Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I must admit that I had some trepidation about reprinting the following article from the A-Infos website. It's a report done for the local news media about a recent conference of the Ontario Common Front, and its tone is, to say the least, somewhat mocking. I guess that there was something to mock, as the conference hardly operated like a well-oiled machine. But, in the interests of perhaps learning something, here is the article. Maybe one of the first things to learn is not to invite the media unless you are sure that all is going as well as can be expected. Perhaps another thing is not to be overly ambitious and not to depend too much on others.
Canada, Belleville, MEDIA, Ontario Common Front (OCF) conference at the Organic Underground coffee shop:
Chaos at anarchist event
---- Anarchists from across southern Ontario gathered in Belleville Saturday, and the result was, well, anarchy.
---- Even organizers of the event laughed about the irony of anarchists organizing a meeting.
---- "It's not an oxymoron," Belleville activist Samuel Kuhn said with a smile. He explained even anarchists need to network, particularly with several major global events planned for 2010.
---- The OCF was created in the 1990s during the years of Premier Mike Harris's Progressive Conservative government. The network's member groups include Belleville's Tenant Action Group, the Belleville Against Social Injustice Collective (BASIC) and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
---- Kuhn and Terry Douglas, an OCF member from Picton, were among the organizers of Saturday's meeting.
Douglas said the current local membership of the OCF fluctuates between about six and 12 members .He said he'd been working for the last month to "regenerate an interest in working with the OCF because there are so many upcoming issues."
Advocacy is a big part of what we do," Douglas said, recalling past involvement in First Nations protests in Tyendinaga and Caledonia.
Numerous speakers were invited to present their views and calls for action on a variety of subjects, from indigenous peoples' issues -- including disputed land claims on both the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and British Columbia's 2010 Olympic Winter Games site -- to next year's G8 summit and a meeting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The 2007 SPP summit in Montebello, Que. resulted in large protests.
"This is ... left-progressives making mutual plans for 2010," said Kuhn, describing the conference as a rare chance for activists from British Columbia to Ottawa to exchange ideas.
The original plan called for a 10 a. m. start, with morning discussions on various causes. A closed afternoon session would then allow activists to start planning demonstrations.
But from the beginning, Douglas said with a laugh, "it was anarchy." By noon, several speakers had yet to arrive, including all of the speakers intended for the indigenous peoples' workshop.The Mohawk delegate hadn't yet arrived, the Chilean delegates had cancelled, and the Palestinians were stranded because, as Kuhn said, "one person had their car confiscated for speeding."
Speaking to the first dozen audience members to arrive, Kuhn couldn't help but smirk as he conceded some anarchy had indeed happened and apologized for the late start. Douglas said up to 40 people attended eventually and many workshops ran as intended, but there was no time for the afternoon planning session. He said he was pleased by the turnout and workshops.
Among the participants was Belleville's Patti Gillman. She's lobbying against the use of Tasers, especially in law enforcement. Her brother, 44-year-old Robert Bagnell, died June 23, 2004 after being Tasered by police in British Columbia. She arrived at Saturday's meeting with a list of 403 people who since 1999 have died in North America after being shocked by the stun guns.
"I'd like to see a moratorium on Tasers until we can figure out why they're killing people," Gillman said, adding she wanted to meet like-minded activists. "I think we have cells of people across the country that are horrified by this, and I don't know how to gather them. This seems like a good place."
Douglas and Kuhn said activists want to "resist the state" because of the current recession and issues such as the conflicts in Afghanistan and Gaza. "You're seeing the radicalization across North America, and we're a sign of that," said Kuhn. He told the group "there is lots of talk about disrupting" the Olympic torch route through the Quinte region.
Anarchists had slated an information picket for one of Halla Climate Control Canada Inc.'s Belleville plants. Halla's parent company, Visteon Corp., has laid off hundreds of workers in Europe, resulting in worker occupations of plants there.
"We've been asked to do an action against the local plant," said Kuhn. Kuhn said OCF members would hand out information on Visteon's labour situation and the protests to Halla workers."We want to make sure the workers know what's happening to their brothers and sisters in Europe," Kuhn said.
He and Douglas said the protest could escalate depending on the workers' response. There was no plan to stage a sit-in like those in Europe, they said, but that's up to the workers."We're not going to go in and take it on ourselves if they're not interested," Douglas said.
He said Sunday the activists will likely meet Wednesday to discuss their plans and a protest date."That will be up to the consensus of the group," he said.
Asked again why anarchists needed a consensus before acting, Douglas let out a big laugh."It's got to go through legislation," he joked. (This seems like a good takeoff for one of Molly's infamous "trick polls"-see later)

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