Fathers Day Coalition for Peace
1280 Main Street West, Box 19
Hamilton ON L8S 1C0
(905) 627-2696, (905) 528-5925; (416) 651-5800; email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 19, 2000
Hamilton War Show Suffers Serious Setback from Combination of Nonviolent Direct Action, Alternative Festival of Life, and Mother Nature; 22 Activists Arrested and Criminally Charged; War Show Faces Major Financial Losses
In what has proven a significant weekend in the new effort to end the 26-year-old Hamilton War Show, a combination of nonviolent protest and resultant traffic tie-ups on Saturday, June 17, and rain on Sunday, June 18, may prove too much for the financially unstable institution to continue its annual homage to planes whose only purpose is mass murder from the air.
A testament to the seriousnessness with which the City of Hamilton treated the protests was reflected in criminal charges and severe bail restrictions. But by the time the last resister was released from jail at 3:30 pm on Sunday, war show organizers were no doubt left wondering what the future looked like considering two crucial factors: given that the Sunday is usually a bigger turnout than the Saturday, a huge source of revenue was lost through the rainout. In addition, the massive traffic jams on Saturday, which were partly credited to the protests, caused numerous cars to turn around, with drivers perhaps thinking Sunday might be a better try. (Later, war show organizers admitted Saturday attendance was actually down from last year, a sign attendees hoped to avoid the protests).
Even more important was the fact that, despite the usual catcalls and verbal threats from the truly dedicated war show fans, thousands of attendees were actually reading the flyers handed to them during their stay in the traffic jam, and some engaged in dialogue with the clowns, grannies and others who were eager to discuss their opposition to the exhibition. For the first time, many of these folks had to consider why they unquestioningly attended something innocently labelled family entertainment each Fathers Day Weekend, to ask themselves how one family's entertainment could represent another family's terror and tragedy.
The War Show, which goes by the friendly moniker "air show", features such events as "Kiddie Commando", in which little children dress up as soldiers in camouflage with facepaint and play war on an obstacle course with real soldiers sporting large water guns, "toy" grenades and military camouflage and facepaint. It is one of the largest displays of aerial firepower each summer in North America, with a range of criminal warplanes from the air forces of Canada, the U.S. and U.K.
Following a year's worth of public education&endash;which began when five men were charged for praying in front of the A-10 Thunderbolt (which fires rounds of depleted-uranium-coated munitions, leaving a deadly radioactive legacy behind) in June of 1999&endash;as well as a string of attempts at public dialogue with war show organizers, members of Homes not Bombs, Fathers Day Coalition for Peace, and numerous other groups, including the Toronto Catholic Worker, travelled from across Ontario to Hamilton this weekend to protest the celebration of death from the air.
Rising at the painfully early hour of 5:45 am, over 100 resisters took school buses and vans from downtown Hamilton to the airport, located in the small township of Mount Hope, disembarked, and formed a parade down the two-lane Airport Road, led by a large, beautiful bird of peace, huge puppets of peace, and colourful banners with slogans such as "Warning: These Planes Kill" and "Swords into Ploughshares". As the cars lined up to enter the war show grounds, passengers were met by Clowns for Peace (whose banner read: "Clowns for Peace Say War is Not OK!", by a stiltwalker who handed out anti-war flyers, and individuals who held pictures of the human victims and environmental damage caused by aerial bombardment, underlined with the words: "This is what these planes do." "This could be your home that was destroyed, this could be your sister who was killed, this is what these planes are made for," the sign holders would calmly declare to passersby.
As demonstrators gathered at the four corners to the airport entrance and cars lined up for close to a mile in both directions, the Festival of Life proceeded with singing, poetry from Poets for Peace, satirical songs from the Raging Grannies, fiddling, bubble blowing, hula hoops, and a theatrical piece called "The Men Who Bring us War," featuring Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and current war criminal Bill Clinton.
Meanwhile the construction and distribution of paper origami cranes continued in honour of Hiroshima victim Sadako Sasaki, and Clowns handed out peace lollipops as a unicyclist road up and down the shoulder of the road. A huge origami crane was festooned with ribbons as a memorial to all victims of aerial bombardment.
Midway through the Festival of Life, as a die-in on the four corners was planned, police actually aided people to do the die-in in the middle of the road. As the names of a number of previously bombed cities were read out, about 70 people "died" in the road and lay still for 10-15 minutes as two people chalked the outlines of the bodies on the road.
