Beyond Support: Update on Locke St Defendants and a Proposal for Beginning to Organize Solidarity

Before giving updates on the Locke St defendants, it’s worth taking a moment to put things in their context and to remember that these seven people are accused of participating in a struggle against gentrification in the city. This struggle has taken countless different forms over the years, from mass meetings, to stickers and posters, to broad-based organizing, to counter-demonstrations and pressure campaigns. The reason so many people have chosen to dedicate their energy to this issue for so long is that it’s one of vital importance — people are losing their homes at an everincreasing rate as housing is treated more as a commodity or investment than as a basic need that everyone deserves to have met. 
The broad charges brought against these defendants are a way of silencing the increasingly urgent voices speaking and acting out against this attack on our ability to live in this city with dignity. The message of the police and legal system here is that there is no circumstance in which our deteriorating living conditions would ever justify any threat to property. And yet for over a decade developers, speculators, and their boosters have been easily able to ignore all opposition behind a wall of feel-good platitudes about renewal and culture. To now approach the struggle against gentrification as simply a matter of crime is an attempt to strip it of its content, concealing the larger struggle between the class that profits from rising housing prices and those who are displaced. 
When dealing with the hugely disproportionate violence of the state, it can be easy for us to lose track of these larger issues. Yes, we’re opposed to all forms of political repression, and we also don’t see that repression as separate from all the ways the police and government protect those who benefit from gentrification (business owners, landlords, investors) at the expense of those who don’t. Yes, we will support these defendants in beating their charges and getting through the incarceration and bail conditions they will have to endure in the meantime, but we will also keep finding ways to act against the dominant interests in this city.  We can’t let ourselves be so swallowed by the support work that we give the rich a break. 
In terms of support though, the three people who were wanted by police turned themselves in last night (Sunday, June 3), and were released on bail today. The person who fought her conditions and stayed in over the weekend has also been released without the particular conditions she had refused. The person from Montreal will be up for his hearing tomorrow morning, and we are hopeful he will be released on consent and allowed to return to Montreal. More updates on his situation tomorrow. So far, all the recent arrestees are able to remain in their homes without having to deal with house arrest.
Although personal and financial support for the defendants remains important (https://fundraising.the-tower.ca for the Hamilton Community Defence Fund), a case of this importance requires solidarity that goes further than that. In the next week or so, we would like to encourage you to bring people together in your town to talk about issues of repression and gentrification, to talk about the details of this case and how it’s relevant to you elsewhere in the territory controlled by the Canadian state, and to clarify your basis of support for those accused. This might be a useful step in preparing to act in solidarity over the long term as this case drags on. 
To help get discussions going, we’ve compiled a hastily laid-out zine of various texts that have circulated about the Locke St actions and these charges to far that can be downloaded here: https://north-shore.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/discussion-zine.pdf And if you do decide to organize an event, if it’s public, consider posting on North Shore Counter Info’s events listing so others can find out about it: https://north-shore.info/submit-event/
Regardless of innocence or guilt, solidarity with the Locke St defendants and let’s keep pushing back against the power of capitalists.
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New arrests in Hamilton and Montreal: Updates and call for support

We write this just to give a quick update on the rapidly changing situation in Hamilton (traditional territory of the Chonnonton, Anishinabeg, and Haudenosaunee peoples). Since yesterday, May 31 2018, three more people have been arrested in connection to the so-called Locke St riot: one was picked up by the SPVM in Montreal and was flown to Hamilton, where they are in custody awaiting a bail hearing, and the other two were arrested in Hamilton. One of these people is already out on bail and another will appear again on Monday. Further, the police released an additional three names of people against whom they have laid charges and are seeking to arrest. Charges against all six include mischief against property, unlawful assembly while masked, and variations of conspiracy and counseling to commit those things. 
As anarchists, we want to be clear that we oppose all acts of repression aimed at those who resist oppression and exploitation. Police and prisons do nothing to address the fundamental injustices of this society and locking people in cages is a horrible thing to do. These systems continue to value property over people’s bodies. Solidarity to all those accused, regardless of their charges, and we call on everyone to show their support for these six people. 
This is a large number of charges and a huge burden on our material and emotional resources. Our priority right now is getting everyone out on bail, which has so far been costing about $2000 per person (because justice, right?). We hate to be asking for donations again so soon, but the backlash against anarchists and their projects in Hamilton just keeps going on and we’re pretty tapped out. If you can, please make a donation at https://fundraising.the-tower.ca and encourage your friends and comrades to as well.
We’ll keep posting updates as they appear. Check out https://north-shore.info as well for a good source of up to date information about events and conversations in the region.
That said, we’re a pretty determined bunch and aren’t going to abandon our ideas or projects in the face of these attacks by the state. Of course, seeing your friends get arrested is scary, but watching people pull together to organize and defend each other and seeing how those charged hold themselves with courage and integrity is a powerful reminder of our individual and collective strength. 
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Letter from Cedar on Conspiracy Charges, the Barton Jail, and Solidarity // Lettre de Cedar sur les accusations de complot, la prison Barton et la solidarité

