UPDATE – Official Callout: June 25+26: Solidarity w Six Nations Land Defenders
Community Solidarity Network (CSN) Callout: Remember the G20 by supporting criminalized Indigenous Land Defenders and solidarity activists
An invitation to support front line activists
This June 26, exactly two years after the police kicked in my door for a pre-emptive arrest, two years after the burning cop cars and the black bloc riot, two years after the egregious police crackdown, i am finally going to be sentenced by an ontario court. We’ve know for months exactly what my sentence would be as it arises from a plea deal made in order to get the charges dropped for several of our co-accused, but in less than two weeks it will be official and i will be back in jail.
On the same day, a friend and ally, Fran Doxtator, also known as Flower, will be up in court in Cayuga on charges stemming from a February 18 incident at Kanonhstaton, the Six Nations reclamation site at Caledonia. Flower is a Haudenosaunee land defender, grandmother, and a member of the April 28 Coalition. Her newest charges are yet another instance of the criminalisation of Six Nations land defenders and their community, and must be challenged accordingly. For more info on Flower’s case see this link.
Support Flower: Get on the Bus
As luck would have it, Flower’s hearing is at 2pm and mine is at 10am, which means there is time for people to go to both. The April 28 Coalition is charting a bus that will bring people from the courthouse at 2201 Finch W in toronto (after my hearing) to the courthouse in Cayuga (for Flower’s hearing), and then back to toronto [more info, and a callout coming soon]. I want to strongly encourage people to fill that bus and to pack the court for Flower, to show solidarity with her and other Six Nations Land Defenders.
If i were not going to jail on #June26, i would be going to Cayuga to support Flower and the efforts and intents of Six Nations land defenders.
Since the g20, “criminalisation” and support have been a hot topics in activist and social movement circles. However, the criminalisation of Indigenous land defenders and sovereigntists has been a long standing practise in this country (and other colonial states), as has the criminalisation of migrant communities and other racialised and poor communities.
Resisting criminalisation as well as legal/jail support have increasingly become cornerstones of contemporary activist activities amongst settlers on ‘The Left’. Now it is time that we practice this at a level deeper and more meaningful than the simple support of our friends and closest comrades; it is time we shift our support to those whose communities are most targeted by the state, those whose struggles are at the root of the broader anti-colonial resistance on Turtle Island.
Resistance against austerity, colonialism, and criminalisation
There is more connection between these two cases than the simple criminalisation of front line activists, land defenders and organisers. There is also more connection here than the fact that, while our charges are seemingly unrelated, Flower and I have known each other for the better part of a decade now, and more than a few times we have stood on the same side of a line together.
Alongside the solidarity of anti-colonial activists, perhaps the most meaningful connection here lies in the fact that it is not our methods that the state seeks to criminalise, but our ideas and our stories and our bodies; they seek to crimialise both dissent and dissenters, in and of themselves.
The reason both dissent and the bodies and lives of those who would resist need to be criminalised by the state is because our resistance to colonialism and capitalism (of which austerity is but a face), fundamentally undermines the authority with which they govern and rule. When we challenge austerity we challenge the very notion that capitalism is an appropriate form of economic management. When we challenge colonialism we challenge the very legitimacy of the state and its mythologies.
When we insist that “we are all treaty people”, like when we insist that these are “our streets”, we tell the state as we tell the world, that we will not be ruled by those who exploit people and the planet for profit. We will be guided instead by treaties made between autonomous nations, and we will be guided by our historical connections to the earth and the lessons that have been learned through generations of relationships.
We will continue to resist, in part, because we know that this–this era of colonlialism and capitalism–cannot last. We will keep fighting for survival and for a better world that we all know is possible.
Fight on all fronts
The most important thing we can do, is almost always, to keep fighting on all fronts, from the locations that make sense for us.
June 26 is also the anniversary of the arrest of Mohammad Mahjoub who is one of the Secret Trial 5. He has been detained on secret information for 12 years, and is holding a rally in Toronto on this day. He was arrested on the basis of racial profile and has never even been charged, under a “security certificate” regime that only applies to non-citizens where the court has ruled that the presumption of innocence does not apply
Also on June 26, is a local fight in the Downtown East neighborhood of toronto for a men’s harm reduction shelter that the city is trying to cut and close down. This is a key example of how austerity is being brought down in this City – targeting the poor by shutting down a homeless shelter in the midst of a housing crisis and overcrowding in the shelters.
All of these struggles are deeply and intimately connected.
For people who are not able to get on the bus to Cayuga to support Flower and Six Nations Land Defenders in general, i would strongly encourage people to attend the morning City Council meeting to support the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s fight for the SchoolHouse, and to attend the rally for Mohammad Mahjoub, rather than just coming to court for me and skipping these other events.
