How Black Bloc Activists Have Changed Protests

A Black Bloc protester throws a chair during an anti-racism demonstration, in Quebec City on Sunday, August 20, 2017. (CP/Jacques Boissinot)

The images were striking: massive blockades, protesters donning masks and black hoods suddenly racing across streets, throwing stones and destroying cars.

Such were the chaotic scenes during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany this July. Amid the looting, clashes with police and general frenzy, slogans were also emblazoned on walls offering “Free hugs for Black Blocs.”

What are the Black Blocs? And why are they associated with the G20 violence?

The Black Bloc is an anti-establishment protest tactic featuring demonstrators dressed entirely in black and concealing their identities.

Black Blocs are often demonized by the media and held as solely responsible for the chaos at major summits, even though many of the rioters lack the traditional Black Bloc garb.

After the G20, Der Spiegel published an article condemning “black-masked rioters” whose “sole purpose was to sow violence,” comparing them unfavourably with people conducting “real political protest” which it argued was now “more important than ever.”

That’s similar to the condemnation of the so-called anti-globalist movements.

Behind the mask

Embodying “new anarchy” principles, Black Blocs operate without hierarchy. They are temporary groups formed for a specific protest. Black Blocs do not exist before and after a given event.

The tactic of forming Black Blocs first appeared around 1980 in West Germany. It arose from the counter-culture movement in which people lived in squats, trying to emancipate themselves from the dual influence of government and capitalism. These “Autonomen” (autonomous people) marched against nuclear power and neo-Nazis.

They formed Black Blocs during demonstrations in order to ward off the threat of eviction from their squats, including Hamburg’s notorious Hafenstra├ƒe squat. To this day, the Berlin anti-capitalist May Day protest still includes a significant Black Bloc presence.

The tactic spread through activist networks and punk music, reaching the United States and Canada in the early 1990s.

The Battle of Seattle during the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) Summit, which received wide media coverage, was a turning point in the dissemination of Black Bloc ideology.

Since then, the tactic has been taken up by the anti-austerity movement, the student movement (notably in France, Italy and Quebec), and such non-Western countries as Brazil and Egypt.

Black Blocs are also active in anti-police demonstrations.

Due to their particular aesthetic, Black Bloc tactics are easily duplicated once they’ve been observed, like in so-called “riot porn” videos, for instance.

Yet they vary from place to place. In Germany, Black Blocs often march with banners on all sides, as protesters walk arm-in-arm. Elsewhere, individual black-clad protesters appear throughout the march or form smaller groups. Supporting groups may tag along, such as activist brass bands or street medics.

In terms of demographic makeup (class, gender, race), Black Blocs differ over time and from place to place. Black Bloc protesters might be anarchists, Communists, environmentalists, feminists, queer activists, disillusioned social democrats, students, people unemployed or holding down odd jobs. In any case, according to a Black Bloc slogan: “Who we are is less important than what we want. And we want everything, for everyone.”

The Black Bloc has become a beacon for rebellion, the object of a certain revolutionary romanticism. For many, being part of a Black Bloc is proof of their radical convictions; others see it as a display of masculinity, tinged with misogyny.

In fact, women tend to prefer to form small single-sex Black Blocs, ensuring greater solidarity among themselves.

Black Blocs and the media

One of the arguments used to discredit Black Blocs is that they get media attention at the expense of non-violent protest. Yet experts in the sociology of communication have observed that the peaceful protests are often overlooked by journalists, who rarely report their demands.

And so the media obsession with Black Blocs apparently benefits all the protest movements. It’s also important to remember the results of a 2010 study on the media fallout of the 1999 Seattle Black Bloc: The overexposure of “anarchists” led to a substantial increase in visits to websites associated with anarchy (Indymedia, Infoshop, etc.)

In Brazil in 2013, hundreds of thousands of people visited the Facebook pages of local Black Blocs.

Black Blocs also publish news releases on independent media, explaining their causes and choice of targets — for example, multinationals exploiting workers and polluting the Earth, banks making profits off our collective debt, police protecting the political elite and private companies, etc.

But for those already familiar with anarchy politics, words are unnecessary: the target is the message. Black Blocs are a byproduct of the “age of riots,” characterized by a crisis of political legitimacy, austerity, and increasingly militarized police forces. In this context, riots are the language of the unheard, to use the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

What violence?

