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 Hundert, Julian 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…
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?