*more info about getting on the bus will be available here and at April 28 Coalition soon*
Reflections on the Torch Relay through Southern Ontario
On the day the Olympic Torch Relay entered Ontario, AW@L conducted dual actions; confronting the City of Kitchener’s pre-Olympic Torch Celebration at City Hall and confronting Olympic sponsor RBC at their Uptown Waterloo branch office.
Our goal that day had been to draw attention to the ways that Canada and RBC are using the Olympics to Greenwash their brutal records of environmental destruction. That was the same week that Canada’s PM Stephen Harper was awarded the Fossil of the Year award by civil society at the Copenhagen summits.
Many of the people we spoke to that day, at either City Hall in Kitchener or out front of the RBC across from the public square in Uptown Waterloo, were very receptive to our message. It was however, during the massive failure that was the Copenhagen summit, and people were in tune to messages about Canada and climate change. People were, the media wasn’t.
The local television and radio stations are both official Olympic sponsors, and neither covered the anti-olympic events at all on the Global Day of Action against Climate Change. The local paper didn’t cover the issue of Greenwashing, but did mention our protest in their story about the pre-Celebration event at City Hall.
Ok, they did a little more than mention the protest.
For what he wrote that day, Record reporter Jeff Outhit has since called me and offered a personal apology for writing that “theres even a little Olympic spirit in protester Alex Hundert.” He admits that was a gross misrepresentation at best. What he says he was trying to write about, was the idea, which he described as intriguing, that we as protesters recognized that there was value in peaceful protest against the Olympics. He said he was surprised that we were not disrupting the event and that we were civilly engaging with parents who were attending the Olympic event with their children.
At the event, I told him that we recognized that the Olympic propaganda events were aimed at children and that we weren’t out to target them or to make them cry, but rather to disrupt the corporate sponsors’ ability to use the Olympic spotlight as a branding opportunity.
Jeff Outhit wrote a couple lines about the over-commercialization of sports… and that I had Olympic spirit. When I called the paper’s office and yelled at him, he got very defensive. After I had spoken to his editor and explained how this was a blatant misrepresentation, the paper agreed to print a correction. Outhit later called back and offered a personal apology. I took the opportunity to explain to him what greenwashing and the Olympics are really all about.
In what was then a relatively pleasant conversation, Outhit explained how he had gotten carried away with the narrative of peaceful protesters who are not militantly against sports, as he expected us to be. I told him that, in theory, sports aren’t that bad for communities and for kids, but that the Olympics have appropriated sport and culture for use as part of nationalist and corporate propaganda campaigning. He acknowledged that this was very different than what he had portrayed in his article, (He had printed the following sentence fragment, attributed to me: “Sport and competition are great ways for people to learn how to work together,” omitting the “in theory” that preceded it and the “but” that followed).
This tripe is the only thing he has written on the Olympics since, on one of the local torchbearers: “His heart stopped but he lived to tell the tale”.
I’m pretty sure he still thinks the Olympics are harmless and benign, but that is just speculation on my part.
While the Olympic Torch Relay protest in Toronto was underway, Olympic sponsor CTV [pdf] reported that the action was preventing the Torch from getting to Sick Kids Hospital where children were anxiously awaiting. This report was repeated throughout the night. It didn’t matter that the torch, in fact, arrived at Sick Kids only slightly behind schedule, and that it was the City Hall celebration that was delayed by an over an hour. In fact, the night’s action had been designed specifically so that the torch would not be prevented fromarriving at the Hospital. Reports to the contrary were malevolent speculation at best, but more likely an act of intentional propaganda aimed to discredit protests, by an official sponsor of the Games.
There were barely any reports about the farce that resulted in the arrest of two protesters. Here is what happened: A bike cop pushed a protester who was running along side the torch. He fell off his bike. The protester was then tackled by a couple cops, beaten, and charged with assaulting an officer. Another protester who went to attend the incident was similarly tackled, and charged with obstruction.
While detained, the first arrestee, charged with assault, was questioned, and after refusing to answer, was beaten by the interrogating officers, who never gave their names. This happened several times over the course of his detention. No media ever reported this incident of police brutality. It is my guess that the cops were taking out their anger on this protester; taking revenge for how incompetent the police had been made to look when we took over parts of downtown Toronto.
The next day, a reporter was assaulted by the the Torch Relay security detachment. He was sent to the hospital with a concussion.
