[Hpn] ALERT: Toronto Arrests at Rally Against the Injustice System FWD

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sat, 13 May 2000 10:52:41 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Sat, 13 May 2000 11:10:36 -0400
From: Brian Burch <burch@tao.ca>


	For the participants at the International Conference on Penal
Abolition the Toronto police provided a clear example of the arbitrariness
of the justice system in Canada when two marshals for the rally
were arrested at the corner of Dundas and Yonge, approximately 10 minutes
after the rally began.
	When the head of the march began to go onto Yonge Street, several
police officers pushed into the crowd and knocked a relatively elderly man
to the ground.  They grabbed two of the marshals, seeming at random,
dragged them over to police cars, handcuffed them, ordered them into the
cars and then drove off.  For people from Africa, Costa Rico, the Netherlands,
the United States and other countries this glimpse into a variant of
targeted policing should provide a memory to take back to their
homes as a real image of Canadian freedom.
	The ICOPA march on Friday the 12th was endorsed by a number
of community groups including The Metro Network for Social Justice,
Rittenhouse:  A New Vision, the Free Mumia Now Campaign, the Leonard
Peltier Defense Committee and the Faraz Suleman Coalition.  The participants
came together to draw attention to various crimes of the injustice system,
from the killing of Dudley George by the Ontario Provincial Police for
supporting native land claims to targeted policing in Toronto that is
at minorities, youth and the homeless to the link between corporate
criminals and the penal systems.
	The participants did not only demand an end to injustice.  They also
demanded a new approach to the problems the lead to crime.  Chants such
as "Education Not Incarceration" and "Jobs Not Jails" indicated an approach
to crime at odds with the current neo-conservative agenda.
	Perhaps the highlight of the march was the brief speech by Bill
Pelke at the U.S. Consulate.  The founder of Journey of Hope, an
organization composed of people who had a family member murdered, he called
an end to capital punishment in all circumstances.  Instead of revenge,
he called for love and compassion for all of humanity.  Pelke's effort to
heal himself included leading a campaign to have the young (16 year old)
girl convicted of murdering his grandmother released from death row.
	The rally itself brought together groups and individuals
that would not normally find common ground.  Quakers and anarchists,
professors and the homeless, assistants to politicians and street level
activists, retirees and squeegee kids came together to put forward an ideal
that it is outside the mainstream---that prisons are wrong and alternatives
must be tried.
	The dry details of a demonstration never capture its spirit.  On a
Friday afternoon in Toronto, in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm,
women from South Africa and men from Costa Rica and people from Toronto
came together because of a common belief that putting people in jail does
not meet the needs of anyone---victim, offender or community.  It does not
make our streets safer, provide true healing to victims of crime and address
the causes that lead to an individual harming someone else.  Dr. Ruth Morris,
who chaired the organizing committee of both the 1st ICOPA conference in
1983 and the 9th ICOPA Conference this year, calls the alternative to
the penal system Restorative Justice.
	From victim-offender reconciliation programmes to community healing
circles, alternatives to prisons are being successfully tried around the
world.  During the four days of the ICOPA conference (May 10th to 13th)
workshops on alternatives to prison help to educate people concerned with
the issues.  From Angela Davis to Ursula Franklin, skilled people offered
their ideas and compassion.  The desire to reach out beyond the walls of
the conference lead to the protest being an integral part of ICOPA---taking
the idea of abolishing prison into the public arena.  The arrest of two
participants helped to drive home a message of the arbitrary nature of the
justice system in a way that a workshop just could not achieve.

As an aside, people may wish to inform members of the Toronto Police
Services Board about their feelings as to the arbitrary arrests of people
involved in peaceful protest in Toronto.  A progressive voice on the
Toronto Police Services Board is City Councilor Olivia Chow.  She can be
reached by phone at 416-392-4044; by fax at 416-3924130; or by e-mail at
<councillor_chow@city.toronto.on.ca>.  The chair of the Toronto Police
Services Board is Norm Gardner.  He can be reached by phone at
416-392-4018; by fax at 416-392-4121 or by e-mail at
<councillor_gardner@city.toronto.on.ca>.  Gardner is one of the most
conservative councillors around.


Personal request:

If the above is used, in whole or in part, in a newsletter, newspaper or
other publication, could I please be sent a copy of the publication it
appeared in.

Brian Burch, Editor
Resources for Radicals
20 Spruce St.
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2H7

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