For lovers of bedlam, there’s no shortage of entertainment to be seen in the activist community- sometimes there are more clowns to than you can shake a stick at. But, of all the idiocy to be observed, few individuals stand-out as much as Derek Soberal. And it’s hard to miss Derek, if there’s a TV camera to be seen, he’s likely to be planting himself in front of it.
Soberal was arrested at an OCAP protest back on March 7th. A few others were arrested that day, but he was the only person to actually be taken into custody. The police allege that Derek got into a struggle with the cops while he was being led away and, while handcuffed, he shoved his way away from them. He was let free at 2:30 the next morning- charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer, and one charge of breaching a peace bond. Friday was his first appearance in court. (And, despite Macdonald Scott’s promises, there was no lawyer to help.)
Soberal first came to public attention during the G20- arguably the largest cop baiting exercise in Canadian history. He claimed that the police chased him, an innocent lamb, around his downtown condo building and eventually beat him up. Soberal shared a video from his building’s surveillance system to the media. The problem is that there’s no evidence of a beating on the video and, somehow, there’s a missing second from the tape right at the moment Soberal claimed to have been beaten. To date, Derek has refused to give an explanation.
Then there was the situation where Soberal was denied entry to a bar- presumably for being an asshole. So, then, he and his friend decided to go harass a couple of police officers. As part of his pattern, Soberal went up to the cops, shoved his camera in their face, and ended up surprised to see himself getting arrested. Yes, this is the type of idiot Derek is.
Soberal came to public attention again in January 2012 during the “Stop The Cuts” rally- an AstroTurf protest on behalf of the unions, but led by members of No One Is Illegal and Occupy Toronto on behalf of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Derek followed his usual pattern during this protest- pushing his way into the police camera first. In the end, when he finally pushed too hard, the police decided to arrest him. When they got him down on the ground Derek decided it was a good idea to try and push his way back up. And, of course, he later accused the police of using too much force on him- that’s the kind of idiot Soberal is.
In May 2012 a group of Toronto activists travelled to Ottawa for a protest they called Occupy Parliament. Derek was there, he brought a portable public address system, and tried to encourage his fellow activists to “take the streets”. When the Ottawa police warned Soberal, and the other protesters, to get off the street, he ended up getting belligerent with them and refused to listen to their orders. As usual, Derek was arrested– in the end, after a lot of travelling and court expenses, Soberal was let off with a peace bond- an order from the court to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
Most stable people who’ve been released on a peace bond are smart enough not to intentionally put themselves into trouble- unfortunately for Derek, this is not the case. His alleged struggle with the police, and his intentionally getting arrested, means that the deferred punishment from his ruckus in Ottawa comes back under consideration. Why would someone do this to themselves?
Well, there are two sides to the answer. First, there’s Soberal’s delusive belief that he’s being personally targeted by “the Harper government”. He actually believes that, because he protests against Harper, he’s being directly targeted for arrest- Derek is loopy that way. The problem is that he’s but a flea, and it’s highly unlikely “the Harper government” even knows who he is. As someone who organized a protest that embarrassed Harper more than any other single protest, I can say from personal experience that this sort of targeting doesn’t happen. I’ve been to many protests and have never found myself targeted nor arrested. (The secret is not getting aggressive and/or violent with the police.)
Soberal’s other problem is the company he keeps. This was evident at his hearing today, amongst his ‘supporters’ at the courthouse was OCAP’s Miguel Avila-Velarde who led last month’s F##K The Police March (with Doug Hatlem Johnson). When Derek was up in-front of the judge, Miguel (and four other ‘supporters’) held up signs claiming Derek was “targeted” by the police. There’s no way this could have helped Derek’s case- if anything, it’s likely to make for an unhappy judge.
No story about Toronto cop baiting and cop hating is complete without the inclusion of Doug Hatlem Johnson- a member of OCAP, and a Mennonite who has a curious tolerance to the use of violence in activist movements. Hatlem came out with a very amusing statement on Soberal’s charges today:
“Occupy Canada’s Moderator Derek Soberall was also in court today at Old City Hall, facing charges that he attacked officers’ knuckles with his face after identifying himself as credentialed media during an OCAP demonstration for adequate shelter space at Metro Hall last month. (Hence our term, “knuckling” – def. victim of police violence falsely charged with assaulting police.)”
Hatlem is an extremist who believes that all police are innately evil. Knowing this, and knowing Soberal’s history, it’s hard to take Hatlem’s statement seriously- he also made a very obvious lie. Soberal walks around with a name tag around his neck where he wrote (with a Sharpie) that he’s an “accredited journalist”. The problem with this statement is that one is not considered “accredited” simply because they wrote in on a name tag with a Sharpie.
Labelling Soberal as a journalist is as absurdity as outrageous as a the concept of a Mennonite who accepts the use of violence. He proudly claims he’s at protests “fighting the Harper government”- while, at the same time, it’s acceptable that he claims the protection given to an independent journalist? This is, of course, complete poppycock.
Derek Soberal’s story is a near-perfect example of what’s wrong with activism today. People are so eager to show the injustice in the system they’ve lost their sense of morality along the way. Suddenly it’s okay to get in street fights with the police, to smash windows, or to tell outright lies. I know Derek and I know that, deep inside, there’s a good person in him- there’s almost a childlike innocence to the guy. He’s the perfect target for Hatlem and other morally bankrupt activists.
The longer this is allowed to continue, the more we’ll find people like Derek screwing their lives up. Isn’t it time we all stood-up and said no more?
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite videos I’ve filmed- Derek Soberal Gone Wild!