For yet to be determined reasons, the Olympic Torch Relay managed to run itself directly into the protest on the streets of Guelph, and in the ensuing confusion/confrontation, the torchbearer tripped over a member of the VISU/RCMP security detail. The only pictures of the event clearly show that the relay ran right into the middle of a crowd of protesters, that no protester ever touched the torch bearer, and also that had they wanted to, the protesters could have easily swarmed the torch and had their way with it. There were only a dozen cops on the scene.
How the fuck did that happen?
Obviously the cops and relay team were embarrassed, and resultantly the protester closest to the fallen torchbearer was arrested–not the protester who was assaulted by/engaged with the cop who actually tripped the runner. (He fell too). It is this protester, who has publicly stated that she was punched in the head by a cop. I’m not sure if it was during the initial engagement with the VISU/RCMP torch security, or if was an assault from one of the uniformed RCMP who rushed the scene after the runner had already hit the ground.
I don’t know exactly what happened, because I was several blocks away at the time. I emphasized this when talking to Dean Tester, a reporter with CanWest. He still chose to run quotes from me in their article, despite two eye witnesses having gone on record before I did. However, I was the one who gave him the ‘sound bite’ about the “minor attack” on the protesters by the police. I was referring to the punch in the head.
Despite the fact that CanWest had quotes from myself as well as a local reporter from the Guelph Mercury that clearly articulated that it was Torch Relay security itself which phsycially tripped the runner during the incident, they, and every other news outlet still ran the headline from the police’s own press release: Protester pushed torchbearer to the ground. Or some version of that.
The lesson here is, learn how to write sexy violent press releases, cause the truth is barely relevant; its all really just a media battle, apparently.
We are winning the media battle.
No, we are not controlling the headlines or necessarily manipulating the media to the point where they are telling our story. We have, however, backed them into a corner where they are quickly revealing themselves as simple propaganda spokespeople for the Games, the sponsors, and the Government (who have now admitted that they intend to use the games to “showcase” their “accomplishments” in government, as reported on CBC Radio One, last night).
Yesterday’s editorial in the Globe and Mail is proof that we are being effective. They have been forced to resort to transparent and simplistic reiterations of official government and VANOC propaganda.
“The Four Host First Nations, the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh communities, have played an integral role in the Olympics from the early bidding process, and are formal partners in the Games. At their conception, and throughout their development, aboriginals have been fully involved in the Games.“
The fact is though, that the corporation called “The Four Host First Nations” was created only after the BC Union of Indian Chiefs refused to endorse the Olympics, and that in those four First Nations, there exists grassroots opposition to the Games, not united support. Also, there are other First Nations’ territories affected by the Olympics who have not signed on to the corporate partnership.
The Globe tells us that, “a Vancouver 2010 Aboriginal Licensing and Merchandising Program was established, and represents the first time an Olympic organizing committee has partnered with indigenous people to create an official licensed merchandising program,” without mentioning that Indigenous artists are taking VANOC to task for the appropriation of First Nations art on several fronts, including their official “authentic aboriginal” merchandise, their gross appropriation and management of First Nations representations throughout the “Cultural Olympiad,” and the very use of the Inukshuk as a logo, all designed to send a certain message to the world about Canada’s relationship with First Nations. A false message.
And the Globe is blindly banging that drum. “The torch run itself has a strong aboriginal component. In Ontario alone, 20 aboriginal “flame blessing” ceremonies are being held,” says the Globe, failing to mention that the torch saw major resistance at several First Nations stops in Ontario, including an outright cancelation at Oneida.
What editorials like this say to me, is that they are scared; those who have so much invested in a particular dominant conception of what it means to be Canadian. They need to believe that we are a ‘tolerant’ people and a progressive, ‘multicultural’ nation; that we are a ‘post-apology’ nation engaging in meaningful reconciliation with ‘our’ Indigenous peoples.
But all that is bullshit.
The old money behind Canada’s major news institutions is not willing to risk contemplating what it would mean to recognize that Canada not only has a brutal colonial past, but that colonization is an ongoing process, still vicious and brutal. Our politicians are similarly unwilling, as remain most Canadians, it seems, unfortunately.
However, when we, as anti-colonial activists can force the media to so blatantly repeat the official dogma, it is a sign that we are starting to wedge cracks in their dominating narrative.
With the Vancouver convergence less than two months away, now is the time to prepare for an intensification of the fight. This is the battle of the story of the 2010 Olympic Games.
See you in the streets.
UPDATE, Dec. 31.
- I found this article from the Globe and Mail, Courts falling short on efforts to keep natives out of jail, which ran the day of our march against the Olympic Torch in Kitchener, Dec 27. It shows that the Globe is aware of, at least, some of the realities faced in First Nations communities, which therefore makes the lies printed in Tuesday’s editorial even more bald faced and malicious.
