Is Activist Violence A Plot Against Activism? (It may as well be…)

A Media Co-Op / Rabble fan in Montreal...

Niger bloc utilus idotus excors a Montrealensi…

It’s no secret now that Canadian activist movements have a problem with violence. Every major activist event in the past few years has been stained by violent acts- the 2010 Olympics, G20, the student fees protests in Quebec. Yet, despite the fact such violence very few activists have dared to speak-out. People who have, like peace activist Derrick O’Keefe, have ended-up being publically slaughtered. I can attest to that fact, having been on the receiving end of the abuse after standing-up against violence in the Occupy movement.

There are many leaders in activist communities who have been actively promoting the use of violent tactics. Some of the more prominent pro-violence activists I’ve written about include Harsha Walia (who O’Keefe and I were harshly attacked by), Alex HundertJulian Ichim, and Franklin Lopez. Pro-violence activists preach a gospel that it’s not only acceptable, but necessary to achieve societal change.

It’s hard to guess these people’s intentions, that should be left to the courts. But we can look at the results of previous activist violence and quickly realize it’s only had negative results. We can also ask the question of what would motivate people to promote such unproductive behaviour- are they simply unable to comprehend reality, or are some people intentionally leading activists down a path of self-destruction?

Let’s first look at the reality of the ineffectiveness of violent protest in Canada. One of the best examples is the 2010 Olympics where there were two major type of protesters- the ‘usual suspects’ of the anti-everything activist community, and then there was a large crowd of average middle-class folk who were unhappy having to carry the burden of the Olympic debt. The moment the violent faction began smashing-up the (American owned) Hudson Bay Company (in the name of anti-colonialism) the 100’s of average folk made a beeline back to the suburbs.

It was widely thought the protesters could have effectively shut-down the Olympics until that point…

Harsha Walia bullying Derreck O'Keefe for his standing on non-violence

Harsha Walia bullying Derreck O’Keefe for his standing on non-violence after the 2010 Olympics

Outside of scaring-away potential allies, and helping justify the building of a police state, there’s a more important reason to reject the use of violence. After reading through the Canadian Criminal Code (things one does when locked-in the house on a snow day) it appears that violence is the best possible tactic to kill an activist movement.

Have a look at section 2(a) of article 46 the Criminal Code:

(2) Every one commits treason who, in Canada,

(a) uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province;

So, basically, anyone who uses violence while calling for a revolution is technically committing treason! When Julian Ichim chants it’s ‘time to pick up a gun’, or when Harsha Walia said that Black Bloc is “about breaking windows, but not about breaking windows” what they are doing is counselling people to commit treason. Treason is a serious crime- get charged with that, and you’re unlikely to be marching in next year’s May Day march.

Now have a look at section’s 2(c) & 2(d):

(c) conspires with any person to commit high treason or to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a);

(d) forms an intention to do anything that is high treason or that is mentioned in paragraph (a) and manifests that intention by an overt act; 

One doesn’t have to commit an act of violence to be charged with treason. All it takes is to be caught conspiring to be violent. The law is very clear on this- if your activism is focussed on using violence to overthrow the capitalist system, and you get caught, there’s a possibility you will be put away behind bars for a very long time.

Outside of using violence, there’s only one other scenario where it’s illegal to try and overthrow the government– when a person decides to work with a foreign government to achieve that task. This must be particularly troubling for people like PressTV’s Joshua Blakeney, who’s been broadcasting anti-government propaganda on behalf of the Iranian government. This is covered in section 1:

(c) assists an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.

Beyond the use of violence, and collaborating with a foreign enemy, there don’t appear to be any other sections in the Criminal Code that deem it illegal to try and overthrow the government. It’s perfectly legal to (peacefully) gather people to protest and demand change. It’s legal to run for government and make change yourself. It’s also legal to lobby and communicate with political leaders (and fellow citizens) in an effort to overthrow the government. You’re just not allowed to use violence to achieve your goal.