Some security experts and scholars (those specializing in the Years of Lead in Italy, for example) have suggested that Black Bloc tactics are a gateway to terrorism and polemicists have conflated them with Islamic terrorism.

Yet the anarchist movement long ago renounced the idea of armed struggle, with the apparent exception of the Fire Nuclei in Greece (several members of which are currently in prison) and a clandestine network in Italy.

Furthermore, Black Bloc activists do not share Islamist values. Some even joined Kurdish forces in fighting the Islamic State.

As for Black Bloc violence, from a historical and political sociology standpoint, it is extremely limited and Black Bloc do not peddle in extreme violence used, for instance, in the 1970s by far-left groups. It has even been called “symbolic” by some academics.

Its goal is to desecrate the symbols of capitalism (the windows of banks and multinational clothing or fast food companies, to name some examples) and to defend protesters against potential police violence. Yet in some cases, some participants throw objects at police (rocks, bottles, fireworks and, on rare occasions, Molotov cocktails).

Although the issue of Black Bloc “violence” generates much heated discussion, increasing solidarity with Black Blocs is being observed within social movements.

The teachers’ union in Brazil extended an invitation to Black Bloc protesters when demonstrating, as did Indigenous groups during protests against the Olympic Games on “stolen land” in Vancouver in 2010. Hundreds of people protested alongside the Black Blocs in the French demonstrations against a revised labour law in 2016.

Activists today often uphold the principle of “varied tactics,” which was formally laid down in 2000 by Montreal’s Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes (CLAC).

“The Black Bloc is dead,” anarchists declared a decade ago in the post-9-11 era of police repression.

That was premature. The Black Bloc is still very much alive and well, and continues to spread from protest to protest and from continent to continent.

By Francis Dupuis-Deri, The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

First Nations Activists from Winnipeg to Blockade TransCanada Highway on Friday

Blockade at Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media

Red Power Media | June 29, 2017

For immediate release

On, June 30th, 2017, First Nations activists from Winnipeg will be shutting down a portion of the TransCanada Highway to protest the Canadian government and bring awareness to the youth suicide crisis in First Nations communities as well to the deaths of several indigenous youth in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Members of the American Indian Movement, Urban Warrior Alliance and Idle No More will be taking part in a pipe ceremony for youth, followed by a blockade of the highway.

Representatives from groups taking part are demanding the Liberal government increase the availability of mental health services on reserves and provide culturally appropriate resources for youth including in Manitoba. Inadequate health-care services, the loss of cultural identity and lack of proper housing are key factors contributing to the high rates of suicide and mental illness among indigenous peoples. Recently in Ontario, three 12 year old girls died by suicide at Wapekeka First Nation, located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The latest one happened June 13th when a pre-teen girl hung herself.

The deaths of several Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay have also raised concerns about racism against Indigenous people and inadequate police investigations. First Nations leaders have expressed their lack of faith in Thunder Bay police. The York Regional Police service have been requested to investigate the deaths of Josiah Begg, 14, and Tammy Keeash, 17, found dead in McIntyre River in May. Ten indigenous people have been found dead in Thunder Bay, since 2000. Seven were First Nations students who died between 2000 and 2011 while attending high school in the Thunder Bay, hundreds of kilometres away from their remote communities where access to education is limited. Organizers of Fridays protest would like to see improvement in First Nations education and increase in funding for schooling on reserves.

Activists are requesting the RCMP respect their right to protest. They plan to start their demonstration around 12 pm just east of Winnipeg near Deacon’s corner. A press conference will also take place at that time. Activists are planning to hand out information to motorists and collect signatures on a petition calling for immediate action from the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennet, as well as the Minister of Health Jane Philpott.

Kellie Leitch Pledges To ‘Lock Up’ Unlawful Pipeline Protesters

Kellie Leitch arrives at the Conservative summer caucus retreat in Halifax on Sept. 13. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Kellie Leitch arrives at the Conservative summer caucus retreat in Halifax on Sept. 13. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch is pledging to “lock up” and monitor Canadians who unlawfully protest pipeline projects if she becomes prime minister.

