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(en) Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Fighting the Disability Review: legal update from our trial this week:

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 10 Jan 2004 11:45:46 +0100 (CET)

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> From: Garlic Bobcat <streetpoet77-A-hotmail.com>
On March 13th 2003 myself and six members of the Anti-Poverty Committee*
were arrested in Victoria British Columbia. Eventually we were charged with
mischief and a trial was set for October 23rd 2003. The trial was remanded
to January 28th. Our pre-trial was set for January 7th, but when we arrived
today we had decided to plead guilty. We were soon sentenced.
The Crown laid out her case. She described how two of our defendents were
buzzed into the main area of the British Columbia Ministry of Human Resource
Health and Services Branch. The Crown explained how they let the other five
in, and that we all began to yell, “this is a political occupation, everyone
get the hell out.” Several of the management locked themselves in their
offices and called police, the Crown lied saying we barricaded them in
there. It was noted in the police report that we also yelled, “we will not
harm you, this is a political occupation, nothing will be touched. We only
want this space.”

Judge Neal happened to be an ex-Deputy Attorney General of B.C. A high up
beaurocrat He was also a reputable right wing judge who once stalled an
hour and a half of a drug offenders charge because he thought that someone’s
?pattulli body spread? was pot. What surreal luck, we thought.

Judge Neal listened carefully when the Crown told him that ‘3 people jumped
the counter, cleared an office of 40 people, and began to barricade the
doors.’ The old sheriff looked shocked as I smiled at him nodding. The
Crown barely mentioned the police destroying the office to get at us. It
was noted that when the police drove the pegs out from under the door, some
of us pulled on the door handle to keep the police out. The most aggressive
pig, on the other side of the glass, pulled the door handle clean off.

She told it dryly, “police broke window, gain entry.” But in reality he put
his foot on the door, ripped the handle off and fell on his ass. We had a
good laugh at him down there so he pulled out his club and shattered the
glass all over us. We retreated and opened the second security door (did we
know the code or was it a lucky guess?) which locked the police out. They
kicked in that door. She robotically lied, “they form circle, link arms,
chanting together. Police pepper spray, break circle, avoid force.”

We stood in a circle so that we could see everyone else when the herd of
bulls came charging in, we were not linking arms. We were talking alright,
‘we are not resisting arrest’ (anymore)...in those situations say that, it
always comes up in court. They targetted the men spraying them each three
times in the face at close quarters, but also getting the women in
proximity. They used so much pepper spray that the police had to treat
themselves, and the Health Services Branch was considered ‘contaminated’.
After that began 30 boring, cold and hungry hours of incarceration at the
Victoria Jail, and Courthouse. During that 30 hours we were not given a
chance to properly wash the pepper spray off, it burned continuously.

Our lawyers retaliated by saying that few of us had any prior criminal
record, how we were welfare and disability advocates, and good volunteers in
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I liked how he praised us for helping low
income and marginalized people. I felt much was left out so I wanted to
speak to the judge. That made some of the defendents uncomfortable so they
were relieved that I didn’t blow it. Judge Neal warned me sternly at first
to take that pen out from behind my ear when I speak to him, but then he
listened without interuption. What is written below is largely what I said,
with a few additions to keep it readable:

I think its important to establish our motives for this incident. This
event took place on March 13th because March 15th was the deadline for the
Disabililty Review Process. The BC Liberal Government sent out 23 page
forms to disability recipients with a clear goal of cutting 9,000 people off
assistance. The government changed the criteria for receiving DBII and then
forced many to prove that they met the new qualifications for the $760
cheque. Over 30 disabled people committed suicide, many with mental
illness, terrified of homelessness. I submit to the court the case of Arne
Ristvedt from Vancouver. On November 5th he committed suicide, two days
after receiving his disability review form. He wrote in his suicide note
directly about the review process, how he “couldn’t take the b**sh*t from
this government anymore.”

I then told the court what we did on March 13th. How in the police reports
many workers noted that they did not think we were “violent”. One
receptionist claimed to be traumatized, but surely no more than we were when
the Victoria Police Department came. We let a worker in to get her
medication, and she was quickly out again, but she met the police on their
way up the stairs.

On that eighth minute a VPD Tactical Team arrived, they did not engage in
dialogue. They smashed two security doors then pepper sprayed each of the
men three times. We were not charged, nor read any rights. Each of the
women were strip searched, but the men weren’t. We were locked up for 28
hours while Sergeant Bond, quoted to the Victoria Times Colonist (what a
horrible name) “that we were running about TERRORIZING the staff.” A
slanderous word to use these days. At 9:00 AM, about the 18th hour,
defendent Benerice was taken to hospital. She had a diabetic episode
throughout the night, and the police did nothing to help her. Our
subsequent bail conditions were unreasonable. We were banned from Victoria,
except for court dates, and forbidden to enter BC Government Offices for
anything but routine personal business.

The Police did so much damage to the Health Services Branch, where the
Disability Review Process was beaurocratically nesting, that the office
could not re-open for another week. The Disability Review deadline was
moved from March 15th to 23rd. Just before the deadline BC Human Resouces
claimed that about 100, of the 14,000, forms came in every day. Perhaps 400
or 600 people were not cut off their disability benefits because of this one
week extension. We are guilty of acting with the intent to save lives
considered excess because another $18 million dollar budget cut. That
summer only 400-600 of the expected 9,000 were cut off, because of the
things that we and other people did to fight back.

Reg, our older English co-defendent, also spoke briefly. When he said that
the government is creating a war on the poor, the Judge scolded him. But
Reg pushed on briefly saying that if the government will not change its
policies through any action within the system, then people will have to take
action for themselves outside of the system.

The worst part was that Judge Neal compared our “civil disobedience” with
Ghandi’s illegal march to make salt in 1929. He claimed that what was most
noble about Ghandi is that when he and 300,000?? people were rounded up, he
confessed of the crime and asked to be punished appropriately. Judge Neal
had obviously practiced this sickening Ghandi/Protester routine. “Fuck
Ghandi,” I thought, “what an asshole.”

Guilty of the offence of mischief-obstruct use/enjoyment of property,
contrary to Section 430 (1) (c) of the Criminal Code. Sentence: Probation
Order: 12 months; conditional discharge:12 months. $50 victim surcharge.
Jill, Reg, Benerice and I got 50 hours of community service. Anton and Dave
got 100 hours because of prior records, as did Megan who the Crown absurdly
claimed was our leader. If we obey our conditions we shall have no criminal
record when the probation ends.

The outcome was pretty good seeing as Judge Neal didn’t give us nearly the
punishment that the Crown wanted, such us tougher sentences for some of us
and lots of crazy conditions. I am mostly glad the whole thing is over, we
would have wasted so much time and money travelling to Vancouver Island to
go through a whole trial. I always thought that pleading guilty was morally
reprehensible, but I found it liberating to just end the charade. I know
that their laws define a system that protects the wealthiest and most
powerful interests, I know that what they call justice is a paper
beaurocracy of faceless offenders. We never denied that when we went into
that office business as usual ended, we couldn’t. Let’s end the stupid
game, just give me my sentence so I can catch the last ferry home.

After greasy spoon lunches, probation orders, probation check in, two buses,
an hour and a half ferry ride, a Skytrain trip from Surrey, and a walk home:
it was nearly 11:00 PM. I was exhausted.
*[Ed. Note: An anti-authoritarian social struggle direct action inititiative]

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