Thursday, December 23, 1999


singing for a sweat shop free, violence free christmas at wal mart

Thursday December 23, 1999

Santa and approximately 15 elves (some disguised as Raging Grannies) enter Wal Mart to make the toy section a Violence Free Zone.

Singing anti-violence Christmas Carols, Santa and his elves walked through Hamilton's Mountain Mall stopping at the entrance to Wal Mart, now a leading seller of children's toys. An undercover security officer informed them that they would be charged with trespassing if they continued to sing in the mall concourse. Undeterred, the group walked merrily into Wal Mart and made their way to the Toy area. Santa announced the group's intention to make the Toy area a violence free zone, and then he and the elves got busy filling sack after sack with realistic guns, rifles, pistols, swords, and the odd wrestling figure (for good measure). Elves sang and handed out leaflets and candy canes. Wal Mart managers were prepared to stand back and watch as the busy North Pole-ers emptied the shelves. One young employee, leaflet in hand, actually assisted the elves by bringing a pistol from another shelf. Elves De-Shelve Violent Toys in Wal MartAs the plastic bags that Santa was using were being rapidly filled up with the large selection of arms available to children in the store, Elf Andrew began to make use of Wal Mart's own merchandise, and the elves then filled up several brand new garbage cans with even more guns.
The group then made their way to the electronics section, where extremely violent video games are available to anyone, regardless of age. The same scene took place here, Santa and his elves nearly exhausted after pulling so many violent toys off the shelves.
Some customers were obviously pleased, giving a thumbs up sign to Santa, and some, after examining the leaflet, confessed they had never thought of the issue before. There were no angry responses from customers, although some did seem slightly shocked by what they were seeing.
Still singing, the grannies, elves and Santa hauled the bags and pails of violent toys to the back loading dock, where managers were asked to keep the toy area "a place where children can enjoy the spirit of the season (or any time) without being assaulted with violent toys."
Santa noted that while Toys "R" Us still has violent content, they didn't stock realistic looking guns. Obviously, Wal Mart needs to be reminded that toy stores should not be mimicking the worst that television and society has to offer.
Earlier in the week, a news conference was held and media learned that there is a link between violent games and toys and real violence, with Child Psychiatrist Joanna Santa Barbara, Author Rose Dyson (Mind Abuse: Media Violence in an Information Age) and Santa Claus. (see below for media report)
Santa learned that the local television reporters (ONTV) were told by Wal Mart that they would be charged with trespassing if they attempted to cover the story. Unbelievably, the tv station was intimidated by Wal Mart's threat and stayed away.
There were no charges laid, and Santa said he would be back next year.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,


- - - -
Media Coverage of Media Conference

Only gift Santa wants is violence-free stores

By STEVE BUIST, The Spectator (Tuesday December 21, 1999)

Santa Claus is a pacifist at heart. That's the message the jolly old man will be delivering today to toy stores in the area.

Santa will be at Hamilton City Hall to ask stores to declare themselves violence-free zones and remove all violent toys and games from their shelves. He will then take his appeal directly to some toy stores.

With the growing accessibility of computers, the landscape has changed in the past decade. War toys are being surpassed by video games that can offer a shocking range of graphic violence.

"The actual visual brutality of some of the video games has become much greater," said Dr. Joanna Santa Barbara, a child psychiatrist who will be one of Santa's helpers. The event is being sponsored by Hamilton Action for Social Change.

"There are games now that involve severing heads, pulling out spinal columns; and many games that involve killing," added Santa Barbara.

Some experts fear these games-- especially given the active involvement required of the player-- can teach kids to channel their anger through violence. And there's some evidence to back them up.

Studies have shown that there can be a 50 per cent increase in aggressive play between children after they have been playing with violent toys.

"There are many studies that show this has a desensitizing effect on children and that the effect can last for a long time," added Santa Barbara.

In recently released videotapes, the teens who shot dead 12 students and teachers at their Colorado high school mention the violent computer game Doom.

This month, a judge in Sao Paulo, Brazil, banned six video games after a medical student, inspired by the game Duke Nukem, opened fire on a packed movie theatre and killed three people.

A recent U.S. study showed that game-playing among children peaks between the ages of eight and 13.

