Line 9 Protests Unmasked: Part I – New Occupation, Same Old People & Tactics

Sakura Saunders distributing Envorinmental Defence's Line 9 posters at a March, 2013 anti-police march

Sakura Saunders distributing Environmental Defence’s Line 9 posters at a March, 2013 anti-police march


In November 2012 a group of leaders from NGOs, unions, academia, first nations and militant anarchist groups converged for a conference at the University of Toronto. Their goal was to come up with a strategy how to interfere with Enbridge’s plan to reverse their Line 9 pipeline- limiting Canada’s ability to export our oil to other countries.

The first evidence of their convergence began to emerge in early 2013 when activists in the anarchist community started to buzz on social media, and later carried Line 9 signs to their protests. In March anarchist Sakura Saunders was seen at a (horribly racist) anti-police march in West Toronto distributing signs printed by Environmental Defence- a registered charity currently being audited by the Canadian Revenue Agency for their political activities.

Sakura Saunders at the Westover occupation

Sakura Saunders with an Environmental Defence Banner at the Westover occupation

In June 2013 a group of familiar faces from the G20 and Occupy movement invaded Enbridge’s pumping station in Westover, Ontario. The camp’s “security” was led by Alex Hundert, an unrepentant ringleader of the violence at the G20 who was released from prison only a few months earlier. Protest spokesperson Elysia Petrone was an employee of Environmental Defence.

The protest ended with the arrests of at least a dozen people- the most serious charge of breaking and entering by an indigenous protester who called Westover a “small little shit town“. Protesters interrupted court during one of their trials, charges were added for assaulting a peace officer. The court was merciful and, despite their overt disrespect, allowed protesters to walk away with a slap on the wrist.

Specialist sources in law enforcement commented after the Westover protest that they were surprised by the protester’s lack of success. Similar previous actions were able to generate more momentum, but something was different this time- rather than the traditional practice of only reporting on the surface, some media outlets (including this site) reported on the people behind the protests, their motivations, and funding sources.

Despite their lack of motivated supporters, the militants behind the protest intrepidly kept up the fight with a series of one day occupations. Ignoring broken windows theory, Ontario police generally let protesters walk away from short actions- making it safer for activists with criminal records to participate.

Two weeks ago the same group of protesters joined with partners at the Six Nations and setup what they claimed would be a permanent occupation. But then something happened, people in the Six Nations community approached the protesters and asked them to leave. A new occupation began on Tuesday, this time at a fenced-in construction site near Innerkip, Ontario.

This series will investigate the battle against Line 9, the extremists operating on the ground, and the “peaceful” leaders and institutions who’ve been enabling them. As the people and networks behind the scenes are exposed, we’ll begin the see the patterns of how “grassroots” actions like the Line 9 protests are not as independent as they claim.

Here in Part I we’ll look into the details of this week’s occupation, who’s on-site, and who got arrested. In future instalments we’ll explore the people and organizations behind the convergence, their practice of creating Astroturf “community” lobby groups, how students at some Ontario universities are unwittingly funding the militants, and a detailed look into how all this connects to the violence during the Toronto G20.

A New Occupation Near Woodstock:

Trish Mills and XX swordfight with stolen surveyor pegs

Trish Mills and Wolfgang Chrapko sword fight with stolen surveyor pegs

This week’s protest began on Tuesday morning when a group of about 25 protesters followed a familiar script setting-up camp at Enbridge’s maintenance site near Innerkip. There’s a certain amusement watching the irony of their demonstration- while simultaneously complaining that Enbridge doesn’t adequately maintain their pipelines, they shut-down efforts to do just that.

One of the biggest challenges previous Line 9 protests have faced was the PR disaster of how many of their participants are so poorly informed. Organizers approached this problem by assigning designated media contacts, and asking protesters not to talk to the media.

One of the designated media contacts was Rachel Avery, who told journalists that “Line 9 is a very dangerous pipeline”. Avery wears many hats; she’s on a radio show run by the Grand River Media Collective on CKMS radio in Waterloo, a member of the anarchist group AW@L, an organizer for Grand River Indigenous Solidarity, and spokesperson for Waterloo Region Coalition Against Line 9. While it may appear diverse, all these groups have one thing in common- they’re tied to the hip with a student funded organization at the University of Waterloo (which we’ll cover in a future installation).

Besides not talking to the press organizers didn’t make too many rules, but one really stood out- perhaps this is a reference to the unwitting the followers drinking the leader’s Kool-Aid?:

“…we seek to maintain a state of mind in which you can make safe(r) decision for yourself and others. We recognize that sobriety means different things to different people.”

Who else came to the party?

Occupy Toronto leader Dave Vasey (centre) is a fixture at Line 9 protests

Occupy Toronto leader Dave Vasey (centre) is a fixture at Line 9 protests

No Line 9 protest would be complete without the obligatory parade of the usual suspects:

– Dave Vasey was the first person arrested during the G20. He’s been the leader of Occupy Toronto, a two time candidate for the Green Party of Canada, worked with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Rainforest Action Network, Rising Tide, Toronto Bolivia Solidarity, and Environmental Justice Ontario. Vasey is one of the street-level leaders of the Line 9 campaign.

– Lana Goldberg is a union activist who led direct actions for Occupy Toronto, helped organized events for, is a regular at Line 9 occupations, and once led a flash mob protesting a bank offering a company lower interest rates on a loan (Steelworkers for usury!).

– Trish Mills’ story looks increasingly tragic. A young anarchist who appears to have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid, Mills has engaged in wildly self-destructive behaviour including assaulting a peace officer inside a courtroom. Mills lucked-out at court and her most serious charges were dropped. She was sentenced in January to one year of probation- including instructions to stay 200 meters away from Enbridge property.

– One of the most embarrassing moments for the Line 9 protests came in August 2013, when Ezra Levant interviewed a London based group called the Indignants- exposing their embarrassing lack of knowledge about issues around the pipeline. Mike Roy and Bailey Lemon arrived at the camp on Tuesday and appear to have stayed the night- both are participants in the union-led Ontario Common Front, and have participated in campaigns for the Canadian Auto Workers (now Unifor).

Who Got Arrested?

Line 9 protester "Meaghan" was arrested last night

Line 9 protester “Meaghan” was arrested last night

Unconfirmed reports from the protesters indicate that someone was taken into custody by the Ontario Provincial Police while leaving the construction site on Tuesday night. A tweet from the Media Co-Op identifies her as “Meaghan”. A protester named Meghan Lankin was charged for last years Westover Occupation, and was also one of the original 17 people charged with conspiracy during the G20 (charges were later dropped after a plea bargain with other defendants).

Stay Tuned For Part II:

In part II of this series we’ll take an in-depth look at the November 2013 convergence where Line 9 militants participated in strategy planning with high-profile leaders from NGOs, unions and first nations groups. There were some big names there that day- including Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, Art Sterritt from the BC based Coastal First Nations (who drives a really rad BMW), Carolyn Egan from the United Steelworker’s union- and, of course, Dave Vasey and Sakura Saunders.

This site has obtained the detailed minutes of the event that provide unique insight to the strategy, relationships, and people working in the shadows of this so called “grassroots” movement…

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