Anyone who saw the news about Wednesday night’s incident in Seattle is now aware it was May Day. The violence that occured reminds us that May Day originated out of a terrorist incident. It was 1886 when a group of unionists and police clashed in Chicago’s Haymarket square and someone threw a bomb into the crowd. Seven police officers and at least four civilians died. To many, this event marks the birth of America’s militant unionist movement.
This movement is still alive and well in modern Canada. And, despite over a century of our society’s evolution, there are people in places of power in Canada who look back at Haymarket though warm and (very) fuzzy lenses. May Day has become a magnet for those who want to engage in political violence. Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have all been hit by this problem. Each has had it’s successes and failures- somewhere in between the three is a path to finding a sustainable solution.
May Day In Toronto: Still Recoiling From The G20
Toronto’s May Day celebrations began on a positive note. The people who run Occupy Gardens held a seed planting event on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature. The scene was reminiscent of Hollywood’s version of a hippie commune- people were eating, talking, playing instruments, gardening and solo dancing. The most notable guest was Ryerson professor Winnie Ng. (I withheld my instinct to ask about her involvement in the Kevin Annett scandal.)
UndercoverKity and I were there together. We were both shocked (and I was somewhat disappointed, lol) that he was the first person to be approached by an angry revolutionary. A man came to say that he disagreed with what Kity wrote about one of the original organizers of Occupy- a friend of his. She came and joined, said a lot of heated (and rather abusive) words and then left. Kity had asked her to send him an email, detailing what she disagreed with, but she refused.
A short while later the man came back and began threatening. He explained how his family was very rich, and they were lawyers (yes, he said my daddy’s a lawyer). He then said that because he disagreed with what Kity wrote, and he believed that Kity was an “enemy of the movement”, that (in his confused logic) this must mean that he works for the police. He made it clear that he would tell everyone he meets in the future that Kity is a cop or an informant. Socialist obedience cults are very similar to criminal gangs this way- in both cases being accused of being a cop can be a career (or life) limiting decision. (Violent criminality breeds this behaviour.)
The main show began at 5:30 in front of City Hall when prominent anarchist Macdonald Scott kicked things off giving some disturbing instructions to the parade marshals. First, he made it very clear that the marshals aren’t there to have any control over what protesters decide to do- presumably, this is in reference to the Black Bloc anarchists, don’t stop them. Next, and deeply disturbing, Scott engaged in some racial scare mongering- telling the marshals that protesters who are ‘people of colour’ are more likely to be subjected to police violence that day, and it’s the marshal’s duty to protect them.
The sense of lawlessness in Scott’s statements was profoundly disturbing. (On a side-note, the recent Sikh march had a very small police presence- and, despite Scott’s claims, none were assaulted)
From the size of the crowd it seems this year didn’t go so well. By Undercoverkity’s reconing (he’s good at this) there were about 25% less people than last year- about 4,000. There were people from many organizations including communist, unionist, feminist, Tamil Tigers and more- but the parade was clearly led by the anarchists. And, in reality, many of these ‘diverse’ groups are connected at the hip.
The leaders (yes I know they’re anarchists, but they do have leaders) were very prominent and easily identified. At the lower-end of the crowd were the people who were assigned to hand out flyers, carry banners, and to carry part of a (estimated) 100 foot long Two Row Wampum flag. Then there were the elite Activistocrats- those who really ran the show who were leading the marshals and sitting together on the back of a U-Haul trailer.
When I filmed the U-Haul trailer last year some of the marshal-class got really upset with me (yes, radical anarchists have a class system). Sakura Saunders was on the back of the trailer, as was the man who led the crowd of socialists at this year’s Toronto 4:20 pot rally (while filming propaganda for people in Venezuela). Both he and Saunders yelled socialist revolutionary chants through the trailer’s public address system.
This year the trailer was a bit different. There was still the giant PA system, but there were a lot less (actual) red flags flying, and the language was toned down to speak less about people uprising for a socialist revolution and more about yelling out negative things about the capitalist system. All of this is somewhat reminiscent of the NDP’s dropping the word ‘socialist’- it seems there’s some rebranding going on.
As for metaphorical red flags, the trailer provided plenty. First, there was the banner promoting Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro- the same guy they were creating propaganda for at 4:20. Next, the leaders on the trailer were a very motley (and dangerous) crew:
- Sakura Saunders: An American anarchist, anti-mining activist, and habitual teller of tall tales who believes that the people who attacked the police car during the G20 weren’t all that bad. Saunders was one the the leaders at Occupy Toronto, she works closely with the Mennonite funded Christian Peacemaker Teams (The CPT are the people who acted as Saddam Hussein’s human shields during the Iraq War), and has a history of working for Soros funded NGO’s.