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I’ve been out of jail about two weeks now, enough time to get set back up with a computer to replace the one stolen by the police and to begin sorting out what reflections I’d like to share more widely. I wrote a public letter while in the Barton Jail about a month ago and tried to mail it out, but it seems it didn’t survive the prison censors, so a few details will be less timely than they might have been.

First of all, thanks so much for all the gestures of support and solidarity. Dealing with charges and incarceration is hard, but it makes a huge difference to know that people have your back and understand these attacks by the state in the context of larger struggles for freedom and autonomy. As anarchists, we have a long history of facing repression bravely, and when I feel sad or scared, I think of the toothless grin of Bakunin in Siberia, or the defiant tilt of Louise Michel’s chin as she confronted her judges, or the countless others since those days who have refused to let the violence of the state force them to abandon their ideas and integrity.

I’m not going to comment on the details of what I’m accused of, other than to say I stand by every word that we wrote in The Tower’s statement back in early March. I do, however, think it’s important to discuss the primary charge that is being used against me, Conspiracy to Commit Unlawful Assembly While Masked. Continue reading

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Cedar Is Out of Jail!

Cedar is no longer physically in the hands of the state! Unfortunately Cedar will have to abide by the bail conditions set at yesterdays bail appeal for the foreseeable future including staying out of Hamilton, not participating in any rallies or demonstrations, and being under house arrest.

The fight is far from over. Even though Cedar is no longer in jail, they will be facing a unknown amount of time under these conditions while awaiting trial, meaning they will still need our unwavering support.

A longer update will be forthcoming, as well as a new address to reach Cedar at!

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Noise Demo in solidarity with prisoners in Barton Jail

On Thursday, May 10th a group of folks carrying balloons, banners, and signs conducted a festive march around the jail to remind those on the inside that they have not been forgotten.

Banging was heard from inside the jail letting folks on the outside know that they could be seen. In love and rage, support was shown  for prisoners at Barton Jail.

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Solidarity with Cedar Hopperton from J20 Defendants and Supporters

Our friends and comrades in the so-called United States, facing serious repression in light of the J20 demonstrations, have taken the time to write the lovely statement of solidarity below!

If you would like to help cover the substantial legal fees of the 59 remaining defendants, please donate here!


Cedar Hopperton is an anarchist living on occupied Anishinabek, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe land in so-called Hamilton, Ontario. In March, there was a small disruptive anti-capitalist march in a gentrifying neighborhood the weekend of the Hamiliton anarchist bookfair. Afterwards, far right and white nationalist groups began attacking Hamilton’s anarchist community space, who took the opportunity to advance their own agenda. The police responded by targeting Cedar, raiding their home, and arresting them on April 5th and charging them with conspiracy charges. Cedar was denied bail at their last hearing and is currently being held in segregation. As of now, they may be held for a year or longer awaiting trial. The charges against Cedar as well as the recent attack on The Tower, an anarchist space in Hamilton, can be understood as yet another example of the use of conspiracy and rioting charges to criminalize dissent and scare us out of the streets.

Cedar was targeted for their commitment to anarchism, their outward organizing with the community, and their alleged role as an organizer of the bookfair. Their trumped-up charges represent an attempt to criminalize dissent and legitimize the carceral and judicial system in the eyes of the residents of so-called Hamilton who remain confused and angry about the reason the demonstration took place. As in the J20 case, the criminal charges are not about broken windows–they are about using the repressive carceral apparatus of the courts and prisons to punish and terrify members of our communities as part of a strategy to discredit and destroy our communities and movements. In both cases, we see the use of police collusion with the far-right, the targeting of well-known anarchist organizers, and the use of conspiracy and rioting charges to put anarchism on trial. While both of these imperial governments claim that people facing charges have protected rights while they go through the court process, the reality is that much of their punishment has already been meted: separation from their loved ones, separation from their communities, and being forced to submit to many of the oppressive norms of incarceration and the judicial system.

