Monday, June 19, 2000

22 arrested at Hamilton War Show

Fathers Day Coalition for Peace

1280 Main Street West, Box 19

Hamilton ON L8S 1C0


Hamilton War Show Suffers Serious Setback from Combination of Nonviolent Direct Action, Alternative Festival of Life, and Mother Nature; 22 Activists Arrested and Criminally Charged; War Show Faces Major Financial Losses

In what has proven a significant weekend in the new effort to end the 26-year-old Hamilton War Show, a combination of nonviolent protest and resultant traffic tie-ups on Saturday, June 17, and rain on Sunday, June 18, may prove too much for the financially unstable institution to continue its annual homage to planes whose only purpose is mass murder from the air.

A testament to the seriousnessness with which the City of Hamilton treated the protests was reflected in criminal charges and severe bail restrictions. But by the time the last resister was released from jail at 3:30 pm on Sunday, war show organizers were no doubt left wondering what the future looked like considering two crucial factors: given that the Sunday is usually a bigger turnout than the Saturday, a huge source of revenue was lost through the rainout. In addition, the massive traffic jams on Saturday, which were partly credited to the protests, caused numerous cars to turn around, with drivers perhaps thinking Sunday might be a better try. (Later, war show organizers admitted Saturday attendance was actually down from last year, a sign attendees hoped to avoid the protests).

Even more important was the fact that, despite the usual catcalls and verbal threats from the truly dedicated war show fans, thousands of attendees were actually reading the flyers handed to them during their stay in the traffic jam, and some engaged in dialogue with the clowns, grannies and others who were eager to discuss their opposition to the exhibition. For the first time, many of these folks had to consider why they unquestioningly attended something innocently labelled family entertainment each Fathers Day Weekend, to ask themselves how one family's entertainment could represent another family's terror and tragedy.

The War Show, which goes by the friendly moniker "air show", features such events as "Kiddie Commando", in which little children dress up as soldiers in camouflage with facepaint and play war on an obstacle course with real soldiers sporting large water guns, "toy" grenades and military camouflage and facepaint. It is one of the largest displays of aerial firepower each summer in North America, with a range of criminal warplanes from the air forces of Canada, the U.S. and U.K.

Thursday, June 15, 2000

war show countdown


The decision to engage in nonviolent direct action against the Hamilton War Show comes out of a lengthy year-long process of attempted negotiation, educational efforts, lobbying, letter-writing, and more. Details are listed below.

June 9, 1999. The Fathers Day Coalition for Peace, following on the decision by Montreal War Show organizers to cancel their air show in respect for the victims of the bombing of the former Yugoslavia, write a Letter to Hamilton Air Show Board asking them to cancel show: "we hope you agree that the horror of all wars that have taken fathers from their wives and children make Fathers Day an inappropriate time to celebrate war"

June 20, 1999. Five people arrested and charged with trespassing for standing in front of an A-10 warplane while praying and holding a vigil for victims of militarism. The arrests generate a significant debate in the Hamilton-area media, with numerous letters to the editor and an opinion peace by arrestee Murray Lumley.

October 16, 1999 "A wing and a prayer" evening peace celebration in support of the "Father's Day Five" featuring performances by Bob Wiseman, Selina Martin, Tim McCarroll Butler and Raging Grannies. Debut of the video documenting the 1999 protest at the air show "Target audience: Children, War and the Hamilton International Air Show."

October 18, 1999 First Court appearance for Father's Day Five&endash;remanded.

December 20, 1999 Second Court appearance--charges quashed. "We can only conclude they didn't want us to be heard," concludes the coalition.

February 3, 2000 Call to Close the War Show goes out to activists. across Ontario.

February 11, 2000 Representatives of the Fathers Day Coalition for Peace refused permission to speak at the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Grants Committee about the $100,000 regional grant money that goes to the air show.

February 14, 2000 "Death" visits the Regional Council meeting during a vigil/demonstration at city hall. The issue of war show's militarism is raised by Dundas Mayor John Addison: "those aircraft are built solely for one purpose, and that's to kill as many people as possible & those bombs cannot distinguish between civilians and military personnel; or children, women, elderly, and people carrying a gun." $100,000 Grant is nevertheless awarded to the War Show.

