SHAWN BRANT'S ARREST AND THE TYENDINAGA MOHAWK STRUGGLE:
The following article(s)from OCAP, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, is an update and backgrounder on the arrest of Shawn Brant last April 25. Brant, along with other Tyendinaga Mohawks was acting in support of the land claims of his people. The article gives the background to the case and tells what you can do to help.
Shawn Brant’s Arrest – Statement by Sue Collis
Shawn Brant’s Arrest – Statement by Sue Collis, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory (May 4th, 2008)
Eight days ago, on Friday, April 25th, 2008, my husband,Shawn Brant, was arrested and detained on assault and weapons charges.Since that time, Commissioner Julian Fantino and the Ontario Provincial Police have issued public statements that have, it seems, misstated the events leading to my husband’s arrest.
I believe it is important to the public good for people to understand the circumstances that have lead to Shawn’s incarceration at this time. Those circumstances are as follows:
On Sunday, April 20th, 2008, the community of Tyendinaga responded to threats from a Kingston developer to bring “a crew of 25 to 30 guys”, in order to begin development on a property which falls within in the Culbertson Tract land claim. Mohawks from Tyendinaga did peaceful road closures on Highway 2, adjacent to this proposed development site on Mohawk land.
My husband Shawn has been living and complied with very strict conditions imposed when he was charged in relation to community rail and highway blockades on the June 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action. One of his conditions is not to attend protests. During the evening of Monday, April 21st, 2008,my husband was some distance away from the road closures erected in response to the Kingston developer, talking to a Tyendinaga community member, while he also checked a nearby creek for fish.
During this conversation, Shawn became aware of some commotion down the road, and made his way towards the commotion, parking his car some 50 feet away from where a small group of people was gathered on one side of the road. The first thing Shawn saw a 10-year-old girl shaking and crying uncontrollably. He had no idea what was going on. As he approached the scene, someone yelled “Shawn help us!” The little girl screamed, “They hurt my Mommy! They’re gonna hurt my Mommy.” Someone else yelled, “He has a ball bat!” At this time, Shawn noticed two trucks were parked facing the people who were in obvious distress. Shawn returned to his car and retrieved his fishing spear. By the time Shawn returned to where the people were gathered, the occupants of the trucks were back inside their vehicles. Shawn shouted at the occupants of the trucks to leave. The windows were so tinted that he could not make out their faces. The drivers of the trucks sped away with such force that one of their truck tires was raised in the air, spraying much gravel and stone at the women and the child, some of which they later discovered was embedded in their skin.
Shawn turned his head to avoid catching stones in the face, and held out his spear in an effort to create some distance between the group of Mohawks and the trucks, out of concern that those in the vehicles would strike those on the road with their vehicles. The trucks then sped away.That is the extent of Shawn’s interaction with the individuals he is now charged with assaulting. To be clear, he is charged with assaulting the men in the trucks.
A 911 call was made during this incident on April 21st, 2008, in which the trucks’ license plates were recorded. Shortly thereafter, the women made statements to the police, identifying the men driving the trucks as known Deseronto inhabitants, subsequently identified as Jamie Lalonde and Mike Lalonde. The women also testified in police statements that one of the men swung a club at them, drove one of the trucks into them, and threatened further violence. The women also described being injured by flying stones,and described the trauma endured by the young girl. No one but Shawn has been charged.
The men from Deseronto sought out this group of people, deliberately caused them injury and issued threats of further violence. They were targeted for assault and abuse for no other reason than that they are Native. The actions taken by the men from Deseronto were driven by bigotry and racial hatred. By definition, these were hate crimes. Again,no one but Shawn has been charged.
The men are presumed to have filed a complaint against my husband,resulting in a police search of his car on Friday, April 25th, when his fishing spear was taken from his car, and charges of assault and possession of a weapon – the spear – were laid. My husband remains in prison, in maximum security, as a result.
It is our understanding that the prosecution is seeking yet another publication ban on all future court proceedings in this matter. A pattern has emerged with respect to my husband, Shawn Brant. The police and prosecution make sensational and vilifying statements about Shawn in the media, and then seek a publication ban during court proceedings, when the actual evidence is introduced. The starkly different narrative of events that emerges in court is withheld and the public forbidden from hearing it. The version of events I have just presented will all but disappear.
Less than a month ago, my husband was acquitted of charges he carried for more than 18 months. When issuing the ruling in this acquittal, the judge described the investigative practice and evidence employed and presented by the cops and the Crown as “problematic” and “troubling,” as they related to Shawn. During this same period, CBC Radio aired a documentary in which several Mohawk people recounted conversations with OPP Commissioner Fantino that occurred during the 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action, in which they say he threatened to “ruin” Shawn. During Shawn’s detention at the Napanee OPP detachment last week, several different police officers threatened to “slit his throat” and “cut off his head.”
As I deal with the tears of young children who have been robbed of their father once again, Commissioner Fantino claims the OPP is an a political and professional organization, dedicated to upholding the rule of law. The events of the past week indicate it is anything but.
- Sue Collis
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
from the Tyendinaga Support Committee:
Friday May 2, 2008
Tyendinaga Mohawks are currently standing strong at the quarry site, last week's roadblocks have been removed, and police presence in the immediate vicinity of the territory has decreased, although OPP remain present in the surrounding areas.
Of the three Mohawks who remained in jail after last Friday's arrests and stand-off, Matthew Kunkel was released on bail yesterday. Clint Brant was denied bail today, and remains in prison in Quinte Regional Detention Centre in Napanee, as does Shawn Brant. Shawn will appear in court on Tuesday, for scheduling purposes.
