The Anarchist Group "FFFC - Ottawa," has claimed responsibility for the early morning Royal Bank of Canada firebombing in Ottawa Tuesday and has vowed to take its protests to the upcoming G8 and G20 Summit protests in Ontario in June. The group stated the attacks were made against corporate "Kanada" in defence of indigenous land rights and the environment.
Referencing the recent Olympic Games in B.C., the statement reads, "On June 25-27 2010, the G8/G20 ‘leaders' and bankers are meeting in Huntsville and Toronto to make decisions that will further their policies of exploitation of people and the environment and we will be there. We pass the torch to all those who would resist the trampling of native rights, of the rights of us all, and resist the ongoing destruction of our planet. We say: The Fire This Time."
Security footage shows what police are also claiming to be a small group of anarchist fleeing the scene of the Royal Bank of Canada in the Glebe neighbourhood of Ottawa. The identity of members of the FFFC who carried out the attacks are being sought by police.
The fire caused by the explosion is estimated to have caused $300,000 with no casualties reported. On May 5, 2010 during economic protests in Greece, three people -- including a pregnant woman -- were killed in a similar bank fire bombing but one that occurred during business hours. Eight banks, offices and government buildings in total were targeted by anti-capitalist protesters using Molotov cocktails.
Here in Canada, the "FFFC - Ottawa" group claim it targeted the RBC due to its sponsorship of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games which in the FFFC statement says was, "held on stolen indigenous land." It also notes that the RBC is a major financier of the Alberta oil sands which the group considers, "one of the largest industrial projects in human history and perhaps the most destructive."
The statement continues, "Royal Bank Canada is one of the planet's greenest companies" according to one of its own brochures. Coporate Kanada saw fit to include RBC as one of the top 50 in a competition dubbed Canada's Greenest Employers, which purports to recognize organizations that have created "a culture of environmental awareness. Yet RBC is now the major financier of Alberta's tar sands, one of the largest industrial projects in human history and perhaps the most destructive. The tar sands, now the cause of the second fastest rate of deforestation on the planet, are slated to expand several times its current size."
A report by the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre early this year noted that between September 2007 and May 2009, anarchist-identified groups have laid claim to four attacks on Vancouver RBC branches were large rocks was thrown through windows."
In a statement released to the press on Wednesday, the RBC stated that it is working with the police to ensure that those responsible are caught. "We are not going to comment on the group that has claimed responsibility or respond to the inflammatory statements of those who use violence to communicate their views," said RBC spokesperson Gillian McArdle.
While it is far too soon to assume that the spiritus of Greece has come to Canada, news of the bombing was greeted with a range of reactions and overall nervousness. Reaction has been slow from different social justice groups, which perhaps is more reflective of shock than condonement.
Several groups, including those who represent the interests of First Nations peoples, are in the process of discussing the firebombing with its membership before coming out with a public statement in reaction to the Ottawa bombing which was supposedly carried out in the name of Aboriginal rights.
S.K. Hussan, a spokesperson for the Toronto Community Mobilization Network -- which is facilitating the G20 protests here in Toronto, said of the bombing, "'One burnt RBC branch pales in comparison to the death and devastation that the G20 policies create worldwide, and the Tar Sands create in Canada. The Toronto Community Mobilization Network supports mass mobilizations, rallies, protests and creative actions that oppose the G20's colonial, anti-people, anti-environment agenda"
On rabble.ca's discussion board, babble, reactions were mixed; some fear that the act, "will most certainly be exploited to justify full tilt boogie-man tactics against G8/G20 protesters." One babbler noted:
"A firebombed bank, where the situation is being treated as suspicious by the authorities [have responded] with 16 firetrucks and 35 firefighters, along with the unlimited and dedicated attention of the police to determine the circumstances and track down the perps, all to address a crime against corporate property. Meanwhile, Bay and Wall Street continue to rage with impunity, where millions of lives are at stake as a result of their attacks upon the worth and lives of human beings."
Seeking information myself, I googled the name FFFC and asked around if anyone was aware of such a group, but turned up nothing. And as the end of the manifesto statement references the slogan "The Fire This Time", this slogan is simply too common to link to any one particular groups. But do I really want to be doing the job of the police here by hunting down those who were responsible while also balancing a journalist's natural impulse to seek the truth?
David C., a First Nations organizer, who I spoke to at noon and thus felt it was too close in timing to the actual bombing to give me his last name, was quick with his anger and skepticism. "It could be the police for all we know, a case of an agent provocateur...I don't know what they were thinking, if they get caught, they are going to be charged under the new terrorism laws and they'll never see the light of day again."
The best scenario at this juncture is to offer the wisdom of caution lest the movement jumps from the state of healthy vigilance to a state of paranoia. Human nature's predictable responses will abound, from naive solidarity or outright public condemnation.
For now, the best solution is to wait until we receive the wisdom and guidance of the different First Nations groups involved in their own communities and the social justice communities, as it is their reaction that must set the tone. For they are the primary stakeholder and could become the primary target of the police and RCMP in the predictable backlash against activism which will -- I assure you -- follow.