Leitch made the promise in her latest incendiary press release, sent hours before a bilingual debate in Moncton, N.B., in which she affirmed support for the Energy East pipeline project.

“We will not tolerate acts of vandalism or violence from those who would illegally stand in the way of the economic prosperity of our people,” the Tory MP said in the release. “There is a place for legitimate protest, but we will lock up the agitators and activists who resort to vandalism and violence when they do not get their way.”

Leitch took to Facebook to unveil a so-called “five-point plan” to promote natural resource projects, including unspecified stiffer penalties for unlawful protesters.

She promised to create a “new force” comprised of “specialized components” of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada Revenue Agency and Global Affairs Canada. Such a group would “coordinate investigations, freeze bank accounts, and lay charges” against illegal protesters.

And she also pledged to “classify environmental lobbying as a political activity to ensure transparency in funding and get international money out of the process.” Canadian charitable foundations can currently maintain their tax exempt status as long as no more than 10 per cent of their resources are dedicated to political activities.

“We will lock up the agitators and activists who resort to vandalism and violence when they do not get their way.”

The release comes as Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr continues to face questions over his suggestion the Canadian military could be used to quash illegal protests over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. He made his comments to Alberta business leaders last week.

“If people choose for their own reasons not to be peaceful, then the government of Canada, through its defence forces, through its police forces, will ensure that people will be kept safe,” Carr said.

Jim Carr, right, Minister of Natural Resources, speaks as Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, appear at a press conference in Richmond, B.C., on Sept. 27. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Jim Carr, right, Minister of Natural Resources, speaks as Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, appear at a press conference in Richmond, B.C., on Sept. 27. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The minister later told CBC News those remarks weren’t meant to be a “warning” to protesters.

In question period Friday, B.C. NDP MP Randall Garrison urged the defence minister to remind his colleague the “federal government has no such authority to use our military against pipeline protests.” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Liberals see peaceful protest as a “cornerstone” of Canadian democracy.

Elizabeth May ready to go to jail fighting pipeline

The $6.8-billion Kinder Morgan project is expected to yield more protests from indigenous groups and climate change activists who argue the federal government lacks the “social license” to greenlight the project.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told the Huffington Post Canada she’s willing to be arrested fighting the project.

“If there are blockades as construction begins, I’m more than prepared to be there to block construction and be arrested and go to jail,” May said in an interview last week. “This is not an issue where you compromise.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/12/06/kellie-leitch-pipeline-protesters-lock-up_n_13462212.html?ncid=fcbklnkcahpmg00000001

RCMP Intelligence Centre Compiled List Of 89 Indigenous Rights Activists Considered “Threats”

(A line of Mi’kmaq demonstrators and their supporters confront a line of RCMP officers on Hwy 11 on Nov 18, 2013, near Elsipogtog First Nation. APTN/File)

(A line of Mi’kmaq demonstrators and their supporters confront a line of RCMP officers on Hwy 11 on Nov 18, 2013, near Elsipogtog First Nation. APTN/File)

Rattled by Idle No More and Mi’kmaq-led anti-shale gas demonstrations, the RCMP compiled a list of 89 individuals considered “threats” as part of an operation aimed at improving the federal police force’s intelligence capacity when facing Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to an internal intelligence report.

The operation, dubbed Project SITKA, was launched in early 2014 to identify key individuals “willing and capable of utilizing unlawful tactics” during Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to the RCMP report, obtained under the Access to Information Act by two researchers working on a book about state surveillance of Indigenous peoples. The intelligence report was to provide a “snapshot of individual threats associated to Aboriginal public order events” for that year.

The report, completed in 2015 by the Mounties’ National Intelligence Coordination Centre, recommended the RCMP remove Indigenous rights activism from the terrorism-extremism umbrella and instead create a new category for intelligence gathering on the issue. The report also recommended the RCMP maintain updated profiles on identified Indigenous rights activists in police databases.

“I think that this is coming out of the fallout in 2013 with the Idle No More uprising and what happened at the end of the year with Elsipogtog,” said Andy Crosby, the Ottawa-based researcher who obtained the document along with Jeffrey Monaghan, an assistant criminology professor at Carleton University. “This really had an impact on the psyche of the settler state.”

