August 20, Toronto—G20 defendants Leah Henderson, Alex Hundert and Erik Lankin appeared in Court yesterday for bail appeal hearings. They are accused of “conspiracy” case and the Crown is alleging they are responsible for demonstrations on June 26 during the G20 Summit in Toronto. All three were arrested early on June 26.
Erik Lankin has been in jail for seven weeks now, since his arrest and subsequent denial of bail in July. Yesterday, his hearing to appeal this continuing incarceration was again postponed. His appeal is rescheduled for September, at which point he will have spent approximately 3 months pre-trial behind bars without having any charges proven against him. If at that time his appeal is not granted, he may remain in jail for up to two years until trial date.
Alex Hundert and Leah Henderson have been out on bail since July 19 after serving three weeks in jail. The Crown appealed their release order in the Ontario Superior Court yesterday and is seeking pre-trial incarceration, claiming that they constitute a threat to public safety. This is the most recent in a series of flagrant acts of intimidation; two weeks ago the OPP tried to scare them into not speaking to media whatsoever. This strong-armed approach to criminalize dissent is meant to send chills through organizing communities. They are expected to hear a decision on the appeal within two weeks on September 13th. If leave to appeal is granted to the Crown, this would mean a whole new bail hearing for them, though they would not be sent back to jail during that time.
According to Leah Henderson, “We are being targeted for the ideas we advocate as anarchist organizers including decentralization of power, non-hierarchical and non-coercive community structures, active resistance against oppression, and real freedom and equality. The Crown has singled us out specifically as anarchists, but also as allies to Indigenous land defenders.”
Last week, the Courts denied release to Indigenous sovereignty activist Ryan Rainville of the Sackimay Nation who was arrested and detained on G20-related charges almost two weeks ago. His ongoing incarceration is justified by characterizations of him as a so-called dangerous person, rather than as one who views defending the land and confronting
colonialism perpetuated by G20 policies as an inherent right and responsibility. “It is a travesty that Ryan, as an Indigenous man deeply committed to protecting the land, has been targeted by the G20 security apparatus. This is part of the ongoing criminalization of Indigenous people who challenge the dominant assumption that land is to be exploited for profit,” says Indigenous sovereigntist Jen Meunier.
While the panic surrounding the G20 protests has pushed forward the criminalization of activists and community organizers, activists are also pointing to the intensification of repressive state practices and criminalization against immigrants and refugees, Indigenous people, as well as low-income communities.
Farrah Miranda, a migrant justice advocate with No One Is Illegal, explains “The Canadian government is currently detaining approximately 500 Tamil refugees in BC. The Canadian government and media outlets are admonishing them as ‘illegals’ and demonizing them as potential ‘terrorists.’ Their ship was boarded by an overzealous military operation and they are being detained en masse. Mass arrests, racist policing, and increased incarcerations of migrants and people of colour are standard tactics in this country.”
Additionally, Indigenous land defenders continue to be faced with ongoing criminalization. Last week, two years after a blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory, seven members of the Bay of Quinte Mohawk Nation were convicted within the Canadian legal system despite being members of a sovereign nation who had erected blockades to defend the land. Furthermore, Indian Affairs has re-imposed a colonial government structure on Barrier Lake First Nation despite their inherent right to their customary form of self-governance.
According to John Clarke, an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, “We can and must build strong social movements in the fight against the G20 austerity agenda, which is the real conspiracy that must be defeated. As part of this agenda, capitalist governments and The International Monetary Fund will continue to cut vital social programs, attack public sector workers, and brutalize poor communities.”
Hundert and Henderson are confident that the goal of the Crown and the police to repress social movements and break apart networks of activists is one that will fail. During the G8/G20 protests in Toronto, more than 40,000 people took to the streets to challenge the G20 agenda and to stand up for Indigenous sovereignty, migrant justice, women’s rights, environmental justice, queer and trans people’s rights, economic justice, and against
the government’s and police’s increasingly repressive attacks on people’s rights and freedoms.
“Whether it is the criminalization of Indigenous peoples, poor people, migrant communities, or anarchists and community organizers, it should be clear that we are living in the midst of an increasingly aggressive and openly racist Harper regime that serves only to protect property and profit, not people. They are trying to send us back to jail because we are part of communities that are effectively organizing across movements. But the truth is that we have shown that our resolve and our solidarity can be stronger than their intimidation and repression,” concludes Alex Hundert.
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