In Rossland, a Grim Commemoration of the '03 Riots

September 22nd, 2008

Was it only five years ago that Rosslanders took to the streets in a scene reminiscent of Paris in ’68 or Prague in ’89? Was it really only five short years ago that residents of this city took a brave but doomed stance against the installation of two soulless sentinels against our erstwhile bucolic skyscape?

The pair of illuminated signs that today mar the intersection of Washington and Columbia went up in the end, but not before Rosslanders opposed the overlords of Victoria with all their might and main. A mighty crowd came together in the street to pledge defiance, talk, and drink coffee. Coffee was imbibed. Speeches were made. But in the end, it was all for naught.

On Sunday afternoon, with a light rain falling from the sky, a small group of men and women, grizzled veterans of the uprising, gathered to share both memories and a pain that lingers still.

“We tried to reason with them,” said Bill Grip, one of the leaders of the protests. “We said if they put mining helmets on their heads, you know, pickaxes over their shoulers or something, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. It was our Woodstock, man,” Grip whispered, rubbing his eyes and looking away.

As the sun slipped behind Record Ridge, Gripp’s friend, Burly Stomp, came up and placed a rough hand on Grip’s trembling shoulder. “No, man. It was more our ‘Naam. We lost, man. We lost.”

“No,” returned Grip, “It was more of a Woodstock. Remember the vibes? We can’t forget the vibes, Burly. The vibes are what last. Vibes last forever.”

As the sun disappeared and the signs began to shine with ghostly light, someone strummed a guitar as local mom and poet Beckie Squall, only 14 at the time of the riots, recited a few lines written in memory of a dream:

Stalkers in the Sky

I cross
The line
Beneath the baleful watch
Of stalkers in the
I push
My stroller.

No fingers, they, above me
No noses
No gender do I see.

No toes. Everything human amputated.

My child will hear these stories
My child will learn
My child will one day step
Into the traffic.

Squall’s reading was followed by a short silence, after which the crowd began to disperse; they drifted away in twos and threes, until all that was left on Columbia were a pair of pale figures. Unmoving, unmoved.

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