Issues raised by G20 remain heated
A plea bargain negotiated last week may represent the beginning of the end of ongoing legal struggles regarding charges against protesters as a result of their actions during the G20 summit of June 2010. Charges were dropped against 11 people, while six decided to plead guilty to lesser charges. On Nov. 28, G20 protesters Adam Lewis, Eric Lankin and Peter Hopperton were all sentenced to serve time in prison.
Among the three who await sentencing is Alex Hundert, a Wilfrid Laurier University graduate who is facing charges of counselling mischief and counselling to obstruct police. He described the charges as “vague and wide-ranging.”
Hundert was initially charged with six counts of counsel and four counts of conspiracy, among others.
On the actions that led to his arrest, Hundert commented, “I accept that they are technically criminal. I do not accept that the legal code determines what is morally right and wrong.” One of his offences was creating a list of potential sites of protest where people could organize during the G20.
Hundert added, “Most of what we do is quite, quite tame. But because we have been very public in that advocacy we became, and myself particularly, became very obvious, easy targets for the state.”
He claimed that while a re-evaluation of “particular modes of organizing” may be required, he has not been discouraged from protesting overall.
Stringent bail conditions and the nature of the initial charges have raised questions for some Canadians about the fairness of the legal system. “As sad as that is, the way we were treated by the system is not as exceptional as people want to believe it was,” Hundert explained. “It’s a really corrupt and dirty, broken system, I think.”
Peter Eglin, a professor of sociology at Laurier, was in agreement with many of the objections raised by G20 protesters, but felt that the means to achieve their desired aims were ineffective.
“Violent methods are doomed to fail simply because, apart from moral considerations … all the means of violence rests with the state,” said Eglin.
“Non-violence is far more effective.”
The G20 protests in his view are only one example of people renouncing inequality worldwide, who are acting “against the power that’s held and exercised by a tiny minority of people in the world,” Eglin continued, “I think of them [the G20 protesters] as kind of the front lines of the resistance against the global class war.”
Eglin also took issue with the consequences imposed by the legal system, beyond the immediate charges. In addition to the complete demobilization of protesters, costs were high, “not only in terms of hiring the lawyers that you need, but in terms of the interruption of your life that is brought about by the kind of bail conditions that are imposed.”
Sterling Stutz, a protester whose charges were withdrawn as part of the plea bargain, was forced to drop out of school due to her bail conditions, which confined her to her parents’ home in Toronto. At the time of her arrest, Stutz was in her second year at Laurier.
Stutz was a member of former Laurier-based activist group Anti-War at Laurier (AW@L), which was infiltrated by an undercover Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer prior to the G20 events in 2010.
“It’s [the infiltration is] again, another tool to create fear amongst those who try to organize in their communities,” Stutz explained. “Knowing that those are tools of the state … is useful, but that it’s not going to stop us from organizing, it’s not going to stop us from working together.”
Hundert acknowledged, “Part of the reason why I agreed to go to jail to get 11 other people off, is because I know, and I have faith, that those people are going to go right back into the type of community organizing that we do that I think is really important.”
Thus far, the 11 protesters whose charges were dropped show no signs of abandoning their ideals. Immediately following the conclusion of the plea bargain, they boarded a bus and joined protesters in a march in Toronto in support of the Occupy movement.
“The important thing about this is that we’ve gone through this process together, as a group of us, and we’ve come out stronger from it,” Stutz concluded.
“We were fighting in the courts, and now we’re going back to the streets.”