Montreal anti-hunger activists released/new bail conditions FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 13 Dec 1997 12:52:55 -0800 (PST)


=46WD 12-13-97 from Bernard Cooper <bernard@infobahnos.com>

Montreal anti-hunger activists released with new bail conditions

On Friday Dec 12, the two activists that have been in jail since the Dec 3
restaurant action, where food was reappropriated and redistributed to
hungry anti-poverty demonstrators, had their bail conditions considerably
lightened.  They accepted them and were to be released late on Friday. The
precedent-setting ruling is important for arrested activists, who often
have punishing bail conditions offered to them.

After last week's bail hearing in Montreal municipal court, the two refused
to accept the bail conditions that included the sweeping prohibition from
participating in any demonstration of any sort until the end of the
proceedings. Immediately, this was appealed to Quebec superior court.

In this last week, the Dec 3 action and its fall out has received almost
daily news coverage in most of the media; a sort of counter-leitmotif to
the sentimental, pious outpourings of charity food-drives. The police
seizure of TV footage of the event helped focus on the issue of the media's
collaboration in police repression. Global TV news director Benoit Aubin,
in an article published in the three dailies writes: "The media should
never be forced into a situation in which their ability to perform their
task would be jeopardized- either by the distrust of the public that they
stool to the police, or by the cops' own silent retaliation against media
that refuse to help." If only we activists had just to deal with the cops'
"silent retaliation".

On Friday, noted constitutional and civil-rights lawyer Julius Grey
defended the cause of three of the activists: Luc Brisbois, who
provisionally accepted his release conditions, and the two imprisoned men,
Alexandre Popovic and Yves Manseau. Grey argued that the total ban on
participation from demonstrating amounts to a violation of freedoms
enshrined in the Canadian charter of rights. It should be enough to simply
ask that they keep the peace. When Popovic was asked why he did not accept
the bail conditions, he replied that the condition to not demonstrate
amounts to a false liberty. "in jail, there=92s no ambiguity" he added. His
conscience would not have allowed him to bow to such suffocating release
conditions, even if only to contest them from the outside, he indicated to
the prosecutor.  The testimony from the police official was typically
authoritarian: He said the activists "questioned the authority of police...
they shouted slogans and questioned the establishment"

Our lawyer, Julius Grey, jumped on this, saying that "the great danger lies
in the sargent detective=92s testimony" with his objection to "questioning
the establishment". With case law he explained how the right to
demonstrate, to incite others to do so, and to tell people of their rights
vis a vis the police, is not just limited to doing it in a polite,
academic, or quiet manner. Shouting slogans, however rude, rowdy or
denunciatory, is also a right.

Grey maintained that to forbid in advance (prior restraint) civil
disobedience, or demonstrating amounts to the silencing of discussion, and
presumes the political order's infallibility. The prosecutor and the police
did their best to highlight the activists' prior run ins with the law,
their organizing role, and the strong likelihood that actions would
continue. They also are doing their best to try and charge them with
assault and other charges that involve violence.

The judge, Benjamin Greenberg, referred to section 11e of the charter,
which says that bail conditions must be reasonable and not violate
fundamental charter rights (at issue in here was article 2, "peaceful
assembly" and "freedom of association") Conditions need to be necessary,
not just opportune.

Since Yves Manseau's activism is about monitoring the police by being
present at demos, and informing people of their rights,  and since he has
no prior convictions, the judge invalidated the bail condition that
prohibits participation in demonstrations. For Popovic, who was again
described as a leader (media in the past have idiotically called him the
"leader of the anarchists"), and for Brisebois, the condition was made more
specific: They can not participate in demonstrations done on private
property without having the prior consent of the owner. ("could we please
pillage your buffet next week, it's for a demo..."). They can't participate
in a demo on public property unless it is peaceful and remains legal. If
they find themselves in a demo which becomes non-peaceful or illegal, they
must leave without delay.

When speaking to media, Grey said that the rightward drift in society is
having disturbing effects on civil rights, that there have been many recent
incidents that show that civil rights are under attack. For the second time
this week, the CBC national TV news focused on the anti-APEC events in
Vancouver as an example of this phenomenon. They also showed images of
recent political activities in Quebec, notably last June's  St-Jean
Baptiste day riots in Quebec City.

The four alternative local weeklies all had articles on the fallout from
Dec 3's action. Voir, which normally is very weak in news, announced on its
cover "the return of the left". However, in their coverage of two Leftist
stories, our Dec 3 action, and a 650 person gathering of nationalist
social-democrats, socialists and communists toying with the idea of
founding a party to the left of the Parti Qu=E9b=E9cois, they have bluntly
assumed the left is electoralist and they assert that essential to being on
the left is being a Quebec nationalist and sovereignist. We anarchists, and
others on the left that are allergic to political parties, still have a lot
of work to do on the "alternative" media...

This new ruling on Dec 10, which I was very pleased to have been able to
witness, should be used to appeal bail conditions that attempt to restrict
our freedom to organize and demonstrate. Because the justice system takes
next to forever to bring demonstrators to trial, bail (release) conditions
are being systematically used to muzzle dissent. This is now recognized as
an infringement of fundamental charter rights.

As for the comrades in Montreal, many of us support the call for the
formation of a human chain around the municipal court building on Tuesday
Dec 16, when Manseau and Popovic are supposed to stand trial. Now that they
are no longer in jail, it is likely that the trial date will be
considerably postponed. The Committee of the Unemployed, which organized
the restaurant action, has been soliciting the support of organizations.
Among other things, they are asking that all charges and conditions against
the activists be dropped. Please tell me if you have not seen the
"Declaration of Solidarity with the anti-hunger activists".

Vive les actions...  d'expropriation!
Once annihilate the quackery of government, and the most homebred
understanding might be strong enough to detect the artifices of the state
juggler that would mislead him.
-William Godwin

END FORWARD 12-13-97 From: Bernard Cooper <bernard@infobahnos.com>