February 15, 2000 Letter to War Show Board sent asking for them to discuss our concerns, and to cancel the militarized show. "We are writing to ask you to cancel the yearly event known as 'the Hamilton International Air Show.' Our primary reason for this request is rooted in a concern about the overly militaristic nature of the Air Show. Indeed, a more truthful name for this annual display of military air power would be the Hamilton International War Show, since clearly war is what is celebrated each year."

March 1, 2000 Brabant Papers carry editorial supporting Father's Day Coalition for Peace's position: "the people of Hamilton-Wentworth are subsidizing an event that is little more than a trade show for the U.S. military industrial complex."

March 1, 2000 Letter writing campaign to have Revenue Canada look at the War Show's charitable status begins. "The HIAS does not fulfil any of the purposes that would qualify it for charitable status. Clearly the Show is not relieving poverty (1) or advancing religion (2). Nor is it a "benefit" to community (4). It could be argued that the War Show's insensitive display of weapons used against soldiers and civilians alike is in fact a detriment rather than a benefit to communities since this technology has decimated numerous such communities. The HIAS should not qualify as "advancing education"(3) for two reasons: they do not provide "significant training or instruction," nor do they provide "a full and fair presentation of the facts."

March 22, 2000 Letter refusing dialogue sent to Fathers Day Coalition for Peace by War Show board of directors chair Wayne Thompson. "We have no intention of excluding any type of aircraft from this celebration, especially military aircraft that contribute to our security and defend your freedom to express your personal opinions. On the matter of opinions, evidently, we have fundamental differences that are not likely to be resolved in the dialogue you propose concerning 'other possibilities.'"

March 23 onward Individual Coalition members write responses to Thompson's refusal. "To close the Hamilton War show will not be an act of hatred or violence. No, it will be an act of love, and a gift not just to the many children whose parents will be participating in the protests, but also to those children who will not, for this year, be allowed to dress up as child soldiers and play mock battles with Canadian soldiers in your "Kiddie Commando."

April 14, 2000 Letters sent to local media asking them to re-consider their sponsorship of the War Show. "Like education, media coverage should entail a full and fair presentation of the facts. We wonder if you will be able to provide unbiased and fair coverage of a controversial community event like the HIAS if you are simultaneously sponsoring the event."

April 20, 2000 Fathers Day Coalition for Peace members receive registered letters from War Show's Wayne Thompson warning against non-violent disruptions. "No interference with the functioning of the show will be tolerated, regardless of the motivation for the disruption. Any interference with any aspect of the show will result in immediate eviction from the site." The letters are cc-ed to Hamilton police

April 25, 2000 Santa Claus, Easter Bunny leaflet at war show offices, asking for dialogue. The doors to the offices are locked.

May 4, 2000 War show closes their web site "guest book" after receiving messages of peace and comments critical of the show's militarism.

May 12, 2000 Letter faxed to Glanbrook Town Council requesting information about by-laws for a proposed event at a Mount Hope restaurant parking lot.

May 29, 2000 Public Event at Hamilton Public Library featuring Eldon Comfort (87-year-old WWII Veteran), Matthew Behrens (Father's Day Coalition) and Joanna Santa Barbara (Child Psychiatrist, Physicians for Global Survival) War Show invited to speak; refused to send representative.

May 31, 2000 Public Event at Burlington Central Library featuring Murray Lumley (Father's Day Coalition) and Joanna Santa Barbara. War show invited, refused to send representative.

June 10, 2000 Father's Day Coalition for Peace holds a non-violence, civil disobedience training in Hamilton to prepare for June 17 protests. In New York City the same day, an international "people's tribunal" declared NATO countries (including Canada) guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the 78-day bombing campaign against the people of the former Yugoslavia. Judges include Ben Dupuy, Former Ambassador at Large for Haiti under the first government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Member of Spanish Parliament, Angeles Maestro Martin, Turkish Human Rights Association member Cimile Cakir, former Italian Senator Raniero La Valle, Dr. Wolfgang Richter, who is Chairperson of the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity in Germany, and Michael Ratner of the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark led the prosecution.

June 12, 2000 Glanbrook Council finally sends a letter with by-laws, a month after the original request and only five days before the event.