Let us speak truthfully about what many of you are about to enter in to — a crime. You are deciding that your beliefs are more important then the law. And that when laws are unjust, they must be resisted.
Hundreds of people are meeting in Toronto to plan an unpermitted public action. Facebook and Twitter are abuzz. Money is being raised, tents gathered, and food being cooked. There are news stories every day. Activists are asked about a single, simple demand, and they refuse to answer. “Our dreams and hopes are too many to fit in a single soundbite.” The police is on high alert. Bill Blair, the Chief of Police, promises to protect the protesters (from who?) but keeps talking about a crackdown against undefined “trouble-makers.” Progressives and activists argue about strategy and messaging, and blog post after blog post appears condemning the organizing or cheering them on.
No, this is not #OccupyToronto beginning on Oct 15. This is June 2010. A massive seven-day spectacle of resistance against the G20 is about to begin.
There are many similarities (and differences) between the anti-G20 protests, other anti-austerity actions and the upcoming #OccupyTogether actions. I am going to be writing about them in the days to come.
But first, I want to write about the police, law and our ideas of justice. #Occupy activists, especially #OccupyToronto, this is for you.
Well-known fact: Police forces from across Canada descended on Toronto in a billion-dollar debacle in June 2010, beat up, pepper sprayed, and assaulted hundreds, arresting 1,100 people. Charges against most were withdrawn and no police officer has yet been convicted of these crimes.
Less-known fact: Nearly 3 dozen activists, community organizers, and others were charged with conspiracy. Though many have had their charges withdrawn, 17 are part of one conspiracy trial and a few others on conspiracy trials by themselves.
I am one of the 17. We were initially 20 co-defendants, but two had their conspiracy charges dropped, and one pleaded guilty to a lower charge. As an alleged conspirator, I am not allowed to participate or assisting in organizing public demonstrations. If I could, I would say all this to you in person, but attending a General Assembly has been made criminal for me. So this article is about “you” and not “us.”
Conspiracy charges are thought crime. I have lived in a state of limbo, without being able to work, without being able to leave my house alone for most of the last year, not for allegedly carrying out a criminal action but for allegedly thinking about one. Thinking, talking, agreeing to do anything illegal is illegal.
And just to be clear, almost everything is illegal. An unpermitted march and occupation, like #OccupyToronto, is illegal. Sleeping in a public park in Toronto, past 11 p.m., is illegal. Standing on an intersection, interfering with the flow of traffic is illegal. Having open general assemblies, trainings where illegal actions are discussed are illegal. Indigenous people asserting control over their own lands is illegal. And as we learned during the G20, with the secret powers of search and seizure, that existed near the fence and than didn’t (the so-called G20 Fence Law), laws can be made and unmade at the whim of the 1 per cent.
In other words, the thousands of people who believe that one should not have to ask permission to protest, and are willing to join online or in real-life planning sessions to make these unpermitted actions possible are engaging in a conspiracy. An open conspiracy, but an illegal action nonetheless.
This is not meant to elicit fear in the seasoned and new activists gathering around the #OccupyToronto movement. It is to speak truthfully about what many of you are about to enter in to — a crime. You are deciding that your beliefs are more important then the law. And that when laws are unjust, they must be resisted.
You are deciding to break the law because you know that it is these laws that allow and celebrate the power of the 1 per cent over the rest of us. You are deciding to break the law, because so much of what you oppose is legal, so much of what you desire is illegal. You are breaking the law, because these laws were made broken, made to break you.
#Occupy movements, the government and police are not your friends. Laws do not exist to protect you, they exist to control you. The only thing that stops the police from attacking, arresting and locking everyone up is the balance of social forces. If you are organized and prepared to defend yourself, if there are thousands of people with you, and the public opinion to match, you may just stay free(er) for a day longer. If not, expect immense, instant repression.
Expect it and prepare for it.
Prepare to go to jail.
Prepare to support those in jail.
Prepare to be unduly criticized in the media.
Prepare for the police to name ringleaders, even when you are a horizontal movement.
Prepare for the police to divide you. To tell you that some protest is good, and others are bad.
Prepare to be infiltrated by sociopaths, by police agents that will pretend to be your friends and lie to you.
Prepare to spend time in jail, or under onerous bail conditions for years even before going to trial.
Prepare for the police to offer you “deals” — either live under immense and unbearable bail conditions or plead guilty for a crime you may not have done.
Prepare for the immense legal costs that will occur, and know that sometimes you won’t fight in court because you are simply too poor.
Prepare to face house arrest, hefty fines, to be banned from cities, to be separated from your friends
Understand that though you may not have been harassed by police or immigration enforcement, many are every day. Understand that, though the one time you called the police, and it worked for you, for many it never does. Understand that though cops are always the good guys on TV and in movies, they almost never are in real life.
Understand that the police and laws are part of a system that is anti-poor, anti-women, anti-people of colour, anti-queer, and anti-people with disabilities. Understand that to truly be free, to truly do what you are trying to do, which is resisting the laws that allow some to be rich and powerful and for the rest to live at their mercy, you must resist racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and disableism. You must resist the very structure every one of these laws is based on — you must resist colonialism.
Understand that to truly be free, to truly include the entire 99 per cent, you have to say today, and say every day: We will leave no one behind. We will leave no one in jail. We will leave no one in the clutches of immigration enforcement. We will leave no one when they are strong. We will leave no one when they are weak. We will support the decisions people make, to do whatever they feel necessary to survive and to resist. We will support those that fight in the courts, and we will support those that fight in the streets.