Territory of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas
After an astounding 20 months, the remaining four of us facing charges in Hamilton, ON for a rail blockade in solidarity with Tyendinaga and the Wet’suwet’en in 2020 have finally settled our charges with a non-cooperating plea.
The blockade itself lasted for 24 hours and shut down both CN & CP lines in a strategic bottleneck, stopping all cargo between Ontario and New York state, with no ability for the companies to bypass the stoppage. The action cost CN & CP Rail more than $45,000, and was part of #ShutDownCanada – a wave of solidarity actions that spread throughout Turtle Island and included the blockades of ports, rails, highways, bridges, and more. Nationwide rail blockades alone stranded an estimated $425 million in cargo each day, creating serious delays in ports, as well as delays in mining and agriculture.
(For a summary of those actions and of the charges that resulted, see this post: https://north-shore.info/2021/01/11/after-a-winter-of-blockades-updates-on-criminal-charges-from-shutdowncanada-en- fr/)
Collectively, our actions were described as a potential “catastrophe for the economy.
For our roles in these shutdowns, we each faced four criminal counts: 2 X mischief over $5000 and 2 X mischief under $5000. We pled to just one count of mischief under each. Three of us were able to plea on a conditional discharge with one-year probation, while our fourth accepted a one year probation on a suspended sentence after serving 14 months on a strict pre-trial house arrest. Our decision to plea was not just motivated by punitive and coercive bail conditions, but also our hearts and minds which sought to reduce risk for all coaccused, and find more meaningful and empowered ways of being in struggle than just dealing with repression in the colonial courts.
Early on, we committed to navigating the legal process collectively, sharing resources and making strategic decisions together. Unifying principles and our care for each other made this possible – though not always easy – and we see collective defense as an essential part of the overall struggle against repressive forces.
We believe the only good way through repression is to step and stand together.
We’re happy to say we did just that, and even ended the sentencing proceedings with a few inspired and unrepentant words to the court.
On the Intensity of Repression & Surveillance
From the moment charges were laid, the court – with apparent input from detectives – imposed conditions to limit our use of social media and prevent us offering any kind of support to the Wet’suwet’en, or any other Indigenous group.
We were restricted from attending or organizing most protests – a condition from the Toronto G20 Main Conspiracy case in 2010 that has since become standard in southern Ontario bail proceedings related to “activism”.
One defendant was ejected from the city altogether. Another was put on house arrest following separate charges related to an OPP raid on 1492 Landback Lane. That individual continues to face charges alleging their involvement in actions taken against the RCMP in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en back in 2019. Look for future updates about those charges.
If you missed it, we encourage the reading of a previous North Shore article that provides details around the surveillance of Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions and actors in our area https://north-shore.info/2020/08/20/details-of-police-surveillance-targeting-wetsuweten-solidarity-organizing/, but in short: At least one of the individuals arrested had been under intermittent mobile surveillance in the months leading up to their arrest. This involved 4 to 5 teams of plainclothes officers following that individual for entire days, documenting what they did, and retrieving video footage and receipts from stores they entered. On the same day the arrests for the rail blockade took place, Hamilton Police also sought an application under 492.1(1) – a warrant to apply an electronic tracking device to a vehicle – against one of us. The application was heard and approved before our bail hearings ever took place. A warrant to search that same person’s cellphone using Cellebrite to crack encryption was also granted later in the year as police attempted to make a conspiracy case against us.Despite these extraordinary measures, police were unable to make their case.
We don’t know how extensively Hamilton (or any) police use these methods against activists and anarchists as a whole, but it is clear we need to consistently and proactively keep these things in mind – without letting it stop us. We encourage discussing these new revelations with your crews and taking a minute to brush up on security culture basics https://north-shore.info/2019/11/05/confidence-courage-connection-trust-a-proposal-for-security-culture/
Last Words – for Now
We offer our complete respect and solidarity to the many frontlines throughout Turtle Island right now – from the Haudenosaunee at Landback Lane and Arrowdale, to the Secwepemc protecting their homes; the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht protecting their old growth elders; the Mi’kmaq peoples protecting the Shubenecadie and fighting for sovereign fisheries; and of course with great care – the Wet’suwet’en who continue to take an active stand and face yet another invasion by the RCMP.
P.S. We also learned that each individual rail car sitting on the tracks costs about $32 per day. We think that has the potential to add up pretty quick. What do you think?