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G8/G20 Communique: Three men charged in RBC branch firebombing

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Three individuals have been charged over the weekend in the May 18, 2010, firebombing of an RBC branch in the Glebe neighbourhood of Ottawa.

A group calling itself the FFFC - which we now know stands for Fighting For Freedom -- posted a video manifesto online a few hours after the incident. No one was injured in the 3:30 am blast. Damage to the branch is estimated at $500,000.  

Ottawa residents Roger Clement, 58, Claude Haridge, 50, and Matthew Morgan-Brown, 32 are accused of targeting a Royal Bank branch. Haridge and Morgan-Brown will appear in court via video link some time Monday, while Clement will appear in court again Friday. A fourth man was arrested but then later released. 

The charges against Clement and Morgan-Brown include arson causing damage, possession of incendiary material, use of explosives with intent to cause property damage and mischief.

Haridge was charged with mischief and careless storage and handling of ammunition after police seized hundreds of rounds -- including numerous military-calibre bullets -- during a Friday raid.

The 30-day investigation was conducted by the Ottawa Police Arson and Major Crime Units who made the arrests Friday; assisted by the Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP. Further charges could be pending regarding "domestic terrorism," though that determination would be from the RCMP.

Police said two of the suspects were also charged with an attack on another Royal Bank branch in Ottawa on Feb. 1, 2010, where two people were observed damaging multiple windows and ATMs with rocks and a hammer.

Two of the men are being represented by the law firm of Lawrence Greenspon (who also represented Mohamed Momin Khawaja; the first person convicted under the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act.)

"Pre-trial comments that attempt to characterize offences are not helpful to the administration of justice," Greenspon told reporters on Saturday.

I think we must be caution here to remember that these individuals have simply been charged with the bombing but should still be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We don't yet know if these are actually the individuals responsible.

Case in point, in late May, 2010, the 58 year old retired public servant, Roger Clement, went to the press declaring his innocence, stating that while he did rent the SUV that police had linked to the get away vehicle used on May 18, 2010, he had nothing to do with the bombing. 

Ottawa Movement Defence held a support rally for those accused on Saturday June 19, 2010 and 50 people were present for their court appearance. In a statement released over the internet, "It's vital we make it clear to the Crown, to the cops, and to the media that these three individuals are part of our communities and that we won't allow them to be railroaded or treated unfairly by the justice system."

I have to note here that the big reveal by police was made on Saturday, one week before the planned G8/G20 Summit protests in Toronto; almost as a way to keep the media talking, stringing together words like "activists,"  "violence,"  "terrorism."  It also benefits the police and government in their attempts to justify the $1.1 Billion dollar security price tag.

I think calling for caution right now is the best tact to take. Again, remember the principles of "innocent before proven guilty", we don't know yet if the three men are members of the FFFC or involved in the bombing.

Last names can be deceiving, we don't know yet the ethnicity of those charged. I state this in reference to whether these men are a part of the First Nations community in some fashion, since they did claim in their manifesto the attacks were made against corporate "Kanada" in defence of indigenous land rights and the environment. The names sound Franco-white, but that might just be the legacy of colonization. 

Regardless of their ethnicity or where they call home, there needs to be some accountability to the First Nations movement since the actions of the FFFC directly impact them.

First Nations groups have spoken out publically about the bombing to establish that it was not done in their name - including the organizing group for Indigenous Solidarity actions on Thursday June 24, 2010.

But it has led CSIS to intensify its surveillance on native activists such as those from Red Power United who recorded their interactions with CSIS agents for APTN.

Activists need to be vigilant when it comes to dealing with the police or CSIS agents as it is confirmed that they are visiting local activists and events leading up to the Summit demonstrations.

The question remains, will a solidarity movement coalesce around these three men?

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