Thursday, July 27, 2006.
Peace Promoters Convicted of Trespass but Sentence Suspended in Burlington, Ontario;
Ruling Finds Private Property Rights of Military Manufacturer L-3 Wescam Take Precedence over the Lives of Those Targeted With Wescam War Technology
Burlington, Ontario, July 27, 2006 -- The scene today in Burlington's provincial court #1 was fairly unusual, in the words of the Prosecution, the Justice of the Peace and, by their own admission, the defendants, as a group of peace promoters was convicted of trespassing for their role in a peaceful demonstration at military manufacturer L-3 Wescam in Burlington, Ontario. Nine members of the Mothers Day Coalition for Peace, which includes Homes not Bombs and Hamilton Action for Social Change, had been arrested for seeking a dialogue with the Wescam president last May.
Indeed, a court normally reserved for speeding tickets and arguments over who caused a vehicular collision became home to a teach-in on personal responsibility during a time of global emergency. Among the issues discussed were the rule of law and the role of law when it comes to the private property "rights" of corporations that violate international law and Nuremberg Principles with war production. Another major focus was on the right -- indeed, the obligation -- of citizens to speak and act to end the complicity of individuals, groups, and companies that contribute to the planning for and execution of mass murder.
What was perhaps most pleasing about the day was the packed courtroom of those awaiting the opportunity to resolve traffic tickets, many of whom had not known what was produced at the massive L-3 Wescam factory at 649 North Service Road. Rather than wait outside the court and do crosswords, most individuals stayed glued to their seats. Some cried during the emotional testimony of the defendants as they talked about the brutal purposes to which L-3 Wescam technology is used; others later thanked the group on trial for their convictions and their actions, with some staying right till the end of the day to hear the verdict.
And although some of them may be loathe to admit it, it also felt as if the police, prosecutor, and the justice of the peace were all a bit challenged and shaken, in a transformative way, by the day's events.
A SIMPLE MATTER?
It seemed on paper like a simple matter. A group of people refused to leave company property, admitted they refused to leave, but refused to plead guilty with an explanation. Even the offer of a reduced fine in exchange for a plea of guilt was refused by the defendants. There was a context that needed to be explained, and while both the Prosecutor and the Justice of the Peace reminded the group that they were not to turn the court into a political forum or a continuation of the demonstration, that is pretty much what happened from the get go.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Thursday, July 6, 2006
HAMILTON MUSIC NOTE by Ric Taylor
VIEW MAGAZINE: July 6-12, 2006
Kay has been working the grassroots political landscape for the past six years while also working part-time as volunteer coordinator for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at McMaster.
Just up Highway 6, local landscape has made headline news for the last few weeks and Kay is hoping to raise more awareness about the situation with a concert in kind this weekend.
"I've been trying to support the Six Nations activists, some of whom I met during the Red Hill days," recalls Kay on some of his activities trying to maintain the green space before the expressway.
“I respect their courage and really feel that we can all do something, to not stay silent as they assert their rights. I noticed that other cities were having support rallies and there didn't seem to be much happening in Hamilton, (even though) we're so close to the reserve.
"I spoke with a couple friends who are close to the Six Nations struggle and they thought a benefit would be great. At Caledonia, we see a people who have survived genocidal policies and state sanctioned abuse standing up for their rights," Kay adds to explain the nature of the current dispute over land rights.
“Opposing them we see a strong racist reaction that is shameful in its ignorance of the history of Aboriginal/Canadian relations. With the land claim at Douglas Estates, we can see the strength of the traditional leadership stretching their wings, so to speak. I'm referring to the Six Nations confederacy as the traditional form of government, forced into exile by the RCMP in 1924. Maybe we can think about the history behind the current situation and reflect that maybe we have screwed these people over long enough, and maybe we can consider that we all benefit from having a living example of a different way of living and governing that the Six Nations confederacy gives us."
While Kay has also invited Six Nations musicians and spokespeople to attend, the activist has also enlisted some friends and some new acquaintances for the musical benefit. Anyone that would like to help the cause or learn more is welcome to participate.
“A few are friends, but most are people I've never met," says Kay.
“You know some of the performers are political people, but there's no test, it's like if you want to play and understand why we're doing it, that's enough."
