Written by Staff Reports
I met Marie in Quebec. We paused in our slow hike up rue Chevalier and she pulled her bandanna down from her mouth. In cautious English, she asked: "How do you find Quebec City?"
I paused too, my eyes red and stinging. "I find Quebec beautiful." She tugged her bandanna back up over her face. I continued: "And strong."
The sound of the crowd against the fence was our compass as we continued up the hill. Families moved out onto porches when the teargas blew off, and joined in the defining chant of the protest: "Solidarity!"
At the end of April, trade secretaries from 34 countries met in a citadel in Quebec City. For two days, they worked intensively on an agreement called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
I joined tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets to show my support for fair trade and an open, democratic process.
In response to the threat of democracy, the negotiators walled themselves up inside of four kilometers of concrete and chain-link fence, the walls of the old city of Quebec, and the biggest police operation in the history of Canada.
Outside the walls and barriers, I approached a line of police in riot-gear, my hands open and in the air.
An officer gripped his gun and walked toward me. I sat down. Another officer shot a military-issue teargas grenade upwind from me. Standing to go, I pulled my bandanna up.
Behind me, a thousand people chanted in three languages, "This is what democracy looks like." Someone I'd never met helped me out of the gas cloud and asked, "Parlez-vous Anglais?"
As the negotiators debated about how to remove barriers to trade, the outer wall of their fortress came down.
People from 34 countries pulled down the fence and stepped back from the lines of police in riot gear. A cheer went up at the first of nine breaches, and then a chant began.
"One: we are the people. Two: a little bit louder. Three: and we want justice for all people."
Months before going to Quebec to protest, I was presented with a very old vision of community that I never before encountered. I looked deep into my heart to ask God for guidance.
The ideas I encountered in meetings, workshops, and on websites were beautiful; but I wondered if they were good. Micah wrote: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
In the following months, I worked to learn about the FTAA and to teach others about it. I listened to the complexity of economic realities and to different visions for the future, and took what I knew to discussions and teach-ins.
I listened to God's plan for a just, kind, and humble world. I knew that I was part of a group of committed activists working for positive social change.
Hundreds and hundreds of groups sent representatives north to work toward the reality of fair trade and against the threat of unfair trade.
The crowds in Quebec, and in cities all over the hemisphere, were an early voice of a long hard movement for justice and community.
Architects of the future swelled the streets of Quebec for just a moment before spreading back around the world.
Now home, tired and energized, I am left with the size of the crowds and the size of our task.
The movement is both beautiful and strong.
Luke Keller, 17, will enter Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., in the fall. He is a member of First Congregational UCC in Concord, N.H.
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