Declaration: Somebody Arrest Me

Declaration made by CLASSE, May 21st 2012. Originally published in French here:

You can sign on to the declaration here:






Having familiarized ourselves with Bill 78, adopted by the Assemblée nationale du Québec on May 18, 2012. Adopted on the 95th day of an already historic student struggle, the special law flagrantly has the objective of suffocating this mobilisation.

Since its adoption, the vocabulary of indignation regarding this has been depleted. Legal practitioners, artists, editorialists, intellectuals and personalities from all walks of life have unanimously denounced this front-line attack on the fundamental and inalienable rights of freedom of expression, of association, and of demonstration. Despite this unanimity and the strength of these condemnations, the government of Québec is staying on its course and refusing to repeal its unjust law.

Facing this obstinacy to trample on the fundamental principles of democracy itself, it is important now to pass to action: this law must be blocked.

In a situation of injustice, inaction is synonymous with complicity. To submit oneself to this law is to accept it. To accept this law is to sanction its content. We are currently witnessing a historic face off between the government and youth. Power is looking at us, attentively. This law is a test. If we submit ourselves to it, we are acknowledging the efficacy of its repression: the government wins. If it wins once, it will do it again. We cannot open the door to this possibility.

This arm of iron is the visible face of a more profound conflict. If youth do not take on their historic role of shielding against authoritarianism, who will? “If youth cool off, the whole world will chatter their teeth,” wrote Georges Bernanos.

This law has come to break the already rattled confidence between the people and their insitutions. Corruption and the disproportionate influence of lobbies and economic interests on governments have, for a long time, eroded this confidence and birthed a political cynicism without precedent. Presently, what we refer to as the assembly of the people is already eroded by partisan interests, the bait of monetary gain and corruption. This law deepens the nail in the coffin of Québécois democracy.

A lot of people are watching us. As human beings, we carry the heritage of past struggles. From Murdochville to Asbestos, not to mention the student strike of 2005, the history of Québec is criss-crossed with difficult struggles, long and sometimes illegal strikes. Those who have initiated these struggles have transmitted a torch that it is forbidden to avoid at this crucial moment. The fundamental rights that we enjoy today are not gifts, they are our legacy. We must also defend them out of respect to those who obtained them for us. If they want to take them away from us, we will fight. Beyond the law, if we must. If it is unjust and we are serious in our intentions to defend justice, we must disobey. This has a name: civil disobedience.

With this law, the government is attacking much more than student associations: it is attacking the mere possibility that each woman and man should have to freely contest decisions that have been made in their names  by those with political power. The government is using fear to repress dissent: these are methods worthy of an authoritarian regime. This liberty-killing law would have us renounce more than just our rights: it would have us renounce what we are. We affirm today that we refuse to capitulate to fear and intimidation. We stay loyal to our principles of individual and collective freedom.

We do not have another choice. Alone facing this law, we are weak. Together, we have to power to block it.

In signing this declaration, we are engaging ourselves to keep struggling; to staying mobilized, in accordance with the fundamental freedoms that have been conferred to us by various national and international charters and conventions. If this means criminal prosecutions in line with Bill 78, we are engaged to face them.

I disobey. Somebody arrest me.

Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.