonstration on April 18, 2021, because I felt it was necessary, in that moment, to create a new pole around which a non-anti-vaxx resistance to the curfew could coalesce. I don’t think the effort was spectacularly successful, but I don’t regret trying.
The other day, I was treated to an inside look at a Signal groupchat, populated by 30+ anarchists and other radicals, where some of the events of spring 2021 were discussed, including the events of April 11 and the demo on April 18. One person claimed that
young anarchists and leftists organized a second anti-curfew demonstration, differentiating theirs from the one several nights earlier, which they recognized belatedly as the usual rightist free-enterprise tripe, and presumably as having little to do with ‘Black youth.’ So now we had a ‘real’ anarchist demonstration against the curfew. Within a few days [in fact, more than a month later] the government cancelled the curfew anyways and the anarchists and other leftists went back to sleep, back to ‘their’ lives.
This comment (which I’ve cleaned up a bit, for the sake of readability) didn’t see any pushback from other participants.
Maybe this is uncalled for, but I feel the need to set the record straight a bit. Personally, I like a good old-fashioned Montréal riot – barely politically coherent, and drawing participation from a wide swathe of society – as much as anyone else. I also hate Rebel News, who were present on the evening of April 11, 2021, and who had been rabble-rousing a bit in Montréal in the days leading up to the event, too. Both things can be true at the same time. It is possible to have appreciated (or participated in) the riot on April 11 while criticizing its limitations and its aimlessness. It is unnecessary to follow in the footsteps of journalists and politicians who, for the sake of their own agendas, have misrepresented that event as a solely anti-vaxx and kookster affair.
We were planning our demo on April 18 before April 11 happened, it just so happens. But even if that weren’t the case, I think it would have been legitimate, and very much within the scope of anarchists’ efforts over the years to keep a culture of street fighting alive and kicking in this city, to organize a collective opportunity for confronting the police and/or maybe defying the curfew (if it lasted that long) that was consistent with our ideas and our ways of doing things. In other words, no Rebel News, no national flags, no Christian preachers, and no multiply stupid denunciations of masks and vaccines. Fighting the police, on the other hand? That would be fine, thank you.
I see a lot of worth in a critique of local anarchists for failing to build a more holistic response to the pandemic, including a deeper practice of mutual aid – though I wonder where that critique is supposed to go and how it is supposed to be useful. The real issue is that our movements are simply not as powerful as we would like them to be, and we have failed, throughout the pandemic, to develop strategies or practices that might help us build the kind of power we need in order to realize any short-term or long-term goals we might have. To a large degree, this has been a failure to overcome isolation. Basic understandings of the facts, be they about vaccines or the demographics of rioters, evidently vary from one online information silo to another. All of this is bad, probably.
I’d like us to do better, because chances are that the pandemic, and the state of exception it has profered, isn’t over yet.