- This editorial appeared in Today’s Guelph Mercury. In case you missed it, protesters had a point. I told you we are starting to win the media battle.
- Today at 1:30 pm, another protester was arrested, Kelly Pflugbach from Guelph. Cops realised they’re not gonna be able to convict Brittney (who touched no one), but they also know that getting punched by a cop = assaulting an officer, so they are now charging Kelly too. She was released before 6pm this evening.
Solidarity with Six Nations and organizing against the 2010 Olympics.
For over a year now, AW@L has been devoting much of energy to our No Olympics on Stolen Native Land campaign. In October of 2008 we, along with some of our friends from Toronto, Guelph and London teamed up with a crew from Six Nations to blockade the Olympic Spirit Train. Just yesterday a friend and I (from KW ARA) worked with a group of youth activists from Six Nations to drop several No2010 banners at the Canadian Aboriginal Festival in Hamilton.
On December 27 in Kitchener, AW@L will be joined by friends from Six Nations and across the region for a rally, march and demonstration against the Olympic Torch Relay.
For AW@L Radio, every time we have spoken with any of the members of Yong Onkwehonwe United (YOU), they have stressed how central the anti-Olympics campaign was to their work at Six Nations. When Missy Elliott and John Henhawk spoke at the KW Community Centre for Social Justice (kwccsj), as when they spoke at the Rally in Solidarity with Six Nations Land Rights, they stressed the importance of Indigenous-settler solidarity in practise against the Games.
It has been suggested by some media commentators, both locally and nationally, that the Olympics as a target of protest is merely an attention getter. While the international media spotlight is part of the reason this protest movement has become so heated, it is ignorant to suggest that it is the grassroots activists who are the ones that are taking advantage of the spotlight.
The feds, BC, Vancouver, VANOC and the Olympics’ corporate sponsors are using the Olympics to send a message to world; they are all good global citizens representing the alleged Olympic ideals of unity and excellence through competition.
Their $6 Billion media stunt is nothing but a hoax.
Part of the message of the 2010 Olympics is that Canada has reconciled with First Nations—that this is a post-apology Canada. They are trying to make the world forget that we are one of only three countries that have not signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP). They are trying to make Canada forget that the Union of BC Indian Chiefs refused to endorse the Olympics, so instead a corporation called The Four Host First Nations, comprised by willing Band Council representation from four coastal First Nations, was created to host the Games. They are trying to send the same bullshit message that Harper espoused at the G20 in Pittsburgh when he stated that Canada has “no history of Colonialism.” But Canada does not only have one of the ugliest colonial histories in the world, in fact, in Canada colonialism is ongoing.
On the west coast, in so-called British Columbia, almost all of the territories are unceded, meaning that Canada has no treaties legitimizing their occupation of the land and their control of the resources. One result where treaties have been signed, recently in the case of the Nisga’a, has been the institution of private property on the res. In other places in the west, like in the land claims process across the country, the negotiations are dominated by the structures and limits imposed from the federal side, and only money in exchange for title and access to resources is on the table for “negotiation”.
And this is where it all comes back to Six Nations. The negotiations on land claims at Six Nations are a disgrace; at a total standstill with the feds being obstinate, disruptive and disrespectful. And with respect to those claims, AW@L is very cognizant of the fact that we live on Six Nations’ land.
KW is right on the Grand River, the Haldimand Tract, which is Six Nations territory. Like the Coast Salish Territories, the Grand River Territory is stolen land. The land on the coast remains unceded, and Kitchener-Waterloo, Brantford, Cambridge, and others are all partially on lands that have been illegitimately obtained through illegal surrenders.
VANOC parading the torch through the Grand River Territory, like the scheduled “Sunrise Ceremony” planned for Kitchener’s Torch stop, is an attempt to put a certain face on Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people, with Six Nations. Because, at AW@L, we believe in the importance of the stories we tell ourselves in our communities, we don’t intend to let that lie be told unchallenged. Not in our town.
We plan to support YOU and other activists from Six Nations in their stand when VANOC tries to bring the torch through the Six Nations res on December 21; we will support in whatever way we are asked. There the issue is sovereignty. Canada wants Six Nations to participate in the Torch relay as a Canadian municipality. But Six Nations is not a Canadian municipality. So we will support activists from Six Nations when they assert their sovereignty by saying that Canada and VANOC cannot dictate the terms by which an international symbol is paraded across Haudenosaunee territory.
Upriver from Six Nations, we are pleased to be able to say that we are working with our allies there to resist the Olympic Torch Relay when it comes through Kitchener, the last stop on the Haldimand Tract.