The researchers obtained the RCMP report in an Access to Information request package from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The RCMP did not provide comment on the report as of this article’s posting.

CSIS did not respond to a request for comment.

RCMP template for Indigenous rights demonstrator profiles

_rcmpthreats

Download (PDF, 96KB)

The RCMP intelligence report concluded there was no central organizing individual or group directing Indigenous demonstrations, but found instead a “loose network of protestors with affiliated organizations” that often reacted to local grassroots grievances.

The report noted there were “several influential individuals within the network, a core group that demonstrated a level of stability in their networks, attendance and organization of events.”

The intelligence officers who compiled the report found no “intentional criminal nexus” or “indication of organized crime exploiting the loose network associated to Aboriginal protests to pursue a criminal agenda.”

The RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre was designated to lead Project SITKA in conjunction with Community and Aboriginal Policing, according to the report which was finalized in March 2015.

SITKA was launched “as part of the response to reducing the threat, incidence and prevalence of serious criminality associated to Aboriginal public order, events as well as to protect and facilitate the right to lawful advocacy, protest and dissent,” said the report.

The beginning of 2013 saw the tail-end of the Idle No More movement’s most spectacular demonstrations and ended with a major flare-up near the Mi’kmaq First Nation of Elsipogtog in New Brunswick over shale gas exploration in the region. The anti-shale gas demonstrations culminated in a heavily armed RCMP raid on Oct. 17, 2013, of a protest camp near Rexton, NB. The demonstrations, which lasted several months, saw dozens of arrests and a highway blocked with burning tires.

The main motive behind the anti-shale gas demonstrations—fears hydraulic fracturing threatened the region’s water—is essentially the same as those of the current ongoing demonstrations in North Dakota. There, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fears an oil pipeline threatens its water supply because it will run beneath the Missouri River.

Idle No More march on Dec. 21, 2012 in Ottawa.

Idle No More march on Dec. 21, 2012 in Ottawa.

In January 2014 the RCMP designated Indigenous rights demonstrations as a National Tactical Intelligence Priority.

Using internal files from its divisions across the country, information from other law enforcement agencies and publicly available data, the National Intelligence Coordination Centre created a list of 313 individuals who posed a potential “criminal threat to Aboriginal public order events.” The list was reduced to 89 individuals, both non-Indigenous and Indigenous, who met the RCMP’s criteria. The criteria was based on background, motivation and rhetoric “to have committed or commit criminal activities” in connection with Indigenous rights demonstrations.

It’s apparent the events of Elsipogtog weighed on the minds of the intelligence officers compiling the report. Thirty-five of the 89 individuals on the list were from New Brunswick. British Columbia was next with 16 people on the list, followed by Ontario with 15, Manitoba with 11, Nova Scotia with 10, one from Saskatchewan and one from Prince Edward Island.

The report also linked the majority of the individuals on the list with the Unist’ot’en camp in British Columbia, which is anchored by the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation. The camp has dug in over the past six years in an area along the routes of two proposed natural gas pipelines and a proposed oil pipeline. The camp sits about 66 km south of Houston, B.C., and about 1,000 km north of Vancouver.

The other groups linked by the RCMP to the 89 include the Defenders of the Land, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, the Manitoba Warriors gang and the Council of Canadians, among others.

The RCMP intelligence officers spent six months, from April to September 2014, creating “protestor profiles” for each of the individuals on the final list. The profiles included each individual’s name, photograph, alias, date of birth, age, height, weight, phone number, email address, affiliations, vehicles, history of demonstrations, ability to move across the country and “category of protestor.”

The RCMP has three categories for demonstrators: passive, meaning law abiding; disruptive, meaning willing to employ non-violent tactics; and volatile, meaning willing to provoke police reaction.

The profiles were filed into two databases—the Automated Intelligence Information System and the Police Reporting and Occurrence System—accessible to front-line RCMP police officers, analysts and other law enforcement agencies.

The intelligence report also analyzed the last five years of protest history for those on the list and found they were involved in 69 events, including demonstrations against the G8 and G20 and oil pipelines along with involvement in campaigns calling for a national inquiry into the disproportionate number of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

The intelligence report recommended the RCMP stop employing the language of terrorism and extremism to describe tactics used in Indigenous rights demonstrations that are “specifically criminal in nature.” The report recommended the RCMP develop a specific category for these types of demonstrations and targeted individuals to ensure “that peaceful and law-abiding individuals engaged in acts of legitimate dissent will not be investigated or analyzed for the purpose of identifying serious criminality.”