“If people who are fans come out and maybe pick up a bit of information and have a good time listening to great bands, well, we'll have some money to give to Six Nations activists," Kay reasons. “If we get a few more people interested in helping right some of the wrongs of the past, then that's like icing on the cake.
6N, a benefit concert to support the Six Nations' land claim at Caledonia happens this Thursday, July 6 at The Casbah featuring Mark LaForme, Tiny Bill Cody, Kim Koren and friends, The Ray Materick Band, Raphael Keelan, Martin Verral, Jack Pedler, Tim Gibbons, Linda Duemo, Katie Caron and more. Doors for the all ages/licensed event open at 8pm and proceeds from the $6 cover go to Six Nations.
For more info contact Hamilton Action for Social Change at 905.525.9140 x26026 or email@example.com.
6N Benefit Concert, Casbah, July 6, 2006
The July 6 "6N" benefit concert raised over $1,000 to support the Six Nations struggle in Caledonia.
The concert was a public gesture of support, one of the few public solidarity actions in Hamilton since the land re-claiming began, and a way to financially support the dedicated work of Six Nations' activists seeking justice and recognition of their rights as a people.
From the moment singer/guitarist Kim Koren stepped onto the Casbah stage until Mark LaForme's band closed the place five hours later, the hundreds in attendance were treated to some of the finest music in the city.
Between Koren and LaForme, performers Katie Caron, Linda Duemo, The Ray Materick Band, Harrison Kennedy, Martyn Verral, Raphael Keelan, Tim Gibbons, Jack Pedlar, and Bob Lanois and others filled the Casbah with music as they loaned their considerable talents to support the land claims struggle just a few minutes down highway 6.
Wes Elliot and Hazel Hill spoke to the audience about the ongoing struggle they face in holding their ground in the face of adversity and deeply ingrained racism. Elliot, while thanking people for showing their support, went further and invited supporters to come to the site and see for themselves what is going on. An info table set up at the club had a wealth of information available for free, including backgrounders delving into the historical roots of the Six Nations Confederacy and the current land claim.
Thanks go out to many people for making it happen, especially Mike Hampson who did the brunt of the work bringing the line-up of performers together, and to Brodie and the staff at the Casbah who supported the event from the start to finish. The all-volunteer effort included the talents of Keisha Quinn who designed the poster, Sandy and Mike for putting us in contact with Mark LaForme (himself a member of the Mississauga of the New Credit band), Cheryl Walker for setting up the info-table, Al Loft and Julie Gordon for initial enthusiasm for the idea and Al for helping MC the event. Thanks go out to Ric Taylor at VIEW and other media like CHML, CFMU, the Hamilton Spectator, and CKRZ for advance publicity; of course the performers and finally, the people of the Six Nations for their courageous stand.
The concert subsequently generated some letters to the editor in the local daily (for and against) and the evening created an opportunity to open up lines of communication between aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups in the area. Support came from as far away as Calgary Alberta, Kanehsatake and Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information about the land-re-claiming please visit www.reclamationinfo.com/, sisis.nativeweb.org/actionalert/#updates, www.ckrz.com/, or take up the sincere offer to visit the site.
Let us be the generation that supports justice for aboriginal people
Letters re. 6N BENEFIT CONCERT
The wrong noteBy Lisa Dicy, Caledonia
The Hamilton Spectator(Jul 10, 2006) Re: 'Concert raising funds for Six Nations land claim' (The Spectator, July 6)
When are people going to understand that the protest taking place at Douglas Creek Estates is illegal? The people who held and participated in this concert are encouraging illegal activity to continue.
The protesters have been ordered off the land by our judicial system. Is this not the backbone of our society?
I know, they don't abide by our rules and laws. I've heard it all before, but in Canada, which is where we are, there is supposed to be one law for all.
There has been a moratorium placed on the land which forbids any building on it (apparently the protesters don't believe that applies to them), and it has been placed in trust until the land claim is dealt with.
The money made from this concert was to be given to the protesters to do with it what they want. That's a terrible idea. Why not put the money into fighting for the land claims to be handled in a timely and legal manner, instead of giving them money to continue to illegally occupy land which has not been proven to be theirs?