Police had been informed that the die-in would end when the giant bird of peace flew over the bodies and helped them rise. Perhaps thinking that a die-in would only last 1-2 minutes, agitated police worrying about the increasingly large traffic jam began demanding to know where "that damned bird" was. As a lone voice beautifully sung out We Shall Overcome through a microphone, the bird of peace gently flew over the bodies, helping them to slowly rise, leaving behind the outlines of the bodies.
As the morning continued, police presence continued to increase, as numerous undercover police and other shadowy figures photographed and videotaped the proceedings. Happy demonstrators flashed peace signs and called out, "Smile for your file!" Some undercover police in the crowd were easily recognizable because, despite wearing peace buttons, they simply could not get into the festive mood!
At 10:45 am, a group of Citizens Inspectors, who had with them documents pertaining to international and Canadian law and treaty violations represented by the war planes, began to walk up the East Cargo Road entrance to the airport. They got about fifteen feet down the road before they were met with a solid row of police, who told them they could go no further. Incoming traffic came to a standstill for the next 20-25 minutes, resulting in an ever growing traffic jam which went miles beyond sight.
As the inspectors explained their purpose and asked that police let them through or risk being charged with becoming an accessory after the fact to the crimes listed in the documents (in countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Laos, Libya, Cambodia, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and all countries that were victims of aerial bombardment during WWII), they were told repeatedly by police to leave or be charged with arrest. Meanwhile, other individuals freely walked down the same road without being stopped by police and asked about their political and ethical views.
When the chief police inspector asked why a protest which had been publicized as nonviolent was turning into something different, one demonstrator asked how things were different. The inspector, at a loss for a response, said he was not familiar with international law, but refused to read the Citizen's Inspection Certificate. When he again repeated his concern that the protest was no longer peaceful, one demonstrator said that he and the others would sit if the officer actually felt threatened by the turn of events.
Once they were on the ground, the frazzled inspector begged all concerned to leave, stating, "Is there anything, anything at all I can do to make you leave the ground?" If not, trespass charges were to be laid. With that, police began dragging away the inspectors, and 14 of them (8 of whom are parents, with some of their children watching from the sideline) were arrested and charged with trespassing. The group of arrestees&endash;Lyn Adamson, Matthew Behrens, Brian Burch, Brian Edgecombe, Meredith Ferguson, Andria Green-Filly, mandy hiscocks, Don Johnston, Randy Kay, Aaron Koleszar, Andrew Loucks, Annie McDonald, Marie Reilly, and David Vickery&endash;was joined by freelance journalist Chris Shannon, who was arrested for not having an "appropriate press pass".
Placed in police wagons, the 15 were taken downtown and placed in cells for processing. During the trip back, they saw on the other side of the highway the huge traffic jam stretching down Highway 6. The 4-hour Festival of Life wound up around noon and the remaining demonstrators headed back downtown as well.
Around 3 pm, the Catholic-Worker organized Clowns for Peace, who had taken off their makeup and big noses and driven into the war show grounds and entered for the remarkable family rate of $50 (remarkable for they had 11 members in the van!), picked up where the Fathers Day Five left off last year with a beautiful prayer vigil at the A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog).
Unveiling a banner under the warplane's nosecone which read "We Shall beat Our Swords into Ploughshares: Study War No More," they launched into song and prayer, with a Litany of Resistance. As police converged on the area, they immediately placed seven individuals&endash;including James Loney, Claire Naranjo, Luke Stocking Christine Forand and Krista Lord&endash;under arrest for mischief, a criminal charge. "Is the mischief for the singing, or is it for the praying?" asked one videographer.
Astonished war show representatives, thinking the worst had passed hours earlier, were no doubt feeling nothing was certain for the rest of the day, if not the whole weekend.
As the Catholic Worker group was placed behind bars, all those who had been charged with trespassing were newly charged with the crime of mischief as well. An officer went from cell to cell to lay the charges, and resisters wondered what mischief they could have done in the confines of their cells, sans shoes, glasses, watches, books, jackets, toilet paper and other amenities which had been taken from them. Indeed, apart from the steel bench and open toilet, there was not much to make mischief with!
As the day dragged on, the Catholic Worker group was given a release condition of non-association, which they refused to sign. The condition was eventually dropped. After fingerprinting and mug shots, both the prayer group and 9 citizens inspectors were finally released by 9:30 pm with criminal mischief charges, and the promise not to enter the township in which they had been arrested.
The remaining six were held overnight because of outstanding criminal charges left over from the Nov. 12, 1999 attempt to transform the War Dept. to the Housing Dept. in Ottawa. At their show cause hearing on Sunday afternoon, those providing bail support were treated again to the pitiful, vengeful violence so endemic to the courts. Wife beaters, child abusers and those accused of uttering death threats were treated with great dignity, care and respect, while thirteen and fourteen year old girls were denied bail for having shoplifted a $5 lip gloss from Wal Mart. Many of the youngsters in court were remanded.
