It's 8: 45 a.m. at the intersection of Gerrard and Parliament Sts., the height of rush-hour. Activist Sarah Blackstock stops her bicycle to begin her first fight of the day. "We don't want you in the neighbourhood. Women have the right to choose and you are interfering with that right," she begins, leaning into the face of an anti-abortion protester.

The man holds a sign depicting a crying baby and the words: "Why mom? When I have so much love to give." And the demonstrator replies - as he does most weeks - that more than half the fetuses aborted in the nearby Cabbagetown Women's Clinic are female. "This isn't actually about babies. It's about a woman's choice," Blackstock says, cycling off to work.

It's a regular morning for Blackstock, advocate for the poor, feminist and anti-globalization crusader. Where many people might avoid confrontation so early in the morning, she hunts it down. "To cycle by and be silent would be a much (worse) way to start the day," she says moments later. "I guess it's what's got to be done."

Blackstock embodies the anti-globalization movement in the country: Young, educated and articulate, she says she is disillusioned with the democratic process that elects governments bent on cannibalizing land and people in order to feed the market, and by a labour movement that she sees as standing back, handing out serviettes to clean up the mess.

But most of all, she is driven to the extreme, fuelled by a moral obligation to confront government and labour - not at the ballot box or negotiation table but on the street. Blackstock is a spokesperson for the Ontario Common Front - a militant coalition of anti-globalization groups whose specified aim is to thwart the Tory government.

"If the government won't create housing, then we have no choice but to take it," she says. On a bone-cold evening last March, she led a group of protesters through the city and up to an abandoned building on Dundas St., where they yanked down its clapboard covering and occupied it. Blackburn was also among the organizers of the "snake march" last fall that outraged local politicians, police officers and Bay St. suits when more than 2,000 anti-poverty protesters wove through downtown intersections, clogging traffic for three hours.

"This government refuses to listen," she told The Star that morning. "So we're going to hit somewhere it hurts - the business class." Last week, she was among the thousands who descended on Calgary and Kananaskis to protest the G-8 summit. "The G-8 agenda is devastating. As long as they continue to implement it, we will do everything we can to undermine that," the 28-year-old explained. In all cases, she came nose-to-nose with an increasingly familiar phalanx of police officers armoured like an army battalion.

"This is about power, about saying we have the power, and if you aren't going to do the right thing, we're going to do it," she said recently over coffee. "I feel a responsibility to do that. And an outrage that we have to fight. There isn't a choice." Listening to Blackstock talk about her life, it's hard to think of her as a militant. She fiddles with her coffee cup and squirms uncomfortably when questions hit too close to home.

"I'm a very private person," she says, her eyes casting about the ceiling for a focal point. There is a public part of myself that is mouthy and opinionated. But there is another part that is quite shy." She grudgingly reveals a few details: She grew up in Oshawa, one of three children of teacher parents; she studied development issues at Trent University, and completed a Masters degree in international relations in Wales; she has been arrested twice for protesting, with the charges dropped in one case and pending in the other.

Blackstock is gay, and lives with her partner in a housing co-op. She concedes there wasn't any particular moment that jolted her out of a comfortable suburban life and into action. "Where do you get that sense of justice?" she repeats dreamily. "Growing up, I always had a sense we have to fight for one another. I remember being little and standing up for the kids who were being picked on ... And I learned early on that not only can you fight back, but that you have a responsibility to, and that you can win."

Her first cause was a feminist one. She organized a vigil at her high school after the 1989 Montreal massacre and volunteered at the women's centre at Trent. Her interests expanded. "All these things are intertwined. If you look at the squat down on Cherry Beach, you think about poor people. And when you start thinking about poverty, very quickly you starting thinking about gender and race, because people of colour and women are more likely to be poor.

"And then you get into the environment, because where is waste most likely to be dumped? Poor communities," she says. She comes again to one topic: The deregulation of markets - or as it's more popularly called globalization. Blackstock joined the anti-globalization movement in Toronto to organize protests, teach-ins, and other campaigns, all the while watching the provincial and national government implement policies heading in the opposite direction.

After five years, she decided it wasn't enough. "We've had Days of Action, we've done the lobbying, we've petitioned until we're blue in the face, we've rallied outside Queen's Park until we're blue in the face, and what have we to show for all that? We have a 60-hour workweek, a welfare system that's despicable with people living off $520 a month. We have a health care system where people can't get the care they need. So, clearly we need a different strategy.

"People need to have a sense of entitlement which I think people in this province and increasingly, globally, don't have," she says. Now, parents are "paying for text books and there's a move to privatize medicine. Maybe it's a general strike, maybe it's saying if the city won't provide affordable housing, we have to take what we need. It's demanding that education remain public and making it clear that any school board that considers implementing the funding formula is illegitimate. It's about being menacing."

By those standards, last week's protests in Alberta were weak-kneed. Politicians and police patted their own backs for overseeing the first international meeting since Seattle that didn't feature tear gas. And while they also lauded protestors for their peaceful demeanour, Blackstock criticized the protesters for being too conciliatory.

"I didn't feel the tone was as militant as I personally would have wanted it to be," she says. "There was too much co-operation with the police, which I found frustrating and it was unnecessary as well." Not everyone agrees. Last October, the fault line between militant protesters and the labour movement split open. The Ontario Federation of Labour president Wayne Samuelson, among others, openly criticized the Ontario Common Front's tactics and refused to endorse its "snake march." The result, he said, would turn people away, rather than recruit new members.

"Some labour leadership is severely mistaken. It has basically stepped back. They'll talk left, but they'll act right, if they act at all," Blackstock says. Militancy doesn't necessarily mean facing off regularly with cops, she says. It means developing new strategies that will do more than groan beneath the weight of cutbacks and winning.

Most nights, Blackstock is hard at work on the grunt jobs that go on behind the curtain of tear gas - committee meetings, planning sessions and doing outreach work. She can relate to the downsized existence of workers in the global market: She works from one contract to the next, without benefits, at small non-government organizations in Toronto. She admits she sometimes goes home and collapses in a puddle of defeat. But the inspiration of her community of fellow activists, and her own commitment, keep her going. "There's just no other choice. How else do you respond to the fact that people are dying unnecessarily? You either decide to look away, to be sad about it, or to be angry about it and demand that it change and know that it can.

"This is a movement. It is supposed to move." (Toronto Star June 30, 2002)