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Text below and video originally published on Conspire to Resist.
As people across Turtle Island look towards the global wave of protests against the austerity agenda, the memory of the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto looms large as both inspiration and caution.
We are seventeen people accused by the state of planning to disrupt the leaders summit – the prosecutors call us the G20 Main Conspiracy Group.
This alleged conspiracy is absurd. We were never all part of any one group, we didn’t all organize together, and our political backgrounds are all different. Some of us met for the first time in jail. What we do have in common is that we, like many others, are passionate about creating communities of resistance.
Separately and together, we work with movements against colonialism, capitalism, borders, patriarchy, white supremacy, ableism, hetero/cis-normativity, and environmental destruction.
These are movements for radical change, and they represent real alternatives to existing power structures. It is for this reason that we were targeted by the state. Although these conspiracy charges have been a big part of our daily reality for the past year and a half, we have been slow in speaking out collectively.
This is partly because of the restrictive bail conditions that were placed on us, including non-association with our co-accused and many of our close allies. In addition, those of us who did speak out have been subjected to a campaign of intimidation and harassment by the police and prosecutors.
We are writing now because we have decided to resolve our charges to bring this spectacle to an end.
The state’s strategy after the G20 has been to cast a wide net over those who mobilized against the summit (over 1, 000 detained and over 300 charged) and then to single out those they perceived to be leaders. Being accused of conspiracy is a surreal, bureaucratic nightmare that few political organizers have experienced in this country, but unfortunately it is becoming more common.
We can’t say with any certainty if what we did was in fact an illegal conspiracy. Ultimately though, whether or not our organizing fits into the hypocritical and oppressive confines of the law isn’t what’s important.
This is a political prosecution. The government made a political decision to spend millions of dollars to surveil and infiltrate anarchist, Indigenous solidarity, and migrant justice organizing over several years. After that kind of investment, what sort of justice are we to expect?
We have not been powerless in this process; however any leverage we’ve had has not come from the legal system, but from making decisions collectively. This has been a priority throughout, particularly in the last several months, as the preliminary inquiry gradually took a back seat to negotiations for a deal to end it. T
he consensus process has been at times a heart-wrenching, thoughtful, gruelling, disappointing, and inspiring experience, and in the end, we got through it together. Of the seventeen of us, six will be pleading and the eleven others will have their charges withdrawn.
Alex Hundert, and Mandy Hiscocks are each pleading to one count of counselling mischief over $5,000 and one count of counselling to obstruct police, and Leah Henderson, Peter Hopperton, Erik Lankin, and Adam Lewis are each pleading to a single count of counselling mischief over $5,000. We are expecting sentences to range between 6 and 24 months, and all will get some credit for time already served in jail and on house arrest.
Three defendants in this case had their charges withdrawn earlier and one has already taken a plea to counselling mischief over $5,000 that involved no further jail time. This means that out of twenty-one people in the supposed G20 Main Conspiracy Group, only seven were convicted of anything, and none were convicted of conspiracy.
The total of fourteen withdrawals demonstrates the tenuous nature of the charges.
This system targets many groups of people including racialized, impoverished and Indigenous communities, those with precarious immigration status, and those dealing with mental health and addiction.
The kinds of violence that we have experienced, such as the pre-dawn raids, the strip-searches, the surveillance, and pre-sentence incarceration happen all the time. The seventeen of us have moved through the legal system with a lot of privilege and support. This includes greater access to “acceptable” sureties, and the financial means to support ourselves and our case. While the use of conspiracy charges against such a large group of political organizers is noteworthy, these tactics of repression are used against other targeted communities every day.
There is no victory in the courts. The legal system is and always has been a political tool used against groups deemed undesirable or who refuse to co-operate with the state. It exists to protect Canada’s colonial and capitalist social structure. It is also deeply individualistic and expensive. This system is designed to break up communities and turn friends against each other.
Within this winless situation, we decided that the best course of action was to clearly identify our goals and needs and then to explore our options. Within our group, we faced different levels of risk if convicted, and so we began with the agreement that our top priority was to avoid any deportations.
Other key goals we reached were to minimize the number of convictions, to honour people’s individual needs, and to be mindful of how our decisions affect our broader movements. Although we are giving up some important things by not going to trial, this deal achieves specific goals that we weren’t willing to gamble.
Our conversations have always been advised by concern for the broader political impacts of our choices. One noteworthy outcome is that there are no conspiracy convictions emerging from this case, thus avoiding the creation of a dangerous legal precedent that would in effect criminalize routine tasks like facilitation.
Taking this deal also frees up community resources that have been embroiled in this legal process. We emerge from this united and in solidarity.
To those who took us in while on house arrest, to those who raised money for our legal and living expenses, to those who cooked food, wrote letters, offered rides and supported us politically and emotionally throughout, thank you. To those in jail or still on charges from the anti-G20 protests, to political prisoners and prisoners in struggle, we are still with you. To communities and neighbourhoods fighting back from Cairo to London, from Greece to Chile, in Occupied Turtle Island and beyond, see you in the streets.