Phil Berrigan, before being sentenced in the Plowshares vs. Depleted Uranium case, remarked, "The courts in this country are closely identified with the Pentagon," and so it appeared in Canada as well&endash;the courts are a function of protecting privilege and greed, and the violent fist which backs up that privilege and greed, the military.
The demonstration seemed to have shaken up the Hamilton elite, many of whose business are sponsors and all of whose media outlets (save for community radio and weekly paper) were media sponsors. In fact, the only TV station in the region failed to cover the largest act of civil resistance in the area in decades, while violent protests regularly demand national media attention.
The atmosphere in the court, in which the final bail hearings of the day were reserved for the protesters, was filled with contempt and anger towards those opposed to the war show, who were brought in wearing leg irons. Indeed, as we saw again and again, individuals accused of tremendous acts of violence against women and children were released on personal recognizance with limited conditions while heavy bails were sought for those whose crime was praying for peace and seeking to uphold international laws and covenants protecting the rights of all individuals not to be subjected to the horrors of war.
In his opening address to the court, the Crown explained that the group went from a "peaceful" demo to one which involved walking on the road and blocking it (this despite the fact that the police had already blocked the road.). He claimed that these outsiders had gathered under the guise of "The Anti-War Machine Network," an awesome sounding group which, apart from the crown's overheated imagination, does not exist.
The first case to be heard, Brian Edgecombe,'s featured pointed jabs from the justice of the "peace," who was angered when Edgecombe sought clarification. "You know, there is one condition I could impose if I wanted to, " the judge declared with a fit of impudence. He paused, looked at Edgecombe, then said, "In fact, I will impose it. You are not to be within one half mile of any air [sic] show in the province of Ontario. This is within my jurisdiction." Edgecombe was required to post $500 bail, no deposit, was banned from the township of Glanbrook, and told he could not knowingly associate with anyone with a criminal record.
"I don't mean to make accusations, but that could be anyone in this courtroom," the judge said, pointing to those in the audience, many of whom had been released the previous evening. None of those facing bail hearings earlier in the day for assault or drug trafficking faced such an association clause. Loucks, hiscocks, Ferguson, and Vickery were then released with identical conditions. Don Johnston, who required $1,000 surety bail, was held down until an interview could be conducted with his surety.
His potential surety, Brenda Dolling of Burlington, knows Johnson well, and sees him weekly as part of their participation in a caucus of the New Democratic Party, a perfectly legal and at worst innocuous organization which at last check was still legal in Canada. (This was important, for the judge needed to know that Dolling would insure that Johnson obeys his conditions, and the judge needed to know how this supervision would be carried out). Apparently, though, Brenda knew Don too well, for it came out that both had been arrested at the Homes not Bombs demo in Ottawa, a fact which left the judge gasping in frustration. It appeared the judge did not want Johnston released, and, like his treatment of the other bail cases, his statements showed an anger that the war show had been disrupted.
Having turned down Dolling, a retired schoolteacher and homeowner, as surety, it was then the turn of Laurel Smith of Toronto, who also knows Johnston. "You know, we're not here to play Let's Make a Deal," the judge declared as Smith hurriedly filled out the required papers. A beaming Smith then took the stand, answered some questions about her ability to supervise Johnston, and bail was granted. Perhaps the judge was not willing to cross Smith because he may have remembered that Smith had stared him down two years earlier in a Hamilton courthouse during a trial protesting sanctions against Iraq. At that time, the judge refused her a chance to speak; when she persisted and a spectator asked that she be allowed to speak the truth, he was ejected from the court. Eventually, Smith, who through tireless patience and calm, kept reiterating her right to speak, broke through, forcing the judge into sullen silence.
The judge, who looked increasingly uncomfortable, took the opportunity of a child leaving the courtroom to try and shift attention away from his cruelty. Randy Kay, a protest organizer who had been released from jail the previous evening, spent the whole day in court with his four-and-a-half year old daughter. As they were leaving, the judge stated, "Sir, I wish to complement you on the behaviour of your child. The day has been long, the proceedings have been boring, but she has done very well. I'm not sure how you are raising your child, but whatever you are doing, you are doing a great job."
Kay, who had witnessed the injustices of the court and whose daughter cried because her Father was in jail on Father's Day Weekend for the second year in a row for protesting war, simply smiled and declared, "Yes, and you will likely see her someday in one of your courts."
And so the resistance grows.
The first court appearance for the resisters is July 25.
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