Fashion Tips from Angry Anarchists

Fashion is a fickle mistress. Trends move at lightning speed, and if one isn't careful, one can end up looking like yesterday's news in last year's capris. If you thought that the Left was a good place to seek refuge from fashion, think again: even the protest crowd has an eye for what’s in and what’s definitely out. Did you show up in Quebec City clad in elaborate butterfly wings or a sea turtle suit? Oops! The endangered species look has already been relegated to the protest fashion trash heap of history.

The latest look: portable strap-on wings with a little glitter. This must-have protest accessory is unisex and compliments any outfit. For an added bonus, the lightweight wings make dodging tear gas canisters a snap.

Want more? From fashion, to food, to famous protesters, here’s a look at what was hot and what was not at the recent Summit of the Americas protest.

In: Clown Noses
By keeping their cameras trained on the Black Bloc uprising at the wall, the U.S. media missed out on the spectacular nature of the Quebec City protests. Rainbow wigs, clown noses, mad cow costumes and sheep suits (as in "democracy is baaaaad" and "Dubya is one of us") abounded. Even at the fence, the protests had the feel of an international circus -- or a movie about a trade agreement starring Jerry Lewis.

Out: That Twinkly Hand Thing
Intended to take the place of clapping -- because it's disempowering? -- that twinkly hand thing, said to have been adapted from the "applause" sign in American sign language, is all the rage at convergence centers and other globo kid events. "But it looks so strange," commented one French visitor to Quebec. Besides, what are blind protesters supposed to do?

In: Drumming
The sound of protesters drumming on bongos, empty water bottles and whatever else they could find provided an eerie soundtrack for the sci-fi tear gas scene at the "wall of shame."

Out: Banging Truncheons against Riot Shields
This psychological tactic used to intimidate demonstrators originated in the U.S. But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police perfected the art of "banging" in Quebec. The strong-arm tactics of the RCMP were even, disavowed by the provincial police force, the Sûrete du Quebec. More than one police officer in this independence-minded province was heard asking, "Who is really in charge here?"

In: Speaking French (second only to looking French)
Groovy French chants like "so-so-so-solidarite" brought the whole crowd together. Plus it was cute to hear burly American union guys sounding all "euro."

Out: Speaking Bush
Our Alfred E. Neuman of a Prez sounded especially thick at his first big summit appearance. Dim-witted sound bites were out-bested only by glazed-over photo-ops. Did anyone else notice Mrs. Bush daubing at her eyes with a homespun hanky during a cozy delegate family group shot? Do they have tear gas in Texas?

In: Transport via Catapult
And the top prize for most inventive device seen at a protest goes to -- the Teddy Bear Catapult. Claimed to be the work of the Deconstructionist Institute for Surreal Topology (DIST), the 25 x 10 sling shot had enough power to send giant flopping teddy bears hurtling over the perimeter into the well-armed arms of the Canadian security forces. Members of the "Medieval Bloc," clad in pot helmets and wielding lids for shields, were in charge of firing the catapult.

Out: Transport via Unmarked Car
Activist Jaggi Singh of the group Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitaliste, or CLAC, found himself being unceremoniously bundled into an unmarked car, courtesy of Canadian security forces. The charge: Singh was said to be the owner of the above Teddy Bear Catapult. The "Jaggi napping," which had the feel of an Argentine military operation, was not even the first for Mr. Singh. He was nabbed last summer during protests against the Organization of American States in Windsor.

In: Tarte aux Champignons et aux echalotes
With tear gas shrouding the city, and protests in high gear, many Quebecois activists and their guests still found plenty of opportunities to sample delicious regional fare and even quaff a glass or two of Bordeaux. While this correspondent found the "horse meat steak" a bit heavy going prior to an afternoon of marching, the mussels were lovely and local cheeses to die for.

Out: Vegan Fare
Is it just me or did the Black Bloc folks look positively malnourished? It’s a wonder they got that wall down at all. Here's a tip: while in Quebec, why not eat as the people do?

In: Tartes
A favorite European protest tool, the pies were flying in Quebec. Even the inventor of the tarte-tossing gesture was on hand. Apparently, there is nothing like a face full of whipped cream to knock one down a peg or two. Phillipe Duhamel, spokesman for the Montreal activist group SalAMI, took a tarte, undeserved in this correspondent's opinion. A few other folks could probably have used one.

Out: Overexposed Globo Stars
A spot near the top of the tarte list goes to Jose Bove, mustachioed sheep farmer and McDonald's smasher. Canadian security had every port on the look out for him -- and to his credit, most McDonalds restaurants in Quebec City closed down during the protests. But Monsieur Bove, ever surrounded by an adoring media crowd, seems to be suffering from a swollen tete. Someone get this man a gâteau de chevre.

In: Spontaneous Celebrations at the Fence
Unlike Seattle, Washington and Prague, plenty of local residents and union members turned out to protest in Quebec City. In retrospect, surrounding the city’s power center with a 2.5-mile chain-link fence probably wasn't the best idea. "Our government is dead wrong to behave in a manner that suggests we have forgotten what democracy is all about," wrote former Mulroney Industry Minister Sinclair Stevens in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Out: Over-choreographed Labor Marches, Direct Actionistas
During Saturday's giant "People's March," thousands of union members headed uptown to take on the security perimeter. Yet the 50,000 + who stayed with the official march were steered into a distant suburban parking lot. What's up with that? Also out: members of the "have gas mask, will travel" crowd. It's great to have a globe-trotting protest movement, but as Quebec City showed, the people's message packs an extra punch when delivered by people who aren't just in town for a demo.

Jenny Marx is the pen name of a U.S.-based writer and activist.

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