Boys make up the majority of players, and they tend to gravitate toward action games in which they are first-person shooters. In one survey, 50 per cent of boys listed violent games as their favourites.

The most recent development for video games in called "skins," in which players can insert images of real people and places, making the game more realistic.

Thursday, May 27, 1999



When Canada, in league with their NATO partners, went to war and intervened in the Kosovo/Yugoslavia conflict, they made an already bad situation much worse with their bombs, destroying long term conflict transformation work along with civilians and civilian infrastructure (a war crime).

In Hamilton, a group of activists responded to the news of war with weekly anti-war leaflets, handed out at the gates to the James Street Armoury.

Each week a new leaflet was prepared to hand out to passer-by and soldiers, reservists and people using the armoury (including cadets)

The weekly vigils culminated with the Armoury Conversion Project which simply entailed a group of people armed with sidewalk chalk, prepared to write messages of peace on the outer wall of the massive brick structure as an act of public protest and to encourage alternatives to violence.

Canadian elites where divided on the Kosovo conflict and many dissenting voices made it into the corporate media:

"No political solution to this crisis can be reached while the bombing continues"
Senator Douglas Roche

"Rather than ending the human rights abuses, NATO bombs appear to have provoked a larger-scale onslaught and greater misery in Kosovo."
Geoffrey Pearson, United Nations Association V.P.

"With the abandonment of the U.N. charter, we enter a new phase of history that many of us will learn to regret"
James Bissett, former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia

Large numbers of civilians have incontestably been killed, civilian installations targeted on the grounds that they are or could be of military application and NATO remains the sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb...In this situation, the principle of proportionality must be adhered to by those carrying out the bombing campaign to weigh the consequences of their campaign for civilians in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

I do believe we caused collateral damage. I'm certain that we did.

Canadian airforce Colonel Dwight Davies, Canadian task force commander during the Kosovo "campaign". [over 500 civilians killed-- almost 30% of Canadian Smart bombs missed target during the 78 day war: source-Globe and Mail]

Locally, corporate media attempted to create hysteria around the proposed action, with both the Hamilton Spectator and the "Roy Green Show" on local radio station CHML framing the story in terms of outraged veterans versus ungrateful peacenik/vandals (more or less...)

On the big day (Thursday, May 27, 1999) civil society was enlivened as a women's vocal group Women Folk, Food Not Bombs and concerned citizens representing various groups and sectors in Hamilton came together to rally for peace and attempt to symbolically transform or convert the armoury into a public statement for peace.

The weather was beautiful, and despite a large police presence, the demonstrators were able to decorate the front of the building with their message of peace.


The Hamilton Spectator Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Veteran's widow furious about armoury protest
Groups prepared to be arrested for writing 'message of peace' By KEN KILPATRICK
The Spectator

A plan to write peace slogans on the walls of Hamilton James Street North Armoury has Margaret Foster upset.

"That's hallowed property," the 72 year-old widow of a Second World War veteran said yesterday.

"Many young men left from there and never came back. They were dead by the time they were 20."

She was responding to a plan by a group of "freedom painters" to use chalk to create a "message of peace" on the walls at 7 p.m. tomorrow.


Randy Kay, one of the peace activists who have been handing out leaflets opposing the NATO bombing in Yugoslavia and Canada's role in it, said yesterday that if people are arrested, "they will be quite happy to suffer the consequences.

"We will be doing this respectfully," he said. "We are hoping to introduce some nonviolence into the mix.

"On Thursday night, we are going to chalk the walls with a message of peace.

We are still trying to come to a consensus on what that message will be. We are taking public space on the outside of the building and reclaiming it for civil society."

He stressed anyone who plans to join in should be trained in nonviolent civil disobedience techniques.

Captain Michael James Pretty, adjutant and operations officer with the armoury, said yesterday he contacted regional police after hearing about the plan.

He said although the military has its own police force, civilian police would handle any demonstration outside the building.

Foster, whose husband Alan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery when he was 19 and spent five years overseas, said: "If they want to march up and down the street, that's OK but I have very vivid memories of friends who left from there and never returned. "I have vivid memories of the troop trains, I think this is wrong."

She said she "went ballistic" when she read about the event.

"I would like to exert my rights on behalf of all those people who fought or gave their lives during the war. Many are not around to speak for themselves."