The report also recommended law enforcement brush up on the systemic issues that often trigger Indigenous rights demonstrations.

“Currently assumptions can be made for the causal root of protests; however, without a clear holistic analysis of root causes within a community, this will remain unknown,” said the report. “(It) is recommended that a holistic community analysis methodology be implemented in Aboriginal communities where the RCMP has a policing presence. This community analysis will not only provide information on where the next potential protest would occur….It also enables communities to actively engage, communicate and cooperate with police on a spectrum of topics and issues that have the potential to lead to grievances or miscommunication.”

Crosby and Monaghan’s book will be published by Fernwood Publishing.

By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News

[SOURCE]

Activists Fear Missing Native American Women Were Swept Up In Oil-Worker Sex-Trafficking Ring

North Dakota's shale-oil bonanza has brought thousands of men and sex trafficking to the area.Reuters

North Dakota’s shale-oil bonanza has brought thousands of men and sex trafficking to the area. (Reuters)

By  | IBT – Jan 20, 2016

Native American women are being murdered and vanishing in the US Midwest, and activists have complained that local police don’t much care. They fear that the women are disappearing and being pushed into sex-trafficking rings to satisfy oil workers in North Dakota.

Three Native American women have been killed and two more have disappeared from northern Minnesota since May 2015 in a period of around six months in the sparsely populated region. A third woman was kidnapped but managed to escape.

“I think a lot of disappearances of young women can be tracked back to some sort of trafficking,” activist Patti Larsen told The Guardian. Larsen is a member of Mending the Sacred Hoop, an organisation that works on bringing an end to violence against Indian women.

“There’s a connection” between reservations and low-income areas of local towns and “trafficking and prostitution routes”, noted sex-trafficking researcher Chris Stark. Native teenage girls are being recruited or groomed, he said, for the Bakken, an area of oil-rich fields in North Dakota, where tens of thousands of men have worked the last few years.

Native American women and girls tend to be easy targets for traffickers who seek to recruit for commercial sex work. Native American women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as women of other races. A 2007 study found that 24% of the women charged with prostitution in north Minneapolis were Native American, yet they comprised only 2.2% of the population.

“If you’re a trafficker looking for the perfect population of people to violate, Native [American] women would be a prime target,” said Sarah Deer, an attorney, author of The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America. “You have extreme poverty. You have a people who have been traumatized. And you have a legal system that doesn’t step in to stop it.”

But law enforcement officials point to criminal gang activity and persistent traffickers driven by profits that make the problem difficult to battle.

“You follow the construction workers, you follow the money, you follow the oil – you’ll start seeing where the trafficking will follow that,” said Duluth police officer Kim Wick.

The town’s international port on Lake Superior has served as a hub for commercial sex for decades, and it capitalises on the proximity of low-income Native women from surrounding reservations. Stark called it a “built-in pool of women” that was particularly vulnerable to criminals.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/activists-fear-missing-native-american-095016198.html

 

RCMP And ERT Arrest 7 Activists On Kinder Morgan Drilling Barge (VIDEO)

_KM

Update: Several activists arrested on Kinder Morgan barge

Police arrested seven activists aboard a Kinder Morgan drilling barge near the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby Monday morning.

According to anti-pipeline activist Adam Gold, two protesters boarded the barge Sunday and stayed overnight. More protesters arrived to join them and bring supplies Monday morning. That’s when police showed up and removed the group.

Video: Burnaby Mountain Updates

According to the Burnaby RCMP, seven protesters were arrested with help from the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team.

“Early this morning, the Burnaby RCMP was asked to remove the protestors as it was not safe for them to remain onboard and they were impeding the work being performed on the barge,” the police stated in a release. “The Burnaby RCMP would like to remind the public that the drilling barge is private property and as such those persons arrested will be facing criminal mischief charges.”

On Sunday, activists issued a news release saying they had seized the Kinder Morgan drilling barge on the Burrard Inlet, around noon.

