ARRESTED FOR USING A MEGAPHONE
i own a megaphone
on august 24th, 2013, at the end of a demonstration in solidarity with indigenous resistance to the tar sands, and in opposition to the line 9 and energy east pipeline, i was arrested and charged with mischief under $5000.
i was arrested, it seems, because i had a megaphone. you probably didn’t realize that it is illegal to hold megaphones, at least during demonstrations.
although a mischief charge is insignificant, and while the worst consequences are likely to be probation (the crown has said that they will not be seeking jail time), i still want to object to a) being forcibly confined in a vehicle by strangers dressed in blue uniforms, and b) being threatened with punishments for my role in holding a megaphone.
political repression of anti-tar sands and anti-pipelines activists
however, much more important than all this, and the reason for writing this blog post, is that there is a clear pattern of political repression by different police forces of activists opposing the tar sands and the pipelines.
the most serious examples come from recent information that TransCanada, the company that wants to build the energy east tar sands pipeline, and that is and has been building the keystone xl pipeline, has been training federal and local law enforcement officers:
“TransCanada provided trainings to federal agents and local Nebraska police to suppress nonviolent activists protesting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by arresting them on “anti-terrorism statutes.” The presentation slides, obtained by grassroots landowner advocacy group Bold Nebraska, target Tar Sands Blockade activists by name.
“‘This is clear evidence of the collusion between TransCanada and the federal government assisting local police to unlawfully monitor and harass political protestors,’ said Lauren Regan, legal coordinator for Tar Sands Blockade and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. “These documents expose the truth that the government is giving the nod to unlawful corporate spying. By slinging false allegations against peaceful activists in this presentation, TransCanada puts them at risk of unwarranted prosecution.’”
there is no reason, to my mind, to expect that TransCanada will act any differently in canada, or in relation to the energy east pipeline, than they have in the US in relation to the keystone xl. to some extent it will depend on the extent of resistance to the energy east pipeline, and what they’ve done so far is also dependent on how much time they’ve had to start colluding with federal, provincial and local law enforcement.
In fact, I can do more than just speculate, as this article by tim groves says:
“The Canadian government has been orchestrating briefings that provide energy companies with classified intelligence from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and other agencies, raising concerns that federal officials are spying on environmentalists and First Nations in order to provide information to the businesses they criticize.”
In addition to TransCanada’s actions in the US, we can also look to Enbridge’s actions regarding their line 9 pipeline, such as, for example, subsidizing at least 3 police forces along the proposed line 9 tar sands pipeline route. they have also donated large amounts ($10,000 +) to various municipalities, fire departments, etc. along this pipeline route
“The program has given financial aid to hundreds of fire departments, police services and EMS units in North America where Enbridge has pipeline operations, Hall says.”
“The Program is invitation-only. Every year Hall identifies communities along the pipeline between Sarnia and Montreal and sends them letters of invitation asking them if they would like to participate….Every year Enbridge invites around 50 organizations to apply for funding, and they then come back with applications for what they want.”
hamilton, montreal and london
the recent blockade by activists just outside of the town of westover, near hamilton resulted in 13 protestors being charged with trespassing (I don’t know the $ amount), 4 being charged with mischief, and 1 being charged with breaking and entering with intent to commit mischief. That’s 17 minor charges, with one that is a bit more serious.
an anti-line 9 demonstration in montreal was quickly attacked by the police:
“Just under 100 people gathered at Victoria Square shortly before 4 p.m., when police took to their loudspeakers to declare the march illegal.
Organizers didn’t divulge the march’s route to police, a violation of Montreal’s P-6 bylaw. The crowd marched just a few blocks north on Beaver Hall St. before cops began converging on them and corralling people back toward Victoria Square.
Eventually riot police charged into the crowd, snatching several young men and surrounding a group of 29 people — who were processed in city buses and fined nearly $700 for participating in an unlawful assembly.”
and, finally, there is the arrest this summer of two activists in london, ontario. writing about police conduct in london (and this is not necessarily related to tar sands and pipelines), darryl richardson and megan kinch describe the arrests of mike roy and bailey lamon, ostensibly for 1 graffiti charge (mischief under $5000) as “part of a pattern of police attempting to silence and frighten activists using minor offenses.” although the police raided the activists home due to a single act of graffiti, they seized all of their computers and journalistic equipment, and also ended up charging them with possession of marijuana. for anybody familiar with law enforcement, this whole scenario – a search warrant over a single act of graffiti – is extraordinary and irregular, and, clearly, politically motivated:
“Sakura Saunders, an activist and journalist of ProtestBarrick said ‘a house raid and the confiscation of equipment is an overblown reaction to an eventual charge of graffiti on one wall. Mike and Bailey are social justice media makers, covering activist movements. It seems obvious to me that the police are using petty charges to violate privacy and gain intelligence on social movements.’”
the recent addition of environmentalists to the list of “domestic extremists” – I think it is fair to read that as “domestic terrorists” is a signal from the conservative government that they will be targeting environmentalist groups, and surely anti-tar sands and anti-pipelines groups, for political repression, as well as other groups:
“The minister said that, in addition to foreign threats, the government would be vigilant against domestic extremism that is ‘based on grievances – real or perceived – revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.’
New Democratic Party MP Megan Leslie said the new strategy should be seen in the context of the government’s effort to demonize the environmental movement and aboriginal groups that are opposed to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.”
and let’s be clear that indigenous people (as well as other oppressed people) are always targeted for more severe repression – from more violence during arrests, to longer jail sentences, to more serious charges, to greater likelihood of convictions (due to racism), to more harassment by all levels of law enforcement.
Conclusion: No Justice?! No Peace! Fuck The Police!!!