We do not have freedom of speech in Ontario. Late last week, police arrested Alex Hundert. His crime – violation of bail conditions for speaking on a panel discussion at Ryerson University. He’d already been warned once – last time for speaking to press outlets like the CBC and Toronto Sun.

This is the second time, recently, that an activist has been arrested following a speaking engagement. The last one was dragged out of a bar on James St. North, right here in Hamilton, and wasn’t out on bail. The G20 may be over, but the arrests and persecution have continued for months now.

All of this sets a horrifying precedent. Arresting people for organizing and public speaking, or based on the colour of items of clothing and subject of books in their backpacks. I’ve been an activist for a long time, and this kind of repression goes above and beyond anything I’ve seen in many years. I’m no stranger to arrests, bail conditions or undercover cops, and I know the relevant law in these matters very well. What they’re doing right now is not legal under Canadian law. And I’ve spent enough time in court to know that most of it won’t last long when it hits real judges, as happened recently when the crown attempted to appeal the granting of bail to Hundert and his partner, Leah. Almost everything to this point has been done by “Justices of the Peace”, who have most of the powers of a Justice/Judge under Canadian law, but do not actually need to have any legal training at all – it’s a patronage appointment for people with friends in government.

An injury to one is an injury to all. This isn’t just some feel-good hippy platitude – it’s how state terrorism works.. Every act of violence and repression sends out a threat to anyone who might consider the same. The more people fear police “snatch squads” and infiltrators, the less people will be brave enough to actually participate in political actions. By targeting speakers and facilitators of meetings (the bulk of the “conspiracy” charges), they make it very dangerous to take anything but a very passive role. It isn’t about targeting people logically or rationally – it’s about doing it with a kind of randomness that means anybody, anywhere, who might look like an activist is in danger.

This isn’t about throwing rocks or burning police cars. They are targeting people for the very kinds of community activism they accuse us of rejecting, because it scares the hell out of them. That’s why those arrested, raided or harassed included so many Freeskool organizers and academics, and why police in Hamilton keep going after our Bookfairs and Folk shows at Mexican restaurants. Those of us who’ve been hardened by years of this bullshit won’t be intimidated or scared off, but that’s not the point. It’s to attack the vibrancy and freedom of the anarchist scene – the singing, dancing and free discussion, so that we seem more “militant” to the public.

As enraging as all of this is, it points directly to what they’re most afraid of. They can deal with rioters, but what to do about anti-government agitators teaching free Spanish courses? Selling books? Playing fiddles? No matter how hard they try, riot tactics don’t work against this kind of activism. For every innocent person they arrested and accosted, there are now several people who were never radical before, who are mad as hell. By engaging communities directly we undercut the control they hold over the media and education systems, and people get to see directly, for themselves, what we’re all about.

And that’s exactly why freedom of speech is so dangerous.

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