September 7, 2012
One week after a brutal police assault on Vancouver activists distributing the Fire This Time newspaper, a large and diverse group of people packed a public forum and organizing meeting. They came together to discuss the attack by the RCMP and Transit Police, and to plan the next steps in the defense of civil liberties and democratic rights in the Fire This Time case.
There was no more room in the meeting room, as the 70 people who came together ranged from members of different political parties and organizations, trade union members and executives, Cuba solidarity and anti-war organizers, as well as concerned community members shocked by the police assault and detainment of three activists who were peacefully distributing the Fire This Time newspaper at the Metrotown Skytrain Station on the evening of Friday, August 31. Most had already read Fire This Time’s public statement, or seen the new blog https://stopassaultonpoliticalactivists.wordpress.com and videos posted online http://www.youtube.com/firethistime/ detailing the assault.
The meeting was chaired by Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) co-chair Alison Bodine. She introduced the three Fire This Time activists and assault victims, Thomas, Shakeel, and Mike, as being there not only to discuss the chronology of the assault and the growing defense campaign, but also of the deeper issues and context of the assault.
Mike outlined how the three activists had been distributing the newspaper for an hour without incident before being approached by two Transit police officers who demanded they leave immediately. After the three activists had shown the police the public regulations allowing them to distribute and refused to be intimidated, the police responded by handcuffing, assaulting, and detaining them before releasing them without charges later that evening. “Eventually over ten Transit Police and RCMP officers were involved in our assault,” continued Mike, “but we refuse to be intimidated. We are serious about defending not only the rights of Fire This Time and all social justice organizations, but the democratic and civil liberties of all poor and working people.”
“Our rights are under attack both at home and abroad,” continued Shakeel, “the Harper regime’s ongoing offensive of war, occupation, and threats against countries like Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, has been accompanied by a crackdown on independent voices for social justice here at home. “ He elaborated, “The Fire This Time newspaper spreads a message against this war on oppressed people. This assault and harassment is an attack on our democratic rights and freedom of speech.”
The presentations were completed by Fire This Time Editorial Board member and assault victim Thomas, who emphasized that Fire This Time would be pursing all options, be they legal or political, as part of a broad and energetic defense campaign. He quoted the famous civil rights activist James Baldwin in his defense of then imprisoned civil rights activist Angela Davis, “If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”
He emphasized the need for unity between different organizations and individuals, who do not need to agree on every single issue, but understand that defending the hard won rights of poor and working people is in all of our interests. “We are not willing to live in world where police are able to attack political activists despite the fact that we are peaceful and complying with all laws and regulations. We are not willing to wait until things get even worse to organize an effective defense of everyone’s rights. We will fight and we will win.”
The discussion which followed was long and lively, with many people sharing their own experiences with police brutality and making connections between different struggles. The suggestion to create an ad-hoc committee for this case and the attack on democratic and civil liberties was soon taken up by those in attendance, as people agreed that the only way to successfully defend these rights is to be organized and united.
As was said in the public announcement of the public forum, “We would like to emphasize that more than ever we need unity against growing police brutality and assaults on democratic and civil liberties of not only political activists particularly, but also all social justice advocates from antiwar to antipoverty, and from fighting for immediate reforms to building a new world without exploitation. Police brutality, restrictions and attacks on civil liberties are increasing. In fact this unlawful police behavior does not just originate from the local cop centers. What we need to understand more importantly is that police forces are applying and enforcing what the Harper regime is mapping for the future of democratic and human rights in Canada in a time of national and international capitalist crisis. Hence, our strong and united response to their attack on us and against our rights is of vital importance.” The public meeting was successful not only
in bringing people together, but also in focusing the defense campaign through the creation of a new ad-hoc committee to defend Fire This Time and stop assault on all political activists.
Please join us for unity and to fight back! The first meeting of the new ad-hoc committee will be this Tuesday, September 11. The meeting starts at 7:30pm in Joe’s Café (Large North Hall), 1150 Commercial Drive. The meeting will decide on a name for the committee as well as plan our upcoming actions in defense of civil liberties and democratic rights. See you there!
For more information:
Read Fire This Time full statement at:
For videos of the assault including new short videos taken by independent bystanders:
Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice: