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copscourtToday marked the second court appearance by those arrested at the Swamp Line 9 blockade in Westover, and the first in which the majority of defendants (trespassing) had to show up. To celebrate the occasion, a rally and march were organized before-hand, bringing out a sizeable crowd to show support. Following the (tense) morning rally, a large number returned for the afternoon proceedings, and that’s where things got a bit…disorderly.

While I didn’t see any of what went on inside the courthouse, I did catch some of the assembly beforehand, and spoke with quite a few afterward. Immediately, the tension was clear, mainly due to the arrival of Sun Media’s Ezra Levant and his cameramen, aggressively attempting to interview demonstrators, most of whom clearly wanted nothing to do with him. As Ezra and his cameramen harassed and even assaulted protesters, they stood by and did nothing but chuckle and refuse to intervene. As marching got underway, I’m told, tensions with the police themselves began to mount, especially as the march paused at King and James and then later on the steps of the courthouse. As people disbursed from there, some were followed and approached, at least two received tickets for obstructing traffic, and others were issued thinly veiled threats.

This, along with the circumstances surrounding the arrests themselves, set the tone for the afternoon’s events. During the blockade, police had assured those present that they’d give a warning before moving in to make arrests (standard for civil disobedience actions of the type). When the time came, however, they gave no such announcement, and instead grabbed everybody they could, even those who’d already walked off the property. This seemed to confirm everybody’s worst suspicions about recent Enbridge donations to the police department, as well as leaving most feeling more than a little bit deceived.

When the proceedings themselves began, supporters and defendants crowded in to the courtroom, with police taking names as they entered (a rare practice). Inside, a young woman was scolded by the judge for snapping her fingers and escorted out of the room. When a few people followed to make sure she was ok and saw her taken into a small room behind a closed door, they began making something of a fuss, which led many more to follow out of the courtroom and begin chanting, while refusing to leave the hallway. Within minutes, it seemed that every cop downtown had been called in to deal with the disturbance (I’ve been told around 30-50), eventually managing to herd everybody onto the elevators and out of the building with the help of the infamous “Public Works Protection Act”, and apparently no small amount of brutality. Word is that six or seven others were arrested in the “scuffle”, and none have yet been released. A contingent of supporters stuck around on the steps for a few hours, and has now moved to the Central Police Station, anybody who wishes to support should head on down, especially for the rally which is planned for 7:30 tonight.

There’s been a lot of news lately about police which specifically references the need for de-escalation tactics. If those are, indeed, finally being implemented, they certainly weren’t present today. Everything I saw and heard indicated a textbook case of antagonistic crowd control. In an attempt to intimidate and bully demonstrators, they managed, instead, to provoke them. After months of escalated hostilities against protests in the city and nearby, as well as far too many officer-involved-deaths, people got fed up. And what better place for a protest against the justice system than the courthouse itself?

Swamp Line Nine – Official Updates
CBC Hamilton Coverage
Spec Coverage

PS: Ezra left early and missed all the fun. Ha!

Disclaimer: I wasn’t present for most of these events, so many of these reports are second or third-hand and I’m sure I’ve made an error or two. If so, let me know, and I’ll make a point to post a link to the official group statement when it comes out. As usual, I do not speak for this group, these groups, or any group other group – the above-stated opinions are mine alone, so take them with the usual grain of salt.

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