Given that Shawn Brant has only just beat the previous set of trumped-up charges (acquitted of all charges relating to the incident involving Canadian Army soldiers in November 2006) a mere two weeks ago, Shawn's legal counsel is currently assessing how best to deal with this new set of fabricated charges.
Shawn's arrest sparked off police actions which led to the jailing of four other Mohawks, the OPP puling their weapons on community members at the reclaimed quarry site, and a weekend of tense stand-offs and road blockades.
Please stay tuned for further updates next week.
To send letters to Clint Brant or Shawn Brant:
c/oQuinte Detention Centre
89 Richmond Blvd
Napanee, ON K7R 3S1
- Tyendinaga Support Committee
Monday April 28th, 2008
After a tense exchange this morning, in which the OPP informed Mohawk spokesperson Jason Maracle to get people out of the area or they would come in, the OPP instead disbanded a Mohawk roadblock erected on the perimeter of the reclaimed quarry site. This psychological warfare on the part of the police resulted in a tense face-off between the OPP and community members. At present, the OPP has removed one of the roadblocks on the Slash Road and pulled back, but remains present in the direct vicinity of the quarry in great numbers. At the centre of the dispute is the Culbertson Tract, land which rightfully belongs to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga. Community members have been occupying a gravel quarry site for over a year.
In addition, a blockade of Highway 6, taken in support of the Tyendinaga Mohawks, continues by people of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Six Nations community members have said they will remove the Highway 6 bypass blockade once they receive confirmation the OPP have withdrawn from the Mohawks of Tyendinaga. The road is now barricaded with a downed hydro tower, wires and a telephone pole.
Important to note is that, despite the reporting in mainstream press, Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant's arrest on Friday, April 25th stems from an incident which took place on Monday April 21st. Specifically,Shawn Brant has been charged for his role in allegedly preventing further attacks on a woman from Tyendinaga and a young child by racist rednecks from the town of Deseronto.
These new charges were laid less than two weeks after Shawn Brant was acquitted of charges alleging that he threatened Canadian Forces soldiers during a demonstration to prevent development of the Culberston Tract in 2006.
Once again, for his role as a spokesperson in the community, Shawn Brantis facing trumped-up charges. Arrested during an interview he was conducting with APTN, Shawn's final words during his arrest on Friday were "This is it, justice for first nations communities: lock us up.Anybody who speaks out, lock-em up. KI6, Bob Lovelace: lock-em up...Don't fix the problems, lock-em up." (to watch, click onhttp://www.aptn.ca/streaming/index.php?wmv=friday/six)
Supporters rushed to the quarry after watching or hearing of Shawn's arrest. An altercation with the OPP is alleged to have ensued. Four Mohawks were then arrested and jailed. The OPP were reported to have drawn their guns on the Mohawk community members remaining the quarry.
According to Mohawk spokesperson Jay Maracle, "The OPP led us into this incident by jumping five of our men, arresting them and taking them to jail and then sticking guns in our faces, in women and children's faces," he said.
There has been open communication between the Mohawks and the OPP but Maracle said things will not improve unless OPP retracts a statement indicating there are armed Mohawks at the quarry. He said there are no guns at the site.
Matt Kunkel, Clint Brant, Dan Doreen, and Steve Chartrand remain in custody and will appear in bail court in Napanee today. The group includes Dan Dorene, spokesperson for the Mohawk blockade on Highway 2 one week ago, erected to prevent development on the Culberston Tract,land which rightfully belongs to the Mohawks.
A couple from the community who were also arrested by the OPP on Friday were later were released unconditionally. Shawn Brant will also likely appear in court today.
This brings the total number of First Nations people in Ontario jails for defending their land to 12.
- Tyendinaga Support Committee-
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. Listen to the recent CBC radio documentary:The Long Hot Summer The Current CBC Radio 99.1FM Link to hear the documentary at: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2008/200803/20080326.html
In June 2007, thousands of native Canadians turned out for the national Aboriginal Day of Action, a day of peaceful protest designed to educate non-native Canadians about the issues that plague native communities.Despite concerns of violence, the day came and went more or less peacefully. Those in power -- native and non-native -- congratulated each other on how well it all went and concluded that the predicted"long, hot summer" of aboriginal discontent had been skillfully,peacefully and -- in the most Canadian of ways -- quietly averted. But that very nearly wasn't the case. And the day came closer than most people realize to ending with a violent confrontation. Freelance broadcaster Susanna Kelley investigated what happened that night.
2. Donate money to the Tyendinega Legal Defence Fund, which divides funds raised between Shawn's legal costs and maintaining the quarry reclamation site. Cheques can be made out to "Tyendinaga Legal Defence Fund" and mailed to the address below.
3. Host a facilitated workshop or information session with a member of the Tyendinaga Support Committee. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Put forward a resolution in your local or organization in support of Shawn Brant and the struggle of the Tyendinaga Mohawk community to reclaim their land.
5. Officially endorse the TSC campaign to support Shawn Brant's legal defence and the quarry reclamation site by contacting us at email@example.com
6. In Toronto, contact us to become actively involved in the work of the TSC and come to one of our meetings.
7. Visit our website to sign an online petition or to join our mailing list: http://www.ocap.ca/supporttmt.html
Tyendinaga Support Committee
c/o 10 Britain St.
Toronto ONM5A 1R6