Those who supported this concert should speak with the residents who back onto the occupied land, or the non-aboriginals living on the 6th Line. Ask them what their lives have been like since this "peaceful" illegal occupation began. Perhaps then you will see that handing over money to law-breakers, with no strings attached, isn't a wise idea.
Canada's double standardBy Jennifer Asimoudis, Ancaster
The Hamilton Spectator (Jul 14, 2006) Re: 'The wrong note' (letter, July 10)
The letter writer questions when people are going to understand that the Douglas Creek Estates protest is illegal. Does this writer not understand the nature of land claims?
Comprehensive land claims are about the illegal occupation of native land by Canadians, land where aboriginal title has never been ceded or extinguished. The residents of Vancouver and Ottawa including Parliament, for example, occupy unceded native land.
Is it not a double standard and discriminatory to expect Six Nations' people to vacate the Caledonia site, while allowing Canadians to remain illegally on unceded native soil? What happened to one law for all?
In co-operation with government, natives also do not expect to expel anyone already settled and occupying these sites.
Where is our forbearance with them?
As for putting funds raised into fighting for land claims "to be handled in a timely and legal manner," was it not a slap in the face to Six Nations' people that government could so easily and swiftly arrange to finance the developers and Caledonia businesses with funds totalling in the millions of dollars, yet continue to delay Six Nations' land claims for years?
Is this not institutional racism?
Considering Canada's recent about-face, by objecting to the United Nations Human Rights Council's declaration to protect the rights of indigenous people around the world, Six Nations' protesters have cause for concern regarding the moratorium on the Caledonia site. Canada has been, and obviously still is, notorious for reneging on its own promises to its indigenous people.
The protesters need to stand their ground. We need to help them do that.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Wescam demonstrators arrested (view a video of the action)
Six members of peace coalition face trespassing charges after protestBy John Burman, The Hamilton Spectator BURLINGTON (May 16, 2006)
Six members of a loose-knit demonstration led by the Mother's Day Coalition for Peace have been charged with trespassing after trying to enter Wescam's North Service Road offices.
Andrew Loucks, a member of Hamilton Action for Social Change, said the group -- which also marked Mother's Day with a demonstration at the same site Sunday -- chose Wescam because it provides imaging equipment for war purposes.
The group placed about 100 black paper "grave markers" beside Wescam's entrance. Each bore the name of a civilian, some as young as two, who the group says have been killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Wescam was bought in the fall of 2002 by L-3 Communications, a giant, New York-based U.S. defence contractor interested in Wescam's wireless cameras and stabilizing mounts.
The Hamilton-born company -- famous for making Superman "fly" in movies with its camera equipment -- now counts on the military, governments and law enforcement for about 75 per cent of its business.
Company security chief Don Wallace was not available for comment yesterday.
The six were taken into custody, charged under the Provincial Offences Act and released. Each faces a $58 fine if convicted and have 15 days to decide whether to fight the charge.
Loucks was not among those arrested yesterday. He said the coalition sees Wescam as an opportunity for those against war to "think globally and act locally."
Halton police Detective Steve Skerrett said the group was part of a larger number of protesters who moved onto the property after a peaceful demonstration to seek a meeting with Wescam officials. Skerrett did not have names of those arrested.
Most of the group retreated when asked, he said. When some refused, Wescam security called police and an officer and three constables responded.
Randy Kay, a Hamilton peace, cycling and transportation activist who earned a Vision 2020 Sustainable Community Recognition Award two years ago, said the coalition sees Wescam as part of the "military-industrial complex right here in beautiful Burlington."
Monday, May 15, 2006
Nine Peace-Seekers Arrested at Military Firm L-3 Wescam in Burlington, Ontario
Executives at Canada's Self-Proclaimed "Largest" War Manufacturer Place Building on Lockdown, Refuse Dialogue as They Continue Work on "Low Cost Precision Kill Vehicles"
L-3 Wescam, perhaps best known for manufacturing the targettng equipment used by the deadly unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) The Predator (used to horrific effect in Afghanistan and Iraq, and described as one of the "superstars" of the 2003 invasion), also produces equipment for the Cobra Attack Helicopter, and the militaries of such human rights violators as Egypt and Colombia. Wescam was recently involved in The Low Cost Precision Kill demonstration of the Vigilante unmanned attack helicopter.
