(Watch this story's associated Video by Zach Ruiter of the TMC with footage of Alex and supports at the Finch courthouse)
On June 26, 2012 Alex Hundert was sentenced to 13 and a half months in jail. It was the last court date from the G20 ‘conspiracy’ case, a political case that involved long term undercover cops, 17 (21 at one point) people dragged into one lumped-together court case, unprecedentedly strict bail conditions and finally a reluctant plea bargain. I’m trying to write dispassionately to some extent, like a journalist, but I’m remembering last year on the G20 anniversary Alex and I were working together editing the last issue of The Spoke, the TMC broadsheet founded to cover the G20 protests, and the issue he helped write and edit but couldn’t help distribute as he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the protest due to his bail conditions. Now his bail is over and he’s serving over a year a jail, mainly, in my opinion, for being an effective organizer who helped bridge the divide between the radical settler left and indigenous struggles, especially at Six Nations and Grassy Narrows.
Alex was arrested on an early morning house-raid in the wee hours of the morning of the Saturday of G20 two years ago. He was eventually released on extremely restrictive bail conditions, and then re-arrested twice. One of the arrests was after speaking at an indoor academic panel at Ryerson University, which the state decided was ‘a public demonstration’. He was coerced through threats of solitary confinement into signing extremely restrictive bail conditions including the infamous ‘no media’ interpretation of conditions. He was eventually granted bail and had some the no media restriction eased but remained at risk or re-arrest and sufferent frequent visits from the bail complicance unit.
The 2201 Finch courthouse is colloquially known as the ‘gangs and guns’ courthouse, not by coincidence located near Jane and Finch, a reminder that police repression is not an exceptional event but an everyday experience for many. Alex gave a press conference to reporters, than went through the metal detectors into the courthouse surrounded by a crowd of about 30 supporters, hugging some of them as he went.
Once inside the courthouse Alex bade goodbye again to his friends and family and went through the second metal detector into the special courtroom. Supporters followed, but almost no one was allowed into the courtroom itself because of fears of disruption- this particular courtroom is set up with a TV in an ‘overflow room’ to make minimal pretense of open court while effectively closing off the ‘justice’ system to a closed circuit system. Myself and another reporter from media co-op were not allowed into the main courtroom, an aggressive court policeman told us that “you’d have to be the frikken Toronto Star to get in here.” A CBC reporter was also denied entrance to the actual courtroom. The anteroom was an emotional scene with friends of Alex and relatives, accused ‘co-conspirators’, some already having finished their jail sentences, some with charges dropped.
Alex’s statement was interrupted many times by the judge, it was like a political debate between a revolutionary theorist and the comment section of a right wing newspaper. The judge refused to accept that the case was political and many times interrupted Alex when he made political points, while making uninformed political points of his own. At one point the judge compared the G20 protests to the famous Nazi anti-jewish pogram of Kristallnacht, especially offensive given Alex’s long history of anti-fascist organizing.
Alex began his closing arguments “It has been stated through the proceeding by judges and justice of the peace that this case isn’t about politics. What I want to suggest is that that’s ridiculous…This is so obviously political, and every time that a judge says this isn’t political it puts the justice system into disrepute. The best example about how the G20 is treated differently is to look at what happens when people do similar things. In Vancouver [during the hockey riots] some guy smashed up some windows and a cop car and got one months. They are trying to give Kelly Pflug-Beck 20 months for what is basically the same thing.”
The judge also claimed that Alex and the other G20 organizers were ineffective activists and that they should have organized something like “The Arab Spring was a social media protest which was a peaceful protest”.
Alex contradicted the judge “People were getting killed live on the CNN [in Egypt], it was a tremendously violent movement- but it had popular support and so it was called a peaceful movement. that’s what we do when we like something we call it peaceful, when we don’t we call them violent… as for the suggestion that I am willing to use violence to achieve political ends- I would suggest that when it comes down to it almost anyone is okay with using violence for political ends. If I refuse to leave court today ballifs will come and drag me away, that is violence and that is coercive. Canada is not some oasis in a messed up world, Canada is a huge part of the problem. The G20 was one of the few times in Toronto that protest looked like protest in the rest of the world.”
Separated from the actual proceedings, supporters cheered Alex’s statements and booed especially egregious statements from the judge, occasionally howling and yelling commentary. Longtime organizer Tom Keefer commented outside the courthouse: “The judge has no understanding of history or of politics and reveals himself as a bafoon as soon as he opens his mouth. Arguing that the Arab spring was a non-violent movement when it was started by a man who lit himself on fire, if you ask me that's pretty fucking violent, obviously it is a violence directed toward his own body to draw attention to it, but literally hundreds of people have been massacred by security forces and to say nothing of however your analysis is of Syria or Libya, it is obviously connected to the Arab Spring and it is most certainly not non-violent. There's literally hundreds of martyrs that died in Tahrir Square that died for freedom and democratic rights fighting against a US-backed government”
In his ruling at the closing of proceedings the judge called Alex’s actions ‘self centered and arbitrary’ and sentenced him to 13 and a half months in jail, in addition to the time he had already served in jail on and on severe bail restrictions. He also aruged that the State's 'rule of law' is superior to a supposed 'rule of force' that he incorrectly thinks anarchists belive in (rather than mutal aid and community), ignoring the monopoly of force granted to the State and the immidiate presence of court officers with guns regulating everything that went on in the courthouse.
The gallery exploded into consternation aimed that judges extremely unfair statement, which, given that Alex was pleading out and spending in order to spare his comrades jail time and possible deportation, is basically the opposite of the truth. As they escorted Alex out of the courtroom, people in the room watching on the T.V. screen pounded on the walls and cheered loudly, hoping that Alex would hear the commotion and know that they sent solidarity with him as he begins his sentence.
Outside the overflow room in the hallway and in the bright sunlight outside Alex’s friends, family and fellow organizers hugged each other, many with tears in their eyes. Supporters included former co-defendents, people from the April 28th movement, and Fran ‘Flower’ Doxtator, a land defender who was heading to her own political court date for defence of Six Nation's land.
Alex’s call out for court support had made it clear that the his own political persecution is part of a general repression of dissent and called for activists to support Six Nations land defenders and arranged his own court callout to reflect his priorities. He wrote on the conspiretoresist website:
“Since 2006 there has been a particularly insidious wave of criminalization and demonization aimed at Haudenosaunee people who are asserting the sovereignty of the Six Nations Confederacy and defending the land. The tactics used in everyday policing operations against Six Nations, like those with other Indigenous nations, are exactly the type of oppressive state security that the rest of southern Ontario “activist community” got a taste of around the G20.”
Composing themselves, the small crowd dispersed, some heading to Flower’s courtdate in Cayuga, others to the rally for Mohammad Mahjoub held in Canada on security certificate for 12 years and never charged. This continued with the organizing work that Alex was so dedicated to, and would have been doing at that moment were he free and not being procced for incarceration.
Court cases continue in other G20 related trials, with Kelly Pflug-Beck and George Horton’s courtdates later this summer and others continuing into the fall. Leah Henderson and Many Hiscocks, so called ‘co-conspirators’ are currently being held at the Vanier Centre for Women. Alex is currently at Toronto West Detention centre and expected to be transferred to another prison shortly. Check http://g20.torontomobilize.org/ , http://conspiretoresist.wordpress.com/ and http://april28coalition.wordpress.com/ for information on how to support political prisoners in Southern Ontario.