This week saw the sentencing of one of the last people residing in Canada being tried for the violence during the Toronto G20 summit (they’re moving onto Americans now). Eva Botton was convicted on six counts of Damage over $5,000, and one last count for using a disguise. Botton was part of a Black Bloc, a violent and misguided tactic which more often than not results in a black eye for the activist community.
The sentencing began on Tuesday afternoon at 2:15. There was a group of Botton’s fellow anarchists who came ‘in support’ of her. At least, that’s how they presented themselves on the surface. Anarchists who’ve been accused of a crime can expect to get a lot of support from their peers- but, those who don’t play the game as they’re expected to may find themselves hanging out to dry.
The most prominent of the anarchists who came to the trial was G20 ringleader Mandy Hiscocks (who was framed as a heroic jailhouse activist by the Toronto Star’s Antonia Zerbisias). Also present was Byron Sonne, a trickster who tried to test the limits of the G20’s security apparatus by publicly purchasing a selection of chemicals that could be used to make explosives. Sonne was tried, and was acquitted in May, 2012- recent activity indicates he’s quite close with the anarchist community.
The prosecutor explained how Botton was involved with the Black Bloc herd throughout most of their path of destruction. Botton was identified being responsible for smashing windows at six downtown Toronto businesses, it was claimed that she was responsible for $145,000 worth of damage, but also stated that (considering all of the chaos, and complexity of calculating the impact) it’s difficult to come to an exact amount of damage Botton was responsible for.
Botton’s lawyer explained how she’s been involved working with and helping marginalized people, how she had no prior convictions in her life, and was unlikely to offend again in the future. Botton is originally from California, but she lives in BC now. She’s been working as a program coordinator for a sex worker’s drop-in centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside- originally, she was a criminology student from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (no, that’s not a typo).
Botton is a tall and rather large-framed woman who showed a noticeable gait when she walked through the halls of the courthouse- it’s no wonder she was caught, she’d be easy to pick out in a crowd (even in a disguise). She was restricted from talking with the other anarchists in the hallway. There were, however, a couple of smiles exchanged- but, equally, there was a feeling of tension.
At the end of Tuesday’s proceedings the judge offered Botton an opportunity to make a final statement about her crimes. It was, at first, a bit of a surprise that Botton declined this opportunity. But, digging deeper, it makes a lot of sense- if Botton were to speak in her defence, and denounced the violence, she’d be likely to lose the support her comrades have promised her. Being a long way from home, and having nobody to come and visit her in jail (her family are in BC) could make her time a lot harder to take.
The above screenshot makes it very clear that the anarchists came to the courthouse not only to support Eva, but equally to oppress her. A similar situation is happening in the case of Girr Rowley, an anarchist who was charged with breaking a window during the G20. During Rowley’s sentencing, he was asked to make a Statement of Fact where he confirmed the identity of one of his masked colleagues. This caused some anarchists to suggest they should reject supporting Rowley.
There were a few more anarchists who came on Thursday, some reporters, and members of the press. One of the more prominent new arrivals was Rob Chamberland, the anarchist president of the CUPE 2073. (Another prominent CUPE anarchist is Humberto DaSilva, who has been involved with the radicalization of striking Porter Airlines refuellers. CUPE has an anarchist problem.)
Listening to the judge read her decision, it was clear she felt genuine empathy for Eva Botton. She stated that (unlike Kelly Pflug-Back) Botton ultimately accepted responsibility for her crimes, and how she believes Botton is unlikely to reoffend. It almost seemed like the judge was trying to infer that she’d rather not had given Botton a custodial sentence- except for the fact that the law requires her to consider the issue of deterring future people from engaging in widespread street violence.
In the end Botton was sentenced to ten months in jail and a further two years on probation with no special requirements- she’ll just have to regularly report to her probation officer, give them her address if she moves, and to stay out of trouble (unlike many of her comrades, it seems Botton has a good chance of doing that).
Meanwhile the others, like Alex Hundert, are being released from jail- more hardened in their criminality, and even more ready to engage in what they perceive as class-war. More kids like Eva Botton will get pulled-into their harebrained schemes, more lives will be damaged. People who are out trying to encourage real (and effective) change will continue to get tarred with the brush of this petty criminality.
It’s time for a change- don’t you think?