So, regardless of their intentions- activist leaders who promote the use of violence are leading people down the one path that justifies the government to use force against their movements. If one had the intention to destroy the activist community, I couldn’t think of a better way to accomplish it.

The government knows this too- why else do you think the Quebec provincial police risked getting caught when they send provocateurs during the Montebello summit? They did it because they they knew it was the fastest path they could have to justifying a crack-down on the protesters.

As I’ve said, it’s impossible to know what’s going-on in the minds of the people promoting the use of violence- but, does it really matter what their intention is? The result is, and will continue to be, that each time violence is used, social & environmental justice movements end-up taking a step backwards. Then there are the individuals whose lives are destroyed- and more often than not, it’s the rank & file who end up in jail, not the leaders.

Violence is the one single issue that has the potential to kill people’s hope of achieving social change- isn’t it time that people grow-up and realize how misguided this is? And, isn’t it time to start treating people who promote violence as the real enemies of the movement?

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  1. Great article but you got one thing wrong, these people are not activists. Sure they call themselves activists, in reality they are anything but.

    • brotherwolf1 on February 11, 2013 at 08:05
    • Reply

    I have a screen shot of a twitter feed from OCAP’s Liisa Skofield who proclaimed that property damage was not violence . I will send to you . What I have to wonder about is, if someone went to her house and broke her windows, would she still maintain that is was a non-violent act …..

    • The Hammer on February 11, 2013 at 08:58
    • Reply

    I can tell you that Ichim and Hundert are legit. They are what they say they are. Though I often think the same things you have spoken about. Sometimes I wonder if the upper leadership is working for the Conservative party.

    • dENYSE on February 11, 2013 at 09:36
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    I believe that the Majority of Canadian activists know without a doubt that Violence gets us nowhere, and if the idea of using violence to get our point across is talked of I can assure you we knock that idea down ASAP.My opinion is those that preach violence are not with us. Maybe they are like the rest of the conservative plan to lock us all up but those who actually go out and act in that way are saved from arrest Hmm makes one think right?~

    • Reader on February 11, 2013 at 10:46
    • Reply

    This is OCAP’s 2001 Bay Street riot incident

    Here is OCAP’s John Clarke whipping up a large G20 crowd at Allan Gardens before the riot take particular attention to what is said 1min15sec when he says “we’re not looking for war but they have given us war and we’re looking to give them war back… things are not going to be peaceful”

    As they all marched off to the ensuing riot, John Clarke took a taxi home to watch it all on the telly!

    You could spend a week searching Google and old newspaper articles at the library to find piles of this stuff.

    1. Of course he took a taxi home after- how could an important leader like Clarke find himself taking the bus!

    • Alex on February 11, 2013 at 16:21
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    Are these Anarchists on a Payroll with the Tides Foundation,if they are you can bet they are there to stop legitimate dissent

    • Vinicius Mueller on February 12, 2013 at 00:23
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    Everything in this article I can agree with. It’s interesting to note, however, that the government is exempted from these laws, in the sense that it does have the right to use force to promote its own ends… Is a community declaring sovereignty over land resources that it has a direct and palpable stake in the same as trying to overthrow the government? And if as a result of such a declaration the government sent its own forces against you, would defending yourself constitute treason???

    • Georgian on February 12, 2013 at 15:39
    • Reply

    If the anarchists/progressives somehow got control of the country, they’d gladly use these same laws and enforce them against their opponents.

    1. This is exactly what happened at most of the cities during Occupy.

      For anyone to say that the anarchists don’t have laws is preposterous. You should of heard the long list of infractions that anarchist Doug Kynikos accused me of when I attended an OCAP rally last month. The laws they implement are often designed to be used as weapons to attack people who they disagree with.

