One of my most disturbing discoveries while researching the resurgence of activist militancy was the large number of ‘legitimate’ organizations who’ve been willing to work with people who promote violent tactics. Sometimes it’s blatant, like when a leader at the Council of Canadians helped bring the Black Bloc into the Olympic protests; or things that make you go ‘hmmm’ like when the BC Civil Liberties Association withdrew their ‘Legal Observers’ shortly before the attack.
But, when it comes to adding insult to injury, nothing works better than giving them an award. The last time we saw this was in February, when Department of Foreign Affairs funds were used to label a mask fetishizing promoter of anti-police marches as one of Alberta’s “Top 30 under 30” activists. It was a true slap in the face for all the non-violent activists who’ve been effectively working towards change.
Today’s slap in the face is brought to us by the folks at Environment Hamilton…
Who Are Environment Hamilton?
EH is a Hamilton, Ontario based NGO that goes by the slogan “Hamiltonians for a Healthier Environment”. True to their name, they appear to focus on projects that have the potential to make positive change. The Hamilton Fruit Tree Project is a great example, harvesting fruit from the city’s trees that might otherwise be thrown away. The project is supported by the city government, with additional support from the GreenBelt Foundation.
EH’s office is based in the same space as Sonic Unyon Records, a company led by Tim Potococ- the Secretary of the Hamilton Arts Council (and organization supporting EH’s Greening Sacred Spaces initiative). Hamilton 350 (another #SwampLine9 supporter) also have their offices here. And, apparently, Sonic Unyon is currently in the middle of a controversy over NDP office space.
One of EH’s other projects is the Environmentalists of The Year Award, an annual gala where they honour “individuals and groups who have made a significant contribution to the protection and/or enhancement of the environment in the City of Hamilton”. Organizations who’ve been awarded in previous years include the Royal Botanical Gardens, The Windermere Basin Wetland Creation Project, and the United Nations Association in Canada- Hamilton Branch.
The event also gives an annual Award of Merit; which, in 2012, was handed to Elysia Petrone- an activist who received a lot of attention in the summer of 2013 as the spokesperson for a pipeline protest called #SwampLine9. Coincidentally (or not) this year’s Award of Merit went to #SwampLine9.
What Was #SwampLine9?
In June 20th, 2013, a group of protesters occupied and setup camp on the grounds of Enbridge’s Line 9 pumping station in Westover, Ontario. The site was under construction, Enbridge was installing new pipes and connectors at the time- construction was halted and workers were sent home.
The organizers were a who’s who of Ontario’s militant anarchists- hare are some of the highlights:
Alex Hundert: One of the ringleaders of the violence during the 2010 Toronto G20, Hundert was arrested for guiding people towards which windows they should be smashing- and counselling Ontario’s youth how to ‘de-arrest’ fellow protesters from the police (and act of violence). He was sentenced to 16 months in prison, much of it spent in solitary after attempting to ‘organize’ his fellow prisoners. Not limiting his violence to windows, Hundert has also been observed intimidating women, trans, and people with disabilities.
Sakura Saunders: An American anarchist with a history of receiving funds from foreign foundations, Saunders showed-up with a mask on her face and used the protest as an opportunity to promote her husband’s (militant anarchist) band. This is hardly the behavior one would expect from the “Environmentalists of the Year”- it’s also reflective of the vanity and self-promotion we see from many of today’s professional protesters. Saunders has (legitimately) been of interest to Homeland Security and the RCMP.
Patricia “Trish” Mills: One of the most disturbing performances of #SwampLine9 came from Hamilton anarchist Trish Mills. She was arrested after locking her neck to the the Westover plant’s gates. When her day came-up in court, Mills got into trouble for causing a disturbance. In December 2013 she was filmed helping burn an effigy of a pig at a Toronto anti-police march. And, as the above posting from #SwampLine9’s website shows- Mills recently partnered with G20 co-ringleader Mandy Hiscocks to teach a seminar called “FUCK THE LAW”. Classy!
Gary Wassaykeesic: One of the 3-4 indigenous participants, and a virulent anti-police activist, Wassaykeesic was given the most serious charge of breaking and entering; after climbing over the fence into a restricted (and dangerous) area. A couple weeks later, upon hearing that the people of Westover were less than impressed with the occupation, Wassaykeesic responded saying:
“Westover should be f##king thanking us. For letting the world that a small shit little town like Westover actually exists!”
A couple days after the protest was shut-down, #SwampLine9’s Facebook accounted proudly promoted that people had been (in solidarity) tampering with local trains. Environment Hamilton has some messed-up ideas of who to promote as role models.
Time For New Leadership At Environment Hamilton?
When interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator last June, EH’s Executive Director Lynda Lukasik said that the protest has ” been very helpful for opening up that public dialogue that is so crucial.” This may be true, but there’s so much more to the story- the protests also helped to promote a dangerous group of people.
The fact is that it’s unlikely the militants would succeed without the support the ‘legitimate’ of the organizations that back them. This award makes a mockery out of all the real activists working hard to make positive change. It’s a slap in the face to the good people…