We see clearly the parallels between this recent attack on Cedar and anarchists in so-called Hamilton and the 2017 inauguration mass arrest and subsequent conspiracy and riot charges in so-called Washington, DC, USA. These parallels transcend borders, as their similarities are rooted in a global strategy of repression based on each imperial government’s desire to repress and destroy anarchist and other radical movements for liberation. The recognition of these congruent tactics of repression from both imperial governments demonstrates the interconnection between the liberation and survival of peoples on both sides of the artificial, colonial border. By reaching across the imagined borders the state uses to hold us captive and occupy stolen lands, we offer a gesture of support and commitment to the ideals that define our movements.

We call for Cedar’s immediate release, the dismissal of all charges, and the cessation of attacks against anarchists, anti-fascists and anti-capitalists. As supporters of and defendants in the J20 case, we offer our support and solidarity with Cedar and their community. We stand firmly against the state and their attempts to dissolve our movements, strain our resources, and exhaust our communities. By reaching across the imagined borders the state uses to hold us captive and occupy stolen lands, we offer a gesture of support and commitment to the ideals that define our movements. We reject the ideology of law and order, guilt versus innocence, and the carceral system that seeks to isolate and individualize our efforts of disruption. We will continue to fight for a world without cages and without borders. None of us are free until all of us are free!

To show your solidarity with Cedar, we ask for support in the form of letters and fundraising: organize a letter-writing event or host a fundraiser in your community!

 

You can donate to anti-repression efforts at http://fundraising.the-tower.ca/.

With love and solidarity,
Some J20 defendants and supporters.

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Free Cedar Mural – Guelph Solidarity Action

 

“On April 28th families and comrades in Guelph gathered to pose with a Free Cedar mural. Many of us have never met Cedar but all of us have felt the impact of their tireless work to promote anti-authoritarian values. Stay strong Cedar Rabbit, we carry you in our hearts. Spring is here, the buds on the trees are opening and so too will the jail doors.”

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Noise Demo in Solidarity with Prisoners at Barton Jail and Everywhere!

 

Join us on Thursday, May 10th at 7pm for a family-friendly noise demo to show solidarity with all those locked behind bars at the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre (Barton Jail). We’ll meet at Jackie Washington Rotary Park (by the gazebo) and from there, go on a lively and festive march around the jail to remind those on the inside that they have not been forgotten. If only for a moment, we want to break the isolation of prison and make some serious noise using our voices, drums, and fireworks.

Prisons and everything they stand for represent the worst of state violence. They dehumanize people, destroy families, and tear entire communities apart. Whatever the question, locking somebody in a cage is never the answer. Barton Jail in particular has become infamous as a site of gross neglect, ongoing scandals, and unnecessary cruelties. The local news is littered with stories of overdose deaths, overcrowded cells, suicides, indefinite periods of lockdown, and prolonged solitary confinement. A coroner’s inquest is currently underway to investigate the brutal conditions at the jail, but we can be sure that no significant changes are likely to come. Jails are built to be brutal and dehumanizing – we shouldn’t be surprised when they do their job.

In love and rage, let’s show our support for prisoners at Barton Jail. Spread the word and bring your friends, family, and neighbours. Bring pots, pans, whistles, drums, and any other noise makers you can think of!

Against prisons and their world, in solidarity with prisoners at Barton Jail and everywhere, and for the liberation of all.


There will be banner and poster making this Sunday, May 6th from 2-5pm at The Tower (281 Cannon St. East). Supplies will be provided and all are welcome!

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The Postman Cometh – Tips for Writing to Cedar and Other Prisoners

Not much has changed in Cedar’s life over the past week. They are still
in segregation, though they are now allowed out onto the range for two hours
per day, allowing them much more access to phone calls. They are still
preparing for a bail review, though no date has been set. They are still
being sporadically denied visits and phone calls because of lockdowns,
staff shortages, or sometimes with no reason given at all. One thing we
can happily report is that a few days ago Cedar received a bundle of
sixty letters in the mail, perhaps an all-time record for Barton jail!
This is in addition to a steady stream of mail that has been coming
since they were arrested. Huge gratitude to everyone that’s taken time
to write them! We figured we’d use this blog to address some of the many
questions that have been swirling around about what & how to mail Cedar.

Cedar has specifically requested Arabic texts so they can keep
practicing their language skills. Unfortunately the guards won’t let
anything in they can’t read, so the best bet is to do line by line
translations (e.g. 1 line Arabic, 1 line English translation) so the
guards can be sure we’re not saying anything too interesting. If anyone
has access to websites they can print off, text books they can
photocopy, or can take the time to piece together translations, Cedar
would very much appreciate it.
So far we’ve noticed that the guards at Barton are really inconsistent.
We’ve seen magazine articles get confiscated, and paper back books get
in. But generally speaking here are some basic guidelines, mostly taken
from the New York City Anarchist Black Cross website. Use them when
writing to Cedar, or when writing to any prisoner for that matter. If
you’ve never done it before, now is a great time to practice your skills
so that even after Cedar gets out you can keep helping to break the
isolation of prisons by writing to folks on the inside.

