activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: crimethinc.

eugene conference includes panels on grand juries and the tar sands blockade

The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference begins on Thursday in Eugene, Oregon. This year’s conference will include panels on the Tar Sands Blockade and what lawyers and activists should know about grand juries. Both panels are timely in light of recent events in Texas, California, and the Northwest.

In Texas, the Tar Sands Blockade recently settled a lawsuit TransCanada filed against activists by agreeing not to trespass or cause damage to Keystone XL property in either Texas or Oklahoma. According to a Tar Sands Blockade statement dated January 28, 2013,

In order to protect the livelihoods and dependents of brave activists like Tammie Carson, who locked herself to a truck carrying Keystone XL pipe, the activists agreed to settle the lawsuit. The corporation will not seek the $5 million in financial damages, and the named defendants and organizations agree to not trespass on Keystone XL property in Texas and Oklahoma or else face additional charges.

The direct action campaign against the pipeline has continued despite this setback.

In California and the Northwest, activists have been subpoenaed to testify before grand juries. The grand jury in California is investigating animal rights activists. In the Northwest, the grand jury was apparently convened to investigate anarchist organizing, and three people are incarcerated for refusing to cooperate. According to today’s CrimethInc. post,

a large number of people have been subpoenaed to a Washington State grand jury intended to map anarchist activity and relationships. Six of these subpoenas have been served; several more subpoenas are known to exist, but have not been successfully served. The government has very little to show for this effort, as all but one of the subpoenaed have refused to cooperate in any way and the entire operation is proving to be a media debacle.

Let’s hope the people attending next week’s panels in Eugene return to their communities better equipped to support these struggles.

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.