      My experience, and that of many others, has shown us what would really happen if the country would be under anarchist rule. It would become a survival of the most devious/fittest and much pain for others. Rather than any form of due-process or real justice, anarchists would simply point the finger at a person and then decide that they’re a target for the masses. Just make a few inferences about how someone conflicts with you’re carefully crafted laws- from that point, lynch them.

      • The Hammer on February 13, 2013 at 09:15
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      And the same police and prisons the oppose now would also be used to serve the “revolution”.

      What goes around comes around. We can see examples. It was not long before the gulag of the Soviet Union and the Killing Fields of Cambodia started to fill with high ranking communist party members. We can also see in the Cultural Revolution of China and even back to Robespierre’s reign of terror that once revolutionaries become the oppressive state they once oppose they start turning on each other. Most revolutionaries end up dead, betrayed by their “Comrades”.

    • Chris on February 14, 2013 at 01:58
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    These activists that promote violence remind me of some of the stuff I’ve been reading lately about communism, mainly from Antony C. Sutton. Marx had a brother-in-law who headed up the Prussian secret police. Most of his Manifesto was plagiarized from French utopian socialist Victor Considerant. Much of his activity involved creating discord within Europes revolutionary movement. Trotsky and a bunch of banker pals were detained in Nova Scotia en route to Russia in 1917, until telegrams from Washington, New York and London got his release. Lenin and Stalin spent time in Tavistock while in London, as in Tavistock Center for Behavioral Research. Mao had a B.A. from Yale in China, they even paid for his bookstore. Mao’s Yale handlers refered to him as unstable, and easily controlled. Top level bankers study Hegelian dialetics as part of their education.

  2. You are on to something here. Why have the police act as agent provocateurs – they don’t look the part – when they could easily allow and support these professional agitators to do it for them. G20 in Toronto was on the verge of being a peaceful protest without incident and underscoring the massive overfunding of police and security – when the police retreat, Black Bloc go’s on a cop car burning spree and smashes windows, and TV news cameras are there to capture it all.

    • Matt on February 20, 2013 at 19:42
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    Wow! Great article. I looked a little further into Harsha Walia. She’s a real piece of work. An online profile reads: “Harsha Walia is a South Asian activist, facilitator, writer and legal researcher based in Vancouver, occupied Indigenous Coast Salish territories.”

    1. Harsha Walia is famous for quotes like “It’s not about window breaking, but it is about window breaking”- yet, prestigious politicians and university professors feel it’s acceptable to be working with her. It simply boggles the mind…

  3. It think it’s a chimera to even bother discussing “violent revolution.” Certainly, all governments are created by men, they have lasted so long, and they will probably change as time and our societies change. They always have. At times violence has been used as one part of a struggle to achieve this change, sometimes successfully and other times not so. In the future in different countries on this planet, including in several now such as Syria, citizens tiring of the role of dictators shooting at their peaceful demonstrations have found it necessary to take up arms in the struggle to outst them.

    It would be absurd for any government to think it right to exist is a higher matter than its own citizens’ right to alter or abolish that.


    The author is completely right in attack “Black bloc” style window smashing by tiny minorities of unaccountable and self proclaimed “revolutionaries” at well attended mass demonstrations in countries where no revolution exists or is close to existing. Doing so only hurts the movement’s ability to grow and accomplish change. Pretending such violence is in fact “revolutionary” is to make a child’s game of what a revolution actually is. It has much more in common with teenage frustration and entitlement than any tactical thinking, and I think it is clear to most thinking people that whether or not such people mean well, or are in fact police infiltrators, is irrelevant as the damage the do is in all cases exactly what the powers that be, attempting to marginalize their opponents, would paint them as.

    Any group of well intentioned people attempting to go outside our governments’ standard methods of political decision making- as coagulated with corruption and corporate control as it is- is going to doom their movement if they do not from the beginning decide on a plan to keep uninvited vandals and bullies from attaching themselves (parasite- style) to their cause at the last minute.

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