In the release on Facebook, it said, “Kinder Morgan has not undertaken the necessary consultation with Hereditary Chiefs, and they are infringing upon the sovereignty of indigenous people of the unceded lands and waters here in Coast Salish Territory.”

It also announced that two activists had taken direct action, stating “This action is in solidarity with all indigenous nations displaced by the Tar Sands, along the current and proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline routes, and in solidarity with the Secwepemc Nation and Secwepemc Woman Warrior Society.”

Kinder Morgan is drilling boreholes around the Westridge Marine Terminal – similar to the survey work that spurred mass protests on Burnaby Mountain last fall. The work will continue until Feb 29.

Kinder Morgan’s $6.8-billion plan to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline includes expanding the Westridge Marine Terminal, where tankers fill up with crude.

The Westridge dock is slated for expansion if Kinder Morgan gets approval to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline. The company is drilling around the dock to collect soil samples, which is upsetting some pipeline opponents. Photograph By Jennifer Moreau

The Westridge dock is slated for expansion if Kinder Morgan gets approval to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline. The company is drilling around the dock to collect soil samples, which is upsetting some pipeline opponents. Photograph By Jennifer Moreau. Burnaby Now

The Westridge Marine Terminal falls within the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which is opposed to the pipeline expansion.

By Red Power Media, Staff, Updated Jan 19, 2016

Civil Disobedience Often Leads To Jail. But Now, Protesters Can Explain Themselves

Screen-Shot-2016-01-14-at-1.52.15-PM-e1452797666952

Above Photo: Activists blockaded an oil train like this one in Minnesota. A judge will let the jury consider why they did it. Photograph: Tom Wallace/AP

By Tim DeChristopher, www.theguardian.com, Jan 14th, 2016

In a historic ruling, several environmental campaigners will be able to argue at criminal trial that their political motives are a defense to their illegal acts.

Note: The necessity defense is an old defense but it has been blocked in most courts in the US, essentially taking away the jury’s right to consider all the facts in the case. Good to see this breakthrough in Washington State. Last year we tried a necessity defense in Cove Point with activists arrested for trespass as part of a campaign to stop the building of a fracked gas export terminal but the judge immediately stopped us from proceeding. See Twenty Cove Point Activist Move Calvert County Court.

I first ran across the necessity defense in my work on medical marijuana. Medical marijuana patients were able to use the defense in two states and the District of Columbia. People who were suffering severe and chronic illness were successful in their defense. The first case involved Robert Randall in Washington, DC — a key leader in the medical marijuana movement who had glaucoma and went on to become the first patient to legally get a prescription for marijuana. He won that when after his acquittal he sued the federal government in a civil case for denying him much needed medicine. The government settled the case and agreed to provide him marijuana. They tried to silence him as part of the settlement — we’ll give it to you but don’t tell anyone. Randall refused and he and his partner, Alice O’Leary-Randall, went on to lead the medical marijuana movement in the 70s and 80s.

In the face of governmental failure in addressing climate change, the climate movement has seen a dramatic increase of civil disobedience. The threat of jail is real to activists who use these tactics – as I learned first hand. But now activists now have a powerful form of defense: necessity.

For the very first time, US climate activists have been able to argue the necessity defense – which argues that so-called criminal acts were committed out of necessity – to a jury. The Delta 5, who blockaded an oil train at the Delta rail yard near Seattle in September of 2014, have been been allowed to use the defense in a historic climate change civil disobedience trial being heard this week. They said they acted to prevent the greater harm of climate change and oil train explosions.

Like all civil disobedience, this new wave of climate disobedience is an inherent critique of the moral authority of government. The necessity defense is an opportunity to elaborate that implicit critique into a fully developed legal argument for the responsibility of citizen action in the face of governmental failure.

In addition to gaining the permission to openly argue the necessity defense, the Delta 5 defendants have so far been winning the crucial legal maneuvers in the courtroom. The trial started with several motions from the prosecution to limit how the defense could present “sympathetic” evidence or anything related to their backgrounds. These motions were denied.

The judge has shown himself to be committed to a fully open trial of all the factors that would drive people to risk their bodies to stop fossil fuel expansion. This kind of openness is distressingly rare for civil disobedience cases in American courts. Why this particular judge, Anthony Howard, is breaking ranks in this climate trial is unknown, but I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that he is young enough that he will still be alive in 2050.

