Just about everybody has heard about Montreal activist Jaggi Singh's run-in with Quebec City's special anti-teddy-bear unit. News is also starting to spread about the continued imprisonment of the Germinal 5, as demonstrations are being prepared in various cities across the country for the group's May 22 Quebec City hearing. But Vaughn Barnett's case has not received much notice outside of his hometown of Fredericton New Brunswick.
According to fellow protester Jeff Thoms, Barnett was not only openly and completely passive outside the Summit of the Americas. He had actually taped a bilingual sign to his chest that said he did not intend to damage any property. Once the fence was torn down and police had pushed Barnett out of the area, he crossed the perimeter again and sat down. "He felt he honestly had the right to be on the other side of the fence," said Thoms.
Barnett was subsequently charged with assaulting an officer. Since he opted to defend himself, he has had no contact with the Quebec Legal defence team, and few details of his case have been circulated.
The Coalition Of Fredericton Activists (COFA) is trying to change that. On May 7, it teamed-up with the Fredericton Alliance of Soft Toys (FAST), creating a combined force of about 130 assembled at Fredericton's city hall. There, the two groups participated in a re-enactment of the Quebec City protest. Some COFA members played the part of protesters while others donned riot-cop drag. FAST members were launched from a stuffed-animal catapult over a wall that was more than three metres high.
The theatre of the absurd (and entirely realistic) re-enactment played on the already well-known alleged teddy-antics of Jaggi Singh in order to draw attention to Barnett's continued imprisonment. Barnett's former wife, Tasha Barnett, is one of the few people who have been in contact with the prisoner. She says his main concern is "staying alive now that Jaggi has been released" and media interest in Orsainville detainees wanes.
Barnett could have walked out of Orsainville if he had agreed to pay $200 bail and sign a promise to appear (with certain conditions), but opted to stay behind bars to protest his lack of due process. Tasha Barnett explains that the former law student's attempts to defend himself in court are being considerably hampered because he is being denied access to law books (including the criminal code) to prepare his defence.
David Bernans is a researcher for the Concordia Student Union, a part-time professor at Concordia University, a member of the bikesheviks vÃ©lorutionnaires and is the author of the forthcoming book, Con U Inc: Privatization, Marketization and Globalization at Concordia University (and beyond). He ran for the NDP against Finance Minister Paul Martin in the most recent federal elections.
For rabble news Quebec Summit Coverage, please click here.
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