Sue Markey, a peace activist and member of the singing group Women Folk, said yesterday the Canadian government has not discussed its action with Canadians.

"We woke up one morning and were told NATO was bombing the former Yugoslavia.

"We are extremely concerned about this. There are nonviolent ways of resolving this conflict."

She said the main role of her group during tomorrow's demonstration will be "to create a warm, friendly atmosphere and provide support for those who are doing the chalking."
Church members

Markey expected a number of groups would be represented, including steelworkers, students, members of the Quaker and Mennonite churches and the Peace Research Institute in Dundas.

"Canada has an international peace-keeping reputation and now Canada is directly at war," she said.

"We expect a large number of people to come out and support us."

Foster - whose husband fought in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany before volunteering to serve in Japan - said although he was not physically injured, he suffered from memories that caused nightmares.

"For a long time, he didn't talk about the war.

"Only in later years, some of the things he saw came back to haunt him."

He died of heart disease at 58.
 - - - -
The Hamilton Spectator. Friday, May 28, 1999
Peace protesters leave their mark 
By PAUL LEGALL Crime reporter, The Spectator

Police stood by and watched as protesters chalked anti-war slogans on one of Hamilton's most revered military shrines last night

The demonstrators said they were trying to convert the James Street North armoury into a symbol of peace. By the end of the evening, operation Armoury Conversion Project had the whole front of the building covered with peace signs, biblical exhortations against killing, and slogans condemning Canada's involvement in the Kosovo bombings."

But in typical Canadina fashion, the protesters had phoned in advance to warn police and military of what they would be doing. They said they used chalk to deliver their message - instead of paint - because they didn't want to permanently deface the building. Earlier this week, 72-year-old war widow Margaret Foster described the building as "hallowed property." "Many young men left from there and never came back," she said.

But the protesters stressed they didn't mean to show any disrespect to anybody who might have sentimental attachments with the building.

We're respecting one another," said Kevin Shimmin, who handed out literature during the one-hour protest. "It's non-violent civil-disobedience. We notified everybody in advance." He respected veterans who fought in the Second World War and Korea because they were fighting for democracy. By contrast, he said Canadian pilots are bombing innocent victims in Kosovo

Almost a dozen uniformed policemen, including members of the mountain bike unit, looked on impassively as the handful of chalk-wielding artists - who called themselves freedom painters - worked their way across the front of the building.

Other protesters made speeches and sang peace songs and cheered the artists as they went about their business.

A number of soldiers remained quietly inside the building and made no effort to stop the protest. One soldier had a terse "no comment" when approached by a reporter.

But the officers stepped in and stopped the slogan-writing when the chalkers started scrawling on the north side of the structure. After a brief discussion, the protesters agreed to confine their activities to the front, as they had previously agreed.

About 50 protesters of all ages attended the event, including seasoned anti-war activists like Annie MacDonald.

MacDonald, 49, said she got caught up in the protest movement while she was living in the United States in the 1960s.

Now crippled with a rare genetic disease, she laid flowers at the front of the armoury in memory of her grandfather who had died of a battle-related medical condition after the First World War. She wore a red, white and black bandana around her head. The red was for the blood spilled in war, black to mourn the victims of war, and white to symbolize the white dove of peace.

Protester Bryer Manwell, 24, believes the most direct road to peace is through the belly. As part of her campaign called Food Not Bombs, she handed out freshly-baked low-fat vegetarian muffins to policemen and protesters alike.

"They contain zucchini, raisins, and walnuts - no hash brownies," she promised as she handed a muffin to Hamilton-Wentworth Police Inspector Vince DeMascio.

"Fantastic," DeMascio proclaimed as he bit into the offering. "What other protest do you get a muffin and a damned good muffin," he said.

Text of photo captions included in newspaper:
1 (front page) - Hamilton-Wentworth police officers keep a close eye on a gathering of protesters at the James Street Armoury yesterday. The protesters expressed their displeasure with the war in Yugoslavia by using coloured chalk to scribble anti-NATO slogans on the downtown building's outer walls.
2. Police Inspector Vince DeMascio and protester Bryer Manwell shared muffins, not angry words, last night.
3. Annie MacDonald, 49, laid flowers at the armoury in memory of her grandfather who died of a battle-related medical condition after the First World War.