This willingness to weigh deep questions of justice in the courtroom is already paying off with a thought-provoking trial. The jury selection developed into an insightful conversation about civic engagement, protest and how to express one’s disagreement with the government.

This work of arousing consciences is an essential feature of good civil disobedience. Just by participating in the selection process, 60 potential jurors were pushed into a thoughtful discussion about the role of protest and challenging unjust power.

One of the critical dynamics that emerged in the jurors’ discussion on the first day was the difference between protest that uses force to intimidate compared to protest that uses one’s own vulnerability to awaken a community. The Delta 5 clearly fall into the latter category, but the prosecution used references to the Ku Klux Klan and abortion clinic bombers to suggest that the activists were relying on intimidation. This crucial dynamic will probably continue to be developed as the trial progresses.

But even as the state tries to paint the defendants as nefarious, the activists are establishing their moral advantage. The prosecution can tell by the media attention and standing-room-only crowd that these activists have power, but like most government officials, this prosecutor seems to only understand coercive power.

As he tries to put them in a box into which they don’t fit, the principled position of the activists demonstrates the potential of power rooted in love rather than force. The activists bring a vision of justice that shames the mere legalism of the state.

Around the globe climate movements are trying to build power. Some of those are trying to build power based on an old model from a dying empire. Here, in the trial of the Delta 5, the climate movement is building a new kind of power, grounded in interdependency and wielded through vulnerability. Our rapidly evolving and unstable world demands no less.

 

New War In The Woods?

Camp 'checkpoint' in the Bulkley Valley; Freda Huson

Camp ‘checkpoint’ in the Bulkley Valley; Freda Huson

An escalating conflict in traditional wilderness territory is unfolding in near real time through YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, culminating this week in a July 30 rally in downtown Vancouver.

The powder keg that is the Unist’ot’en camp in the Bulkley Valley of B.C.’s Central Interior is the top issue behind a rally tonight (July 30) CBC Plaza, 700 Hamilton St., 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The event, organized by Rising Tide, will be in support for Unist’ot’en camp’s continued effort to turn away RCMP, security contractors and pipeline employees attempting to enter unceded territory, access necessary to connect oil to tankers on the West Coast near Prince Rupert.

“This event hopes to confront the police violence brought to people all over the world. This is not an isolated issue,” a press release from the Unist’ot’en camp states. “Join us to hear from those who have been to the camp and learn about how powerful life on the land has been.”

Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, has maintained a checkpoint at the bridge into her territory for the last six years.

“I am not demonstrating. I am not protesting,” she is quoted as saying in the Rising Tide call to action. “I am occupying our traditional homelands.”

Activists Say Oka Crisis Sparked Important First Nations Movements

A Mohawk Warrior sits in golf cart and uses binoculars to view approaching Canadian army armoured vehiches on Highway 344 on the Kanesatake Reserve at Oka, Que., September 1, 1990. (Tom Hanson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A Mohawk Warrior sits in golf cart and uses binoculars to view approaching Canadian army armoured vehiches on Highway 344 on the Kanesatake Reserve at Oka, Que., September 1, 1990. (Tom Hanson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

OKA, Que. — It was a crisis that grabbed international headlines, with armed Mohawks and Canadian soldiers involved in a lengthy standoff that often appeared on the verge of exploding into full-blown combat.

Twenty-five years on, the legacy of the Oka Crisis for many of those who experienced the tension west of Montreal is a greater awareness of native issues.

Native activists, artists and professors say while it’s difficult to draw direct links, the Oka uprising in 1990 inspired First Nations movements across the country such as the Idle No More protests in 2012 and the ever-increasing calls for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

University of Ottawa professor Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas, who specializes in the studies of indigenous peoples, called the Oka Crisis “an awakening” heard around the world.

“I can tell you — from my own experience — that the indigenous social movements in Bolivia, which ended up bringing an indigenous person to the presidency, were also inspired by the Oka events,” he said in an interview.

Saavedra-Vargas added that at powwows and other celebrations around the continent, “you can always meet Mohawk Warriors talking about how they are proud of what happened. They keep the memory alive.”

