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(en) Canada, Toronto, URGENT OPEN LETTER: Support John, Gaetan and Stefan in court on Thursday! and beyond

From Jaggi Singh <jaggi@tao.ca>
Date Wed, 30 Apr 2003 22:50:16 +0200 (CEST)


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Help fight the marginalization of criminalization of anti-poverty
organizing in Toronto and Canada
> AN OPEN LETTER Montreal April 30, 2003
Dear Friends --
I am writing this open letter to strongly encourage all of you in the
Toronto-area and beyond to attend court in support of John Clarke, Gaetan
Heroux and Stefan Pilipa of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. John,
Gaetan and Stefan have been in front of a jury for the past several
months, accused with serious charges that could result in up to five years
in prison, in the case of John, and up to two years, in the case of Gaetan
and Stefan. Their charges relate to the organization of an anti-poverty
demonstration at Queen's Park on June 15, 2000, almost three years ago.

John, Gaetan and Stefan are not accused because they personally committed
any violent acts, but because they are tireless, effective and unapolgetic
advocates for the poor and marginalized in Toronto. They have been clearly
targeted by the police as so-called "leaders" of OCAP.

In the final stages of their trial, courtroom support is essential. Final
arguments begin on THURSDAY, May 1 at 10am (sharp), and directions will be
given to the jury on TUESDAY, May 6 at 10am (sharp). Filling the court to
capacity with supporters, in a clear show of community support for the
OCAP defendants, is an indispensable part of any defense of political
activists.

Recently, I was tried in front of a jury in Montreal for almost three
weeks, along with two co-accused -- Jonathan and Christina. Together, we
were also facing serious charges for "rioting" that could result in prison
time. During the final arguments stage, the court was filled with
supporters. They respected courtroom decorum, and did not disrupt the
proceedings, but their presence was a clear and powerful sign to the jury
that the defendants were not alone, and were part of a community that
fights for social justice. I firmly believe that the physical courtroom
support of members of the community was a key reason we received a "not
guilty" verdict in our trial. The police and crown are trying to
marginalize OCAP through John, Gaetan and Stefan, and our presence in
court this week and next will counteract that marginalization effort.

The OCAP trial takes place in a large, spacious courtroom downtown that
needs at least two hundred people to fill it to capacity. Please take the
time this Thursday, and also next Tuesday, to sit in court in support of
John, Gaetan and Stefan. Show clearly to the jury that the OCAP defendants
do not stand alone. It's not simply John, Gaetan and Stefan that are on
trial, but rather our collective resistance to poverty and injustice.

If you can come to court, please arrive before 10am, so that you are
sitting in court BEFORE the arrival of the jury. Here are the details:

---> Thursday, May 1st, 10am to 4:30pm: Final Arguments
---> Tuesday, May 6th, 9am: Support Demo
---> Tuesday, May 6th, 10am to ... (verdict): Directions to the Jury,
Verdict Vigil

The trial takes place at 361 University Avenue (just north of Queen
Street) in courtroom 2-8. The jury might take several days before its
verdict, so it's also important that as many people as possible support
John, Gaetan and Stefan by maintaining the "verdict vigil" with them
during the day starting next Tuesday. At times, the jury may return to
open court to ask the judge questions, and again, the presence of
supporters in court is crucial.

John, Gaetan, Stefan and the members of OCAP are fighting a landmark
battle in the courts for all organizers and activists who confront unjust
policies against the poor and homeless. Now more than ever, they need our
support and open solidarity. Again, I encourage you to take the time to
attend court on Thursday and next Tuesday.


In solidarity and struggle,
Jaggi Singh

[For more info about the OCAP Trial, please consult www.ocap.ca]

[Ed.
WHAT IS OCAP?
OCAP is a direct-action anti-poverty organization based in Toronto,
Ontario, Canada. We mount campaigns against regressive government
policies as they effect poor and working people. In addition, we
provide direct-action advocacy for individuals against eviction,
termination of welfare benefits, and deportation. We believe in
the power of people to organize themselves. We believe in the
power of resistance.




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