Guidelines:
-Firstly, do not write anything you wouldn’t want Fox News, a cop, or a
judge to see. Assume that guards and intelligence agencies are reading
your letter.
-You (usually) cannot enclose glitter or write with glittery gel pens or paint pens. Some prisons do not allow cards or letters that include
permanent marker, crayon, or colored pencils, and it is best to check
with the prisoner beforehand. That said, it is usually best to write in
standard pencil or non-gel pen in blue or black ink.
-You (usually) cannot include articles or anything else torn out of a
newspaper or magazine. However, you can print that same article from the
internet or photocopy it and write your letter on the other side.
-You cannot include polaroid pictures (though these days, that’s not
much of an issue), but you can include regular photographs. Some
prisoners are limited to the number of photos they can have at any given
time, so again, check with the prisoner before sending a stack of
photos. Also be cautious of sending pictures of people’s faces – we’ve
heard that those are much more likely to get confiscated.
-If mailing more than a letter, clearly write the contents of the
envelope/package. Label it “CONTENTS” and include a full list. Also
mention the contents in the letter so Cedar knows when things have been
confiscated.
-A couple of technical details– make sure you include your return
address inside the letter as well as on the envelope. It’s common for
prisoners to receive letters without the envelope.
-Make sure to number each page, such as 1 of 3, 2 of 3, et
cetera. This insures that if pages of your letter don’t make it to the
prisoner, they will know it.
-Lastly, if you’re unsure if something will get through, our advice is
to just try it and hope for the best. Be prepared for things to get
confiscated, but also imagine how good it will be if Cedar does get that
beautiful sunset picture you drew or that paper back novel you fell in
love with.

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Update: Week 3

Cedar is now in their third week of pre-trial incarceration in Barton Jail. They have been moved to the male side of the prison, but remain in segregation. This means that for 23 hours each day they sit in a tiny cell by themselves, completely cut off from any human contact short of occasional harassment from guards. For one hour each day their door swings open onto an empty range where they hurriedly shower, shave, and try to fit in a couple phone calls. Because prisoners can only make collect calls, monthly phone bills for an average prisoner can exceed several hundred dollars, in addition to the headache of cell phones being unable to receive collect calls. Nevertheless, we’ve managed to stay in relatively good contact with Cedar, sending them heaps of love and support from all over the world.

Last week the jail was on lock down because a guard lost a pair of scissors, meaning that no prisoners were allowed out of their cells. For 120 hours Cedar was left to sit in their cell completely cut off from the outside world, unable to simply ensure that their new lawyer would be in attendance at their upcoming court appearance. In spite of this, their spirits remain high. They’ve already received about a couple dozen letters from friends, read a text book on the history of the middle east, and are receiving as many visitors as the jail will allow. Thought, as we’ve learned time and time again, the administration can cancel visits without explanation or warning, and so family and friends who’ve traveled to visit Cedar and other prisoners are often left to vent their anger and sadness together in the foyer. In case you haven’t clued in yet: prison truly is a vile and inexcusable institution.

Cedar is preparing for a bail review, and has retained a new lawyer (Craig Bottomley) for the job. This will be a final chance to argue in front of a judge that they should in fact be granted bail, and not left to rot in a jail cell for the rest of the year while the system drags it’s oafish heels towards a trial. We are hoping for a bail review to happen within the next month, in time for Cedar to catch some of the spring bloom they so cherish. In the meantime, Cedar is going to continue to make regular, routine court appearances approximately every two weeks in which they will be hauled out of their cell, carted off to the courthouse, shackled and brought before a judge for three minutes of bureaucratic babble. Each time they step out into the courtroom they will look out to see faces of loved ones, pat their heart and smile, and then be forced to stand silent while mindless goons play with their life like it was a tired old slinky.

With each passing day of Cedar’s incarceration our rage towards this brutal regime only grows. The police, courts and prisons are necessary components of a world based on hierarchy and domination. It is a world we reject, and a world we will stand against until the last brick of the last prison has fallen. Far from being paralyzed by fear at the level of criminalization our community is currently facing, we are finding ways to organize support, build our networks, and continue to fight for a world without prisons.

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