PROFITING FROM FEAR AND WARWescam, like its parent L-3, is very much a fear and war profiteer, seeing its major strengths as the three prongs of the so-called "war on terror": war, surveillance and interdiction (directed against refugees, immigrants, and likely used against the Six Nations blockade at Caldeonia), and violence against dissent in the name of "Homeland Security" (the L-3 2005 report proudly shows a line of heavily armed riot cops outfitted with their gizmos.)
A major source of their funding, though, remains programs promoting the UAVs. According to the U.S. Air Force's strategic vision planning document, the future of warfare is the use of UAVs, naming the Predator as a system that "evolved into a formidable combat support and was involved in every major military operation" between 1996 and 2004. Armed with Hellfire missiles, the Predator is described as "one of the military's most requested systems, assisting in the execution of the global war on terror by finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging, and assessing suspected terrorist locations."
The Predator was implicated in the 2002 extra-judicial execution of six individuals driving in Yemen, who were obliterated by Hellfire missiles. No arrests, no charges, no trial, just a summary execution from the silence of the skies. They never knew what hit them. Recent news from Afghanistan and Pakistan reports houses blown away and civilians obliterated by UAV-fired missiles. We do not hear about the victims of such gross outrages, other than that they must have been the "enemy."
The UAV is viewed as "a major component of the Army Future Combat System," especially since unmanned vehicles mean increased air time, hovering time, and an ability to operate in "environments contaminated by chemical, biological, or radioactive agents." The Pentagon admits that politically, using UAV's piloted with video screens based in the US cuts the domestic cost created by bodies coming home.
And the best is yet to come. "Arming the RQ-1 Predator with Hellfire missiles can be compared to the mounting of guns on biplanes early in the last century," gushes the USAF document.
SEEKING A DIALOGUE
Today's direct action was motivated by a strong desire to force the issue of dialogue on transforming the technology and genius of Wescam employees into something socially constructive, like creating microscopic targetting probes to zap coronary heart disease or better forms of weather prediction.
"All we want is to speak to the people inside. We have been trying to get inside for the past three and a half years," explained Gail Lorimer, who has vigiled consistently at the entrance to the facility. Those arrested were Lorimer and Ed Babb of Burlington, Barney Barningham of Durham, Gary Connally and Steve MacIsaac of Brampton, and Kirsten Romaine, Maggie Panter, Matthew Behrens, and Murray Lumley of Toronto.
The civil resistance action capped two days of nonviolent protests at Wescam, which yesterday featured a rally of 50 enthusiastic students, teachers, and other community members reclaiming the original intent of Mothers Day as it was founded in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe -- as a day to call for disarmament.
MASS GRAVE SITE AND A DIE-IN
"The die-in was very empowering," explained one student. "As I lay there looking at the heavens and hearing all those names, I wondered if they were looking down on us and feeling thankful that they were being remembered, that their lives were not forgotten."
EMPLOYEES TOLD "DON'T TALK TO THE DEMONSTRATORS!"L-3 Wescam, which owns a major chunk of land (including a private helicopter landing pad), seemed particularly security conscious throughout the Sunday and Monday rallies. One woman remarked that despite the Sunday rally beginning at 2:30 pm, she saw security standing guard on the grassy knoll on the way to Wescam at 8 am on Sunday morning. The security presence was also quite obvious from early Monday morning, when Gail Lorimer placed banners calling for peace on the fence opposite the entrance to L-3 at 5:30 am to catch the first shift. The gentleman in charge of security at the plant (who wore a huge "security manager" medallion reminiscent of the badge of courage worn by the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz) informed Gail that employees had been told of the demonstration and to refuse to open their windows to receive leaflets.
Today's rally began much like Sunday's, with the reconstruction of the mass graveyard (names facing those leaving and entering the site in front of a large stone edifice engraved with the corporate name) and the reading of thousands upon thousands of names of those killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of Canadian soldiers who have been killed as well. After some reflections and song, about a dozen people began walking up the long, hilly driveway to try and enter the main facility to begin their dialogue, but were repeatedly grabbed and told to turn around by private security.