- Alex Hundert: Hundert was one of the top street-level ringleaders of the violence behind the G20, He was imprisoned (and kept in solitary for much of the time) for the crimes of training anarchists how to smash the city- giving them names of places to smash, and encouraging them to ‘de-arrest’ their fellow protesters. Upon his release from prison, the first thing Hundert broadcast on his Twitter account was “Smash the state”.
- John Clarke: An Englishman who moved to Canada to end up as the head of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), a militant revolutionary group that’s received much support and funding from the unions (and a pet project of Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour). OCAP brought Toronto closer to re-enacting Haymarket in 2000 when members brought Molotov cocktails to the Queens Park Riot. Clarke was charged for inciting a riot that day- but, he was later let off.
- Darius Mirshahi: Darius’s greatest claim to fame can be considered that he’s married to American superstar activist Sakura Saunders. But he’s also a rapper, albeit one with a suburban white boy garage band sound. Mirshahi raps about attacking the government and smashing stuff up. Curiously, he’s also stood-up publicly for George Soros’ financial influence over the activist community. Even more curiously, he once shared a stage with Sid Ryan.
If these four people crossed the border together into the US, I’d imagine Homeland Security’s computers would prescribe extended body cavity checks…
The crowd marched down to Queen Street towards the first target of the day- a Loblaws supermarket. According to their statements Loblaws’ “Joe Fresh” brand has clothes manufactured in the Bangladeshi factory that recently suffered a major disaster. The police were ready for them, the store was closed, the doors surrounded by officers, and a group of horses were waiting nearby.
The crowd refused to leave until the store manager would accept their letter- it’s a common tactic. After some time a person from the store took the letter. While we were waiting I ran across the woman who came after me with a shank at a recent OCAP protest. She became quite fixated, and some of the anarchists were egging her on- it was kind of creepy, despite the fact I was standing beside a group of cops. Hundert was there too, gazing with an evil eye. It was at this point that I had to listen to the second worst rap of the parade- this time from Darius Mirshahi.
As the crowd headed to the airport it began to thin out- 2,500 people made it to the supermarket but only about 300 made it to the end of the route (quickly dispersing down to 50-75). Their intention was to make a statement on behalf of the Porter airlines workers- it was expected they’d try to block the airport. Had there been as many people as last year, and had they all come down, they’d have had a good chance at causing an interruption. But there were too few people and the police were too well prepared. It seems the rank & file just weren’t interested.
As the protesters gave speeches at the park, one of the indigenous activists took the microphone and gave everyone a good telling-off. In an exceedingly racist rant she exclaimed that non-natives had no right to be walking in front of them at the parade. She also complained that natives should have been the first people to be allowed to speak- “it’s our land”. Was her behaviour not just another version of Greece’s Golden Dawn?
As the evening was ending I caught Zach Ruiter using his trademark intimidation tactic against the police. Zach walks close up in front of people with his camera and makes faces at them while pretending he’s making focus on taking a picture. It didn’t work well for him though- the cops saw through it started to gently make fun of him and calling him by his full-name, Zachary. They also (cryptically) said “if that’s your real name!”.
Next, and perhaps most horrible, indigenous cop-baiter Davyn Calfchild took the microphone and engaged in something half way between reggae and rap. If you’ve ever wondered how it would be like to be subjected to Vogon Poetry, this would have been your opportunity.
The last interesting experience I’ll share comes from Dan Dicks of Press For Truth- an independent journalist who who produces some of Canada’s most polished videos in the alternative media. Dicks reported that he was surrounded by three large black bloc looking girls at the park beside the airport. They aggressively confronted and accused him of being a cop (much of Dicks’ work has been critical of the police during the G20). They said he was unknown to him, and it was suspicious he was filming. There’s more (some very interesting stuff) to the story in a video Dicks has released for his paid subscribers- here’s where you can join.
May Day In Vancouver: Things Are Heating Up!
True to recent west coast style, Vancouver’s May Day march was a little bit more militant- and, as part of a growing trend, the march included fire. Previous Vancouver fire incidents include a street bonfire at last year’s Casseroles marches, and the battle against firefighers and police during Occupy Vancouver’s infamous Sacred Fire incident. It could be said that Vancouver’s Black Bloc agitators are the Beavis & Butthead’s of the anarchist scene.
