Jason Miller’s War Against Bloggers
*this article is a revised version of the original posted on October 16, 2012--revised by the author in response to a close friend's constructive criticisms that it heroized one individual out of context. If you have posted the original article, please take a moment to repost the revised version out of respect for these very valid criticisms.*
September 18th was Julian Ichim’s birthday and he spent it in court, because Crown prosecutor Jason Miller is charging him, indictably, with violating a publication ban. But this is not really about Julian. He is one of several recent targeted political prosecutions which are disturbingly indicative of how the Canadian “justice” and policing systems have cocked their guns against social movements which challenge their power.
Publication bans legally prevent anyone present in a court from publishing whatever is disclosed in the courtroom to the public, in the interests of “integrity”, “fairness” or someone’s safety or privacy. For example, if someone was present in a court where the judge announced that a publication ban was in effect, and that person then went and made a youtube video specifically about what witnesses said, what evidence was presented, etc. then that person could be charged with disobeying a court order, in this case, a publication ban. I’m not a lawyer, but that’s how I understand how it works.
Julian is charged with violating a court order he wasn’t even aware existed, because he was never present at any of the bail hearings or for any part of the trial for which the order, a temporary publication ban, was issued. In fact, although the non-association order didn't formally prevent him from being in the courtroom, most of the seventeen accused “conspirators” were forbidden to communicate with him by court order, so if he was even seen in proximity, much less talking to any of them, he risked jeopardizing their conditions.
If he is found guilty of the charges, he could be facing at least two years in jail, along with a number of people who are now serving time for publicly challenging the visible structures of corporate power and enforcement.
Challenging the power of the police is dangerous but necessary work to the health of social movements. In Kitchener-Waterloo, cops were subject to a dose of their own surveillance medicine during the years when the Spot (a successful drop-in centre run by and for street youth) ran a program called “Copwatch”. This grassroots program, taken up internationally, holds the actions of police up to the scrutiny of the policed and exposes the violence and corruption of police power. Using video cameras, written notes and the mere presence of observers, Copwatchers in downtown Kitchener, Julian among them, recorded incidents of police brutality against street youth and homeless people. For this and subsequent work in the community, Kitchener police have targeted and harassed him. They have never been investigated for the mental anguish they caused Ichim in 2011 after his mother passed away last year, where they repeatedly taunted him by saying that he had caused her death.
That same year, like many activists post-G20 who were legally severed from friends and family because of “non association conditions”, and grieving the loss of his mother, Ichim began a blog. It was a step toward cathartic release of very real emotions of grief and loss, and people close to him could immediately see the positive effect it had on his mental health. No human process of healing is divorced from the uniqueness of the survivor, and he is someone whose entire life, like so many, has always been inextricably bound up in struggle. How could he, and why should he, write apolitically—and why bother writing as a form of catharsis if the facts which preceded the crisis, are excluded?
After posting a blog about his experiences concerning the infiltration of his community and the catastrophic results it caused in his own life and those of his loved ones and friends, he got an email from someone claiming to be a member of the police force, telling him to take it down. He refused, and was subsequently charged with violating the temporary publication ban requested by Crown prosecutor Jason Miller, even though he had never been present in the courtroom, and therefore had no way of knowing that it even existed. Julian’s rendition of the facts was just that, his cathartic release of the experiences he had with the infiltration. The court itself cancelled out the possibility of his being guilty of the charge, because their non-association condition was what prevented him from knowingly violating it.
On November 22nd 2011, an article in the Globe and Mail (by Adrian Morrow and Kim Mackrael) reported that the court-ordered publication ban in question had been lifted. This allowed the Globe to publicly identify the undercover police responsible for the “intelligence gathering” which led to conspiracy charges against seventeen community organizers, several of whom are still serving jail terms. The Globe identified these undercovers as Bindo Showan and Brenda Carey, active duty officers who assumed false identities in order to “infiltrate” communities, including Kitchener, involved with social activism prior to the G20 summit in Toronto.
The temporary court order itself was made in September 2011 at the request of the Crown prosecutor, Jason Miller, but shortly after a plea bargain was reached with the seventeen charged, he requested that the publication ban be lifted. According to the Globe, he “referenced bloggers who had already broken the ban by posting information about the pair [of undercovers] online and said continuing to enforce it was moot” (Globe and Mail “Publication Ban lifted on identities of undercover G20 officers”, November 22 2011). The blogger he was referencing was Julian.
He wrote, and continues to write, about his own experiences as one of many political targets of undercover infiltrators, in this case Bindo Showan and Brenda Carey, whose jobs were to protect private property and its owners, and they did so at the expense of real human lives. They provided the justification for all the atrocities so widely criticized by the public in regards to the G20, which are what life is made of on the fronts of class warfare, gendered violence, colonial and racialized attacks like the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror”. G20 reports revealed occurrences common to oppressed people’s struggles: mass police brutality, sexual assaults, illegal searches and the confinement of bodies in the inhumane conditions of jail. These undercover agents made the everyday imposition of these injustices easier on the most vulnerable, and less accountable to so many of us who face the same violations, and those who dare to express our thoughts as though we are free, face recrimination under laws which only serve to protect a privileged few.
May all of us whose words are weapons in the struggle against oppression, always remember that we are strongest when our respect for each other goes hand in hand with our resistance against all forms of domination.
(If you would like to visit Julian's blog, you can find it at www.julianichim.wordpress.com)
If you would like to read more about how undercover police infiltrated activist communities, and commentary/resources about related topics, you could go here:
How Police Infiltrated Groups Planning G20 Protests
Stop Law Enforcement Violence Toolkit
Marian Price, an Irish republican prisoner on hunger strike after being jailed for speaking out at a peaceful political rally in Derry, Ireland
Scoring for Information: Police infiltration tactics viewed as a violation of women's bodies and rights