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(en) Calling for Acquittals: Activist Court Guide Being Prepared

From Brian Burch <burch@tao.ca>
Date Thu, 2 Jan 2003 01:45:33 -0500 (EST)

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

>From: TASC <tasc@pop.web.ca>
Calling for Acquittals
Send us Stories of Activist Court 
Victories, Significant Judicial
Decisions, Inspirational Moments 
of Speaking Truth to Power!

Homes not Bombs is preparing an accessible 
guide for resisters who either
defend themselves in court or work 
in concert with lawyers. It is our hope
with this guide to provide folks with 
some of the tools they need to carry
out an activist-based defense in court. 
It is also an opportunity to show
how an understanding of case law based 
on court victories can help us plan
future actions with an eye to expanding 
the parameters of protest that have
already been established in legal 
precedents--in other words, employing
some of the system's loosely connected 
and little-known protections of
protest to our best use.
For many folks considering a potentially 
arrest-able role in a resistance
action, we find that an even bigger 
challenge than confronting authority at
the point of action is confronting the 
process of putting us back in our
place in the court system. There is 
almost a dis-connect from how we are on
the streets and how we are in the courts 
(we seem to train more for the
former than the latter!)
The more we can provide examples of 
creative defences, interesting
courtroom tactics, inspirational tales 
and testimony, and court victories
which have produced decisions that can 
be used by fellow resisters, the
more we can demystify and reclaim our 
own space when we are forced to spend
time in one of the most violent 
institutions in our societies: the 

In our experience, members of Homes not 
Bombs have been charged criminally
in Ontario, Canada a half dozen times 
since 1995, and been acquitted in
each and every instance. As the 
criminalization of dissent grows, we hope
our precedents will be of use to fellow 
activists who find themselves
caught in the grip of the law. We find 
case precedents both in Common law
countries and the U.S. are of great 
use. If the state is going to
criminalize our actions on the streets, 
let's decriminalize them once we
are in the courts.
If you can, please send us references 
to case law victories, important
pieces of case law which you have used 
in your defence, stories about how
you and your fellow resisters have 
prepared for and survived the court
process, etc. Whether you were found 
guilty or not guilty, if you think
these are still useful, please pass 
them along, along with any stories and
analysis you feel might be helpful to 
fellow resisters.

Among topics we might wish to cover 
(and feel free to suggest yours):

How much can we use the tools of this 
violent system without, ourselves,
becoming sucked into the game of it 
to the point where we seriously
compromise our own principles, beliefs, 
and the integrity of the actions
which have brought us to court in the 
first place?

Launching a civil suit against the police
Using international law as part of your 
defence: why and when you would try this
Tips in fighting restrictive bail conditions
Building a case for war tax resistance
Resisting the privatization of public 
space (ie, how to resist charges laid
by private security and police when they 
give you the heave-ho for
leafletting in a mall or shopping centre 
parking lot; dealing with
sidewalks that magically become "private 
property" when you happen to be
standing on them with a sign that 
DOESN'T call for nuking someone)
Using street tactics in the courts: 
transforming their space into OUR space
Using the necessity defence, how and 
when has it worked, and why
When NOT to introduce certain 
precedents that a vindictive judge might rule
against, thus creating a negative 
precedent against resisters. We want to
create good case law, not bad case law
Advocacy with vulnerable folks who 
are part of the daily grind of the court
systems (you don't necessarily need 
to be a lawyer, for example, to defend
homeless folks against charges of 
panhandling or vagrancy or to help get
refugees out of detention). What are 
those areas where, with a little
training from sympathetic lawyers, 
you can help folks get out of a jail
term or other punishment which they 
are likely to get solely by reason of
their poverty or skin colour.
Resisting the new regime of repressive 
legislation (ie, court victories
against the unlimited detention of and 
secret hearings against folks of
Arabic or Middle Eastern background and/or 
Muslim faith--there have been a
few silver linings in the U.S. and U.K.)
Instances of racial profiling in the courts 
(okay, there must be tons of
stuff on this one, but there must also 
be some stuff, esp. on appeal, where
the racism of the court and the cops has 
been a factor in throwing out the
charge and reversing a guilty verdict)
Defending against charges of property 
damage or break and enter (ie,
squatters' cases, ploughshares actions)
Speaking truth to power: inspirational 
pieces of courtroom testimony
Resistance actions on military or 
"national security" properties
Dealing with courtroom attempts to 
limit the scope of your defence
How to use case law acquittals to your 
favour, and how they might assist
you in planning the kind of direct 
action that has a strong impact but
which many (but obviously not all!) 
courts would have a great deal of
difficulty criminalizing.
Tips on what you found helpful in 
preparing a group to defend themselves in
Sentencing issues
Working with lawyers: establishing a 
partnership that everyone's
comfortable with

Other resources: books, videos, radio programs

Please send along anything which you 
feel might be of use to Homes not
Bombs, PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. 
West, Toronto, Ontario, M6C 1C0,
(416) 651-5800, tasc@web.ca


Matthew Behrens
Homes not Bombs
Because Canada should build homes, not blow them up!

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