There is more violence in people’s lives on the street
and in the world than there is in our lives in our cells and on the ranges
There are more traps and there’s more being trapped
out there than there is here inside the cages
There’s more anger and hatred,
imprisonment in the world than there could ever be in prison
More drugs, more cops,
more traumatisation, victimisation, dehumanisation
and pain out there than there could ever be in here
Fortunately, out there, there is also lots of love.
I am one of eighteen organisers charged with “conspiracy” for the demonstrations that took over the streets of Toronto this past June. I have now spent more than four months in jail since then. Released on bail in July, and after beating the Ontario Crown Attorney’s office’s appeal of that release, I spent the rest of the summer on house arrest. But after speaking on discussion panels at Wilfrid Laurier University and then at Ryerson University, even though I was in the presence of my court-appointed surety, I was again arrested, before being released on bail after another month behind bars, under conditions that have been called “draconian” and rallied against by legal professionals, civil libertarians, journalists, academics, and activists alike. I had initially refused to sign those conditions which included a ban on talking to the media and sharing my political beliefs in public, as well as absurdly punitive non-association conditions designed as an attack on the communities and networks that I am a part of. For taking that stand, I was thrown in “the hole” at the Toronto East Detention Centre. I eventually capitulated and signed the bail conditions, getting released in mid-October. The decision to sign those papers haunts me still—I wish I’d taken a stronger stand.
Only eight days after getting out, after a court appearance to challenge some of those conditions, I was again re-arrested, this time charged with the preposterous allegation of “intimidating a justice participant”. The same crown attorneys who had failed repeatedly to get a “detention order” against me from the court have now themselves personally made an accusation that has resulted in my being charged with a new offence and jailed since October 23.
This past December, a member of the Toronto Police Service was finally charged for a small piece of the brutality that was enacted on the streets of this city in June. One cop has been charged and some people seem to feel somehow vindicated. But this is not justice. Even if each and every assault committed resulted in police and politicians being held somehow accountable, that would still be only a beginning. Unless their actions are acknowledged as having been part of the planned security operation; unless it is recognised that their attacks on people were meant to intimidate those who would resist, and to criminalise dissent; unless we recognise that brutality and targeted violence are standard operating procedures for police forces and state security; unless we start organising for change and start to name and confront the system that these thugs protect—unless all this begins to happen—we will never have justice.
When it was first decided that the G20 would be held in downtown Toronto, what happened was inevitable. It happens every time they decide to hold such meetings: resistance and repression. That’s why, while people prepared to take the streets with tens of thousands—working people and poor people, migrant and Indigenous peoples, queer people, disabled people, students, activists, and anarchists—while people began to organise, the state infiltrated our meetings and organisations as they sank hundreds of millions of dollars to “security” and prepared to criminalise dissent and to attack those who would stand for justice, for communities, for the people and for the land.
And what they were so malicious in protecting that weekend in Toronto is the same thing that they are so brutal in protecting every day; a system of exploitation and destruction in which the rich get richer while their mercenaries and subsidiaries subjugate and destroy targeted communities and the land, with their wage slavery and their assimilationist economics, with their clear-cut logging, their mountaintop removal mining, and their deep-sea oil drilling. But people will refuse to be destroyed, and we will protect the land. We will resist.
This newest stage of keeping their exploitative system in power entails cutting resources from the few places where most people have access to them—social services, education, health care—all to be sure that there will still be enough money to keep bailing out banks and corporations, to keep this system called capitalism afloat. But we don’t want this system, this “capitalism”. The people of the world are rejecting this destructive system of exploitation and violence. We are resisting.
And we have already had massive cuts to social services including to the special diet program and to immigrant services in Ontario. These cuts have targeted—as the system always does—poor people, people of colour, migrants, disabled people, and women. Meanwhile, corporations have been announcing massive expansion of plans for destructive resource extraction projects that will continue to devastate and poison the environment and the lands of Indigenous nations. And this state continues to pour billions of dollars into the prison industrial complex, which as always continues to target anyone who by virtue of their actions, or even their very existence, poses a challenge to this system of domination.
On January 31 I will be in provincial court to face trial for the charges arising from the two speakers panels that took place on university campuses this past September. These discussions are said to have violated the bail condition not to participate in public demonstrations, a condition that PEN Canada has called “unconstitutional”. The crown and the OPP claim that these discussions qualify as “demonstrations” because of the tone and content of the discourse that was put forward by myself and others.
But the university is supposed to be a place for learning, for the sharing of ideas. It is a space for challenging, controversial, and confrontational ideas. It is a space where dissenting ideas are supposed to be protected.
This specific battle is not simply a fight over freedom of speech. And it is definitely not just a fight over the absurd suggestion that I breached an already preposterous bail condition. This fight is not merely about legalities and rights; it is about spaces and responsibilities.
We have a responsibility to speak about justice, to refuse to let injustice be met with silence even when our speech comes into conflict with the state’s agenda, especially when we carry voices of dissention and are privileged enough to be able to bear the consequences of the state’s repression.
The university is a space for ideas and campuses are among our spaces where we are supposed to protect the idea and practice of dissent. This fight, for me, is about defending spaces where freedom is possible.
Press Release Dec 21, 2010 “Alex Hundert’s Breach Trial Set”. Link
Locked Up: Alex Hundert speaks on his case. Media Coop link
http://www.mediacoop.ca/story/locked/5354. Rabble podcast link
Write to Alex in jail and read other updates from his support committee “Alex Hundert: 30 days behind bars". Link