Monday, May 05, 2008

The Truth Behind Shawn Brant's Latest Arrest: Racism in Ontario

The following released yesterday by Sue Collins, regarding the ongoing persecution of Shawn Brant.

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 imbedded 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' licence 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 apolitical 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


Bad stuff, but not all surprising.

In fact, this is a fairly straightforward first-line tactic the State uses to silence dissent, identifying key activists and subjecting them to arbitrary arrest, even if the charges won't stick. The time spent in jail, the lawyers' fees, the constant uncertainty about when the police will take you next... it can severely disrupt an individual's life, cause great stress and fear to them and their loves ones, and also serves to intimidate others who might otherwise be inspired to stand up and fight back.

At the low-level, such repression amounts to harassment, but it can also escalate to actual frame-ups and violence, both by police and also by "members of the community" acting on the police's behalf, which seems to have been the case here.

The best protection against this repression is solidarity, and actions to turn the State's attacks into an embarrassment for them, by using them to expose the various mechanisms of oppression - in this case racism and colonialism - on which their system has been built.

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