Undeterred, the group kept going forward, walking around the guards and holding signs with grim pictures of what happens to people on the other end of Wescam's targetting technology along with names taken from the graveyard. "I want to know why Royama, a 3-year-old girl, has her name here in this graveyard, and is not instead living a happy life like the children in the school located next to Wescam," explained one of the demonstrators. "Does Wescam technology have something to do with her death?"
Others explained that a refusal to leave the property if dialogue was denied was the least they could do to honour the memories of all those whose names graced the front lawn of Wescam, and those which were read out over the lunch hour by high school students from Caledon East.
AMAZING GRACE BRINGS TEARS TO SECURITY OFFICERS' EYESAfter numerous stops and starts as the group maneuvered their way though security, we finally wound up at the front doors, where we were informed that the whole site was on lockdown, and that no one would be going in or coming out. The group then joined hands to sing Amazing Grace and We Shall Overcome, bringing tears to the eyes of some of the security guards who, by all accounts, appeared to wish they were anywhere but here, blocking our access, on this day. Each attempt to move around the building was blocked, and at one point, the building manager and head of security grabbed one of the dialogue-seekers and dragged him a fair distance, combining their rigorous physical effort with a fair amount of verbal abuse.
Private security attempted to physically remove one woman from the area as well, but they were cautioned by the demonstrators that private security are not police officers and do not have the power of arrest. This came as such a surprise to the private security that they let go of her.
At this point, a sergeant with Halton Police finally stepped in and tried to offer to go inside to see if HE could set up a meeting in the hopes we might disappear. However, after 15 minutes of waiting, he came out and told us management was not interested in meeting and that, in the interests of sanctifying the right of private property, he would have to ask us to vacate the premises.
"What about the interests of the property that gets bombed with Wescam targeting equipment," asked one of the group. "What about the human rights of those who are maimed and murdered?"
The officer continued pleading with the group, trying to convince them that their protest was drawing away much-needed police resources from speeding drivers near schools and other criminal acts taking place in the city.
"But what about the criminal acts taking place in this building? Who stands up for the rights of those affected by what goes on here?" came the reply.
"Are you willing to leave the property peacefully?" the sergeant then asked each individually.
"I'm willing to stay here peacefully," came the answer before each person was taken off, patted down, placed in handcuffs, and put in the back of patrol cars for the trip to the police station. In one of the police cars, arrestees noted that the police computers are made by another military manufacturer where they have been arrested numerous times, Toronto's Litton Systems, since bought out by Northrup-Grumman and then by L-3. The officer explained that new L-3 logos would be replacing the Litton models.
ARE YOU GONNA WATCH PRISON BREAK TONIGHT?Once at the police station, the group were issued trespass tickets while they continued their dialogue with the police about the need to disarm Wescam.
"Some of you guys are teachers, what kind of message are you sending to your students?" the desk officer asked.
"That you need to stand up for justice, and sometimes you have to break a small law to prevent a greater harm," came the response.
Just before being released, one of those arrested sidled up to the front desk and asked with great sincerity, "Are you planning to watch the season finale of 'Prison Break' tonight?"
The officer looked up from the desk, confused that a pacifist would be interested in such a show.
"But they show such creative ideas for busting out of joints like this," came the reply.
The group was held only briefly before being released and heading to the local court to file requests for trials, likely to occur in four to six months time. Meanwhile, it is hoped that Canadians across this country will similarly confront the many local war manufacturers which dot our landscape. Stopping the wars where they start (in the factories of the war profiteers) is one of the most direct actions we can take to end the misery and suffering experienced by those halfway around the world when "made in Canada" military technology is put to its deadly uses.
In the meantime, efforts to get a dialogue going continue. If you would like to encourage Wescam, consider faxing or emailing L-3 Wescam executives, urging them to sit down and dialogue with the coalition: Send a quick note calling on L-3 Wescam to end its war business and make socially useful products to John Dehne, President, Fax: (905) 633-4100, or send an email from the following site: http://www.wescam.com/contacts_1_sales.asp)
And stay in touch! www.homesnotbombs.ca