This year the protesters marched down the street with lit flaming torches, carrying a sign that read:
RICH SCUM BEWARE!!!
The rabble marched up to the now infamous Pidgin restaurant- an establishment that’s been a big focus of the activist community this year. People connected to the Carnegie Coalition Against Poverty (another radical socialist front group appropriating the voices of the poor) have been subject to intense criticism for their involvement in the protest. The group’s intention is to bankrupt one of the city’s businesses. Two professional agitators, Ivan Drury & Wendy Pederson have recently left CCAP in wake of recent scandals.
The threats that were made should be of serious concern- there’s a reason Vancouver anarchists are marching down the street with lit torches and while their Toronto cousins restrict themselves to chants. After the G20 a lot of people got into some pretty deep trouble for their actions- new cases have been filed as late as this year. But when activist violence erupted at the 2010 Olympics, few people were punished and the circumstances were much less.
So, while Alex Hundert was in jail for his part in the G20, Vancouver’s Harsha Walia was openly preaching the use of street violence and “de-arresting” tactics. What was most shocking of all was that, even after the Olympic violence, when she became one of the world’s most prominent promoters of anarchist violence, Walia was still able able to recruit government and community leaders to participate to her rallies. Intentional or not, they’ve been actively enabling violent behaviour.
If Vancouver can’t get this situation under control sooner than later there’s a genuine risk of another serious incident. It’s hard to predict what it would be, but people could get hurt, property destroyed, and/or there could be serious disruptions to citizen’s lives. Vancouver may be looking forward to a very interesting summer. City politicians have been disturbingly quiet.
May Day In Montreal: Building A More Repressive State…
Montreal is years ahead of Vancouver and Toronto when it comes to activist violence. Quebec anarchists are more hardcore, and more prone to militant actions. Montreal anarchists don’t walk around with lit torches, but they often appear with body armour and plenty of equipment for street jousting with the police.
As Montreal’s anarchists are more hardcore, so is their police force. While the Toronto police are laughing off the anarchists, and the Vancouver police stood there (most likely scared shitless) watching the flaming torches, the Montreal police will be launching flash-bangs, tear gas and beating heads in. With both sides being so violence prone, the city’s seen practically everything.
People living in Quebec have become increasingly unhappy with the escalation of the violence- culminating at the point during the student strikes when the province passed some very controversial new laws.
The first new rule states that activists aren’t allowed to wear masks or disguises during a protest. In many ways this makes a lot of sense- if people can’t wear masks then it’s a lot more difficult to get away with any violence. But, there’s another side to this argument- activists with a genuine need to wear masks lose some of their freedom. An example would be the peaceful anonymous protesters who picket the Church of Scientology and (rightly) fear retribution. Society needs to agree on a balanced solution.
A more controversial rule states that (for marches of 50+ people) Quebec activists must now inform the police about their protests in-advance, and provide a pre-planned map for the route they’ll be taking. Many people view this law as a restriction on people’s freedom of public assembly. There’s a fine line here, the anarchists believe it’s their job to challenge it.
With these new laws, and a history of some extreme violence, Montreal police now have little tolerance for the anarchists. May Day was simple for them- the march was technically illegal, so as soon as some anarchists started throwing things at the police, they were quickly rounded-up, and 447 people were promptly ticketed and sent home. May Day problem solved.
Well, not really. Instead, criticism of these new laws have become a rallying cry for people across the province to join the movement.
Coming Up In Part II…
The diversity of ways Canadian cities are reacting to anarchist violence has resulted in a diversity of results. If authorities react too hard, they risk igniting new (metaphorical) fires. But when the reaction is too soft, like Vancouver, the city’s residents are put at risk of their businesses and homes being burned down. Toronto has taken a more balanced approach and have been increasingly successful at de-escalating situations since the G20- but no one solution is perfect.
But, even if we had the ideal justice system and the world’s most experienced police that in of itself would not be the solution to our problems. The anarchists aren’t working on their own- they’re being enabled (and sometimes assisted) by politicians, academia, government agencies, NGO’s and the media. In Part II I’ll be discussing the enablers- who’s making this possible? (Yes, I’ll be naming some names)
In Part III we can start discussing some solutions. Please feel encouraged to share your thoughts. Until then, here’s a video of Wednesday’s parade: