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(en) Canada, Guilty while Not-Guilty: The case of Montreal activist Manuel Almeida

From lombrenoire <lombrenoire@dojo.tao.ca>
Date Wed, 5 Feb 2003 05:02:11 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

MONTREAL, Tuesday, February 4, 2003 -- Late this afternoon, in Montreal's
municipal court, anti-capitalist activist and postal worker, Manuel
Almeida, 44, was found guilty of breaking his condition of release on a
previous charge. Manuel will be sentenced in April. He is worried that the
sentence might cost him his job, as well as restrict his ability to visit
his extended family in Angola, from which he immigrated to Quebec more
than two decades ago.

What is interesting about Manuel's case is the condition he has been found
guilty of breaking: not participating in any public demonstrations
whatsoever. Manuel was charged with the offence after he was rounded up in
a downtown park on April 26, 2002, in a preemptive mass arrest undertaken
by Montreal's riot squad. Unlike other mass arrests in arrest-prone
Montreal in recent years, this mass arrest, which rounded up hundreds,
happened before the planned demonstration could even begin. The police
actions were roundly condemned by even very mainstream liberal civil
rights groups.

Hundreds of people had gathered in a park to listen to music and share
food in anticipation of a torchlight march (expected to attract at least
1000 protesters). The events were organized by the Anti-Capitalist
Convergence (CLAC) in opposition to the G8 Labour Ministers' meeting
taking place in Montreal at the same time. Manuel was serving food in the
park, as a member of the CLAC Food Committee, and intended to clean up and
leave before the march, to abide by his conditions. Nonetheless, Manuel
was caught up in the riot police dragnet and charged.

In announcing his verdict, the Montreal municipal court judge cited three
dictionaries -- LeRobert, LaRousse, and the Oxford Canadian English
Dictionary -- on their definitions of "demonstration". Based on the
entries he read, the judge concluded that a gathering to listen to music
and east food before a planned march was still a demonstration, and so
Manuel was guilty.

What makes Manuel's case that much more absurd is that he has already been
found not guilty in the original case that led to the imposition of the
draconian "no-protest" conditions in the first place. Manuel was arrested
on September 29, 2001, after participating in an anti-IMF/World Bank
protest in Montreal that joined with a pro-Palestinian demo at the
American Consulate. At his trial on the charge, which took place more than
a year later (after his arrest at mass roundup on April 2002), the judge
decided that Manuel was not guilty due to lack of evidence.

Still, Manuel faces sentencing for breaking his falsely imposed conditions
at the Montreal G8 protest. He also faces trial in Ottawa after being
targeted for arrest at the Take the Capital protests against the G8 in
July 2002, for breaching the very same .no protest. condition. Manuel and
his comrade Bertrand Loiselle are both active CLAC members who were
singled out by Ottawa Police and RCMP during the Take the Capital

Like so many targeted arrests in recent years, Manuel and Bertrand were
arrested not so much for what they actually did, but because of who they
are;  that is, effective, tireless and dedicated political organizers.
Throughout the Take the Capital protests in Ottawa, CLAC members were
followed by various undercover and plainclothes security and police

Manuel and Bertrand's arrests also belie the dismissive stereotype of who
participates in confrontational anti-capitalist protests. Manuel is the
father of two teenage girls, while Bertrand is the father of two young
boys. They are both involved and loving parents, and they also work
full-time, as a postal worker and community sector organizer respectively.
Importantly, they're both tirelessly dedicated to their organizing
efforts, more often-than-not behind-the-scenes, doing the thankless but
necessary tasks that go into effective organizing.

Manuel and Bertrand, who are unilingual francophones, will be facing
trials for their involvement in the anti-G8 protests in Ottawa in the
coming weeks and months. To support them, or for more information, please
contact the Anti-Capitalist Convergence of Montreal at clac@tao.ca or
409-2049. Your support and solidarity is needed and appreciated.

[Reported and written by Jaggi Singh in Montreal. This article is one in
an occasional series called "Resistance on Trial", about various political
activists and organizations that are confronting the courts as a result of
their effective political organizing against poverty and misery in all its
forms. Jaggi is a member of the No One Is Illegal Campaign and the
Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC).]

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