When the town of Oka decided in 1990 it was going to allow the expansion of a golf course on disputed territory — including on a Mohawk burial ground — people living in the neighbouring Mohawk community of Kanesatake rose up in defiance.

In response to the council’s decision, Mohawks barricaded a dirt road leading to the golf course.

After they refused to obey a court injunction to stand down, a shootout ensued with provincial police officers and resulted in the death of Cpl. Marcel Lemay on July 11.

Where the bullet came from remains a mystery.

The Quebec government called in the Canadian Forces and roughly 800 members of the Royal 22e Regiment encircled the Mohawks in the pines with barbed wire.

“(Premier Robert Bourassa) called us into his office the day after (the shooting) and told us — he made it clear, he didn’t want any more death,” Sam Elkas, who was Quebec public security minister at the time, said in an interview.

Mohawk Warrior known as Noreiga clutches a Mohawk woman as he is taken into costody Sept. 26, 1990 by Canadian soldiers during the surrender at the Kanasehtake Reserve at Oka. (Bill Grimshaw / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Mohawk Warrior known as Noreiga clutches a Mohawk woman as he is taken into costody Sept. 26, 1990 by Canadian soldiers during the surrender at the Kanasehtake Reserve at Oka. (Bill Grimshaw / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

After 78 days of negotiations, both sides struck a deal: the barricades made of dirt and mangled police vehicles were to come down in return for the cancellation of the golf course expansion.

The disputed territory remains an unsettled issue, however, and was never officially ceded by the Mohawks or handed over to the native community by federal or provincial governments.

“You reach a point after a while where you have to make a stand,” Kanesatake resident Linda Simon, who experienced the violence, said in an interview.

“The common lands had slowly been given away and sold and there came a point where people weren’t going to take it anymore.”

The 1990 events led to the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples, which helped usher in new agreements between natives and non-natives such as the resource-sharing deal in 2002 called the Paix des Braves (Peace of the Braves) between the Quebec government and the Grand Council of the Crees.

Alanis Obomsawin, an award-winning filmmaker who made a much-praised documentary about the conflict called “Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance,” said the events of 1990 inspired native people across the country and raised awareness among Canadians regarding land claims.

“When I go out West, (indigenous) people tell me, ‘Alanis, we could never thank the Mohawks enough for what they did.”‘

Back home, Quebec Aboriginal Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley said provincial and federal governments have appreciated since Oka that First Nations groups need to be consulted when development projects affect their territory.

“Back then I think we would have acted more unilaterally,” he said.

Kelley mentioned provincial funding for the Kateri Memorial hospital on the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal — which he said required several bureaucratic hurdles to overcome such as modifications to labour laws — as an example of a change in government attitude toward native people.

“It’s a small example but a good one to show how we are adapting our institutions with native realities and I think they will bring great benefits in the future,” he said.

But while native people have received more respect from non-native governments since Oka, there are many outstanding land claims across the country, and some Canadians still harbour prejudices against Aboriginal Peoples, Kelley said.

Tom Siddon, federal minister of Indian affairs and northern development at the time under Brian Mulroney, said he believes Oka played a key role in improving the thorny issue of land claims.

“I think we were able to make some major progress and I do believe that Oka was an important turning point in our natural history,” he said in an interview.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon stands in the Pines Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Kanesatake, Que., (Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The current grand chief in Kanesatake says that while the Mohawk Warriors might have inspired people around the world, the aftermath of the crisis led to the “social disintegration of the community.”

Serge Simon said it has taken a generation for people to overcome the trauma of the crisis and band council politics have only recently started to calm down after years of tension and sometimes violence between community members.

Simon said the 25th anniversary of the crisis has forced difficult memories to the surface including what he called human-rights abuses he alleges his people suffered at the hands of the provincial police.

“(The provincial police) took my cousin Angus Jacob and brought him to the back of a barn and handcuffed him to a metal chair,” he said in an interview.

“They pulled his pants down and they started electrocuting his testicles to get him to talk.”

He said events like Oka can happen again in Canada but it’s critical that natives and non-natives continue to talk to one another.

“Oka is what happens when dialogue stops,” he said.

By Giuseppe Valiante and Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press

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