All charges dropped

I was targeted for arrest and nabbed off the street by anundercover snatch squad

After more than two-and-a-half years, all charges against me related tothe Summit of the Americas in Quebec City (April 2001) have beendropped.

Last week, Judge Beaulieu of the Quebec Superior Court ordered a stay ofproceedings in response to pre-trial motions I made for unreasonabledelay and abuse of process. A three-week jury trial that was to begin inJanuary 2004 — which would have involved a huge effort in terms ofwork, expenses and logistics — has now been cancelled. While the stayof proceedings prevents me from going directly before a jury to beacquitted, it is still a huge victory, and once again deprives thepolice of a conviction in court.

There are many other Summit of the Americas cases pending, including acurrent jury trial involving three defendants who were chargedseparately but are being tried together: Luke Parkinson of Fredericton,N.B.; Denis Fortin of Montreal; and Colin O'Connor ofPeterborough, Ontario. They are facing riot charges, and are defended byPascal Lescarbeau (who acted as my legal advisor, and very capablyargued my recent pre-trial motions). The trial is expected to last three weeks.

To date, there have been many acquittals, a few deals (which have beenespecially tempting for out-of-town defendants) as well as a few guiltyverdicts for the hundreds of people who were arrested and charged duringthe Quebec City uprising against the Summit of the Americas and the FTAA. A written summary of the Quebec City Summit cases isforthcoming, and will provide a useful insight into the use of thestate, police and courts against dissent (and the resilience of aprotest movement that has tried to meet the legal challenge head-on,with some substantial victories).

In my case, I was targeted for arrest and nabbed off the street by anundercover snatch squad a few hours after the fence was torn down duringthe Carnival Against Capitalism march on April 20, 2001 in Quebec City.I was charged with participating in a riot, breach of conditions, andpossessing a dangerous weapon: a teddy-bear launching catapult. I wasdetained for 17 days in prison before winning bail. During various courthearings while I was in detention, police witnesses and crown attorneysalleged that I was the leader of the demonstration, and that thecatapult was used to launch rocks and Molotov cocktails. One officer testified under oath that the teddy bears could have transformedinto Molotovs (no joke). The police did “ballistics tests” on thecatapult which were recorded on video, after the catapult was seizedfrom an affinity group from Ottawa (the “Lanark-ists”) by the police.

In order to be freed from prison, I had to agree to conditions ofrelease that included a ban on “being a leader,” and a ban on using amegaphone anywhere in Canada (again, no joke). Twice since my release,I've been charged with breaking those conditions at demonstrations, andstill face trials in those cases. The conditionshave been extended to ban me from amplifying my voice in anydemonstration for any reason whatsoever, anywhere in Canada (yet again,no joke).

In a rather strongly-worded ruling last week, the judge agreed with many of myarguments, and wrote: “[The defendant] has shown that the bailconditions imposed on May 2001 have restrained his right to freedom,opinion, expression and the right of freedom of association as protectedby article 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Over theentire court process, there were more than two dozen court hearingsrelated to my case, most of which I was obliged to attend in personfrom Montreal.

I cannot properly thank everyone who has shown incredible support andsolidarity starting moments after I was nabbed off the street in QuebecCity, in so many different ways: court support, material support, goodadvice, translation, words of encouragement, organizing campaigns. The support and solidarity from so many places, in so many ways,over such a long period of time, was so crucial to being able toeffectively fight these charges.

I want to particularly thank all theorganizers who were active with the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC)in Montreal and the Comite d'Accueil (d'Adieu) de Sommet des Ameriques(CASA) in Quebec City, and also the incredible support work by membersof the Libertas Legal Collective, and especially Pascal Lescarbeau, whois not just a skilled lawyer, but a patient teacher and great ally.

In the past two years, I have been facing six trials. I have now won twoimportant legal victories: the stay of proceedings last week, and anot-guilty verdict several months ago by a Montreal jury in relation toanother protest. Still, I have other trials, including “illegalassembly” and other charges in relation to my involvement in the protestagainst Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University in September 2002(for which I was arrested four months later). I will be dealing with theConcordia trial, and two others (for breach of conditions), in thecoming months, while awaiting a verdict in a fourth case. To date, Ihave not been convicted.

Undoubtedly, the most important way that I have maintained moralethroughout these legal proceedings is to participate in — and to beinspired by — ongoing collective organizing against war, poverty,capitalism and all forms of exploitation and oppression. It's beennecessary for me to assertively respond to the legal detours in my way,but I most look forward to organizing and working with you in our sharedstruggle for justice, dignity and liberation.

Finally, the judge also ordered that the Quebec police, who have hadthe catapult in their custody ever since April 20, 2001, hand it over tome — who never even used it to begin with, or even came up with the idea.My personal preference was to build something called the “Trojan Donut”to break through police lines, but that never worked out. Variousactivists from across Canada who were involved with thecatapult in some way — from Alberta, Ontario and Quebec City — willbrainstorm how best to make use of the soon-to-be “liberated” catapult.

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