activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: canada

undercover police officer co-wrote leaflet that harmed reputation of mcdonald’s

In the mid-1980s, activists with London Greenpeace (unrelated to Greenpeace) began handing out a leaflet critical of McDonald’s. The corporation hired private investigators to infiltrate the group and sued five activists over the leaflet in 1990. Three of the activists apologized but two took the case to trial, which turned out to be the longest civil trial in English history. The judge ruled that the activists failed to prove all the allegations in the leaflet, but according to today’s Guardian article,

It was a hollow victory for the company; the long-running trial had exposed damaging stories about its business and the quality of the food it was selling to millions of customers around the world. The legal action, taking advantage of Britain’s much-criticised libel laws, was seen as a heavy handed and intimidating way of crushing criticism.

The story resurfaced today because a new book, to be published next week, will reveal the role of an undercover police officer in co-writing the leaflet at issue. The undercover officer, Bob Lambert, posed as an animal rights activist in the 1980s. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, he apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until last year. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

On a related note, Greenpeace Canada promised yesterday that it wouldn’t be intimidated by a $7 million defamation lawsuit filed by Canada’s largest logging company, Resolute Forest Products. The lawsuit echoes previous lawsuits against activists, such as the McDonald’s lawsuit, TransCanada’s $5 million lawsuit, and EDF Energy’s £5 million lawsuit. One of the 21 environmental activists EDF sued writes that although Resolute thinks the lawsuit will silence Greenpeace, it won’t work.

university of montréal sues six protesters for damages related to vandalism

On April 21, 2012, approximately 300 protesters forced their way into the University of Montréal and apparently damaged dozens of rooms. This week the University sued six of those protesters for a total of $100,000. Yalda Machouf-Khadir, an anarchist and the daughter of a prominent left-wing politician, is one of the six. According to today’s Winnipeg Free Press article,

The documents claim that Machouf-Khadir grabbed a wooden partition and used it to obstruct the view of campus police. She also allegedly used a black flag to prevent them from filming. The legal documents say the daughter of the Quebec solidaire politician also shoved around the campus cops and tried to remove a camera from one of their hands.

After the April 21 protest, Machouf-Khadir was one of several people rounded up in police raids on the morning of June 7, 2012. She and her partner were charged with crimes allegedly committed at the University on April 12 and at the education minister Line Beauchamp’s offices the following day. Her house was also searched, but the police mostly confiscated anarchist literature and anti-police flyers.

hundreds of people ticketed on may day for violating montréal’s anti-protest law

Montréal police ticketed 447 protesters yesterday, at $634 apiece, for participating in a May Day march. The march violated Montréal’s P-6 municipal bylaw, because no one provided the route to police for approval 24 hours in advance. According to the Montréal Gazette,

The city’s Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC), which organized the International Workers’ Day march, said it does not file march routes with authorities as a matter of principle. In a news release, it said P-6 represses civil liberties, and is “only the latest instance of the repressive tendencies of the political elite.”

First introduced in 2001, a new version of bylaw P-6 went into effect in May 2012. Police have consistently used it against protesters. In addition to prohibiting masks and blunt objects, it stipulates that any demonstration can be declared illegal if police have reasonable grounds to believe it will cause a “commotion” or endanger public order.

iraq war resister kimberly rivera sentenced to ten months in prison

Kimberly Rivera, a soldier who fled to Canada in 2007 after becoming disenchanted with the Iraq war, pled guilty to two counts of desertion yesterday. Canadian authorities had rejected her applications for refugee status, permanent residency, and her request to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. After she received two deportation orders, she presented herself at the U.S. border on September 20, 2012 and was taken into military custody.

Rivera was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a bad-conduct discharge. The expected sentence had she not pled guilty was two to five years. According to Huffington Post, her attorney argued that she was unaware that she could have applied for conscientious objector status:

Rivera’s civilian defense attorney, James Matthew Branum, argued that Rivera never filed for status as a conscientious objector because she didn’t know the option was available to her. He said Rivera should have been informed about it when she met with a chaplain in Iraq over concerns that she couldn’t take a life…

Branum focuses on providing pro-bono and low-cost representation to members of the U.S. military seeking discharge on the grounds of conscientious objection. He has facilitated the early discharge of more than 250 servicemembers.

joel bitar surrenders to toronto police to face charges related to g20 protests

On February 14, federal marshals arrested activist Joel Bitar in New York. Canadian authorities had requested Bitar’s extradition in October 2012 for his alleged involvement in property destruction during the June 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. According to today’s National Post article,

The G20 riots in June 2010 — defined by images of burning police cars and black-clad protesters smashing store windows — triggered the largest mass arrest in Canadian history and an ensuing wave of civil-rights complaints.

Although Bitar was arrested in Toronto in June 2010, he was released without charges. Six days after his arrest this February, Bitar was released from custody on $500,000 bail and transferred to house arrest, on the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device. Today he returned to Canada voluntarily and surrendered to Toronto police.

On February 21, federal marshals arrested another U.S. activist, Dane Rossman, for allegedly committing crimes during the G20 protests. (Bitar and Rossman are two of five activists Canadian authorities sought to have extradited to face such charges.) Unlike Bitar, Rossman was denied bail. His extradition hearing was scheduled for today.

québec’s first female premier promptly repeals controversial anti-protest law

The punitive sections of Special Law 12, also known also Bill 78, officially came off the books today. Adopted as an emergency measure in mid-May to control the student strike in Québec, the Special Law disallowed demonstrations too close to universities, imposed fines on people who stopped students from attending classes, required that police receive demonstration routes 8 hours in advance (if more than 50 people would be participating), and gave police discretion to change those routes for security reasons.

A new version of Montréal’s bylaw P–6 also went into effect in May and has yet to be abrogated. Police have consistently used bylaw P–6 against demonstrators, as opposed to the more widely-publicized Special Law. As CrimethInc. explains,

Bylaw P–6 was first introduced in 2001, and it stipulates that any demonstration can be declared illegal at the discretion of the police if they have reasonable grounds to believe that it will cause “a commotion” or otherwise endanger public order. It also forbids anyone from bringing blunt objects to demos, naming baseball bats as well as hockey sticks—famously used during the 2001 Québec City anti-FTAA demonstrations to knock tear gas canisters back at police.

Though intended to control demonstrations, Special Law 12 revived them due to its unpopularity. (Should we therefore mourn its abrogation?) In any event, political repression does not wax and wane with the passage and repeal of individual anti-protest laws, as shown by how police used bylaw P–6 even when the Special Law was in effect. If bylaw P–6 was also to be repealed, there would still be countless other laws available to police for use against dissidents – for example, widely violated laws that lend themselves to selective enforcement.

canadian authorities deport iraq war resister kimberly rivera to the u.s.

After becoming disenchanted with the Iraq war, Kimberly Rivera crossed the border into Canada while on leave from the U.S. Army in February 2007. She lived there for five years with her husband and four children. Today, after receiving a deportation order last month, she presented herself at the U.S. border, where she was arrested and transferred to military custody. She could face a prison sentence of two to five years.

According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s article in Monday’s Globe and Mail newspaper,

Ms. Rivera, who is from Texas, joined the U.S. Army when she was 24 and was stationed in Baghdad. She believed the U.S. efforts would make her country safer. Disillusioned by the reality of civilian casualties, she came to Canada in 2007 and applied for refugee status. She felt she could no longer participate in a war where she was contributing to causing harm and death to innocent people.

Although the criminal legal system punishes people for opposing injustice in ways society deems too bold or confrontational, it isn’t deterring everyone. For many, this increases their resolve to change the course of history.