10 years ago ~ reflections on the state’s utilization of shame: #MyG20Story

Anonymous submission to North Shore

10 years ago today I was just waking up in Toronto, after a day of the largest mobilization I have ever been a part of to this day. What power it felt to be out in those streets. There were SO MANY COPS and also SO MANY OF US. And now on this morning, 10 years ago, so many of us were in jail. Yet the streets continued to be alive with resistance, and we had another demo that afternoon. Somehow until that moment I had evaded arrest. That later demo, (which was going to be a prison demo) did not end up happening, the area was streaming with cops. Me and some pals were stopped, searched, and arrested, like so many.

Little did I know that there was a warrant out for my arrest on conspiracy charges. Little did I know that I had been going to meetings with undercover cops for almost 2 years. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a journey that resulted in conspiracy charges with 16 other people, 9 months on house arrest, long and painful meetings of trying to find a collective plea deal ~ which we did do, and I am proud of us for doing. This plea deal resulted in my charges being dropped and some dear friends of mine spending time in jail ~ which I hated agreeing to SO MUCH. How quickly I transitioned into prisoner support during this time. The State tried to break us and they failed, and many of my co-accused continue to be some of my best friends to this day.

But this is not the story I want to tell this morning in #myg20story. There are two stories living in my heart still that I have not found peace with. One is the story of a beautiful old growth forest in Guelph that we were protecting from being turned into a Monsanto led business park. The other is how shame prevented me from trusting myself and outing an undercover cop to other cities in Southern Ontario.

The summer of 2009 everything felt possible. We had spent that winter building momentum for a land defence action that we thought would last a few days, but ended up lasting three weeks. The City of Guelph had plans to turn one of the last old growth forests in Southern Ontario into a Monsanto based business park, which a lot of folks in Guelph had been organizing against for a number of years through “Land is More Important than Sprawl” (LIMITS), but the city continued forward with plans to destroy the forest that summer. During the winter and spring of 2009 a bunch of anarchist pals decided we wanted to plan a land defence action to protect this forest. We consulted with the Men’s Fire at Six Nations, seeking Haudensaunsee consent for our action. We travelled to various cities meeting up with people and telling them of our plan and to be ready. At dawn on a day in July, around one hundred of us made our stand, and kindly asked the workers to leave (our beef was not with them). We proceeded to live collectively on the land for three weeks. We were visited at dawn every morning by two great blue herons whose nest had already been destroyed before we arrived on the site. After three weeks, we left with a double injunction being granted ~ one injunction was against us, and another against the City of Guelph, that they cease work on the lands because of the presence of an endangered species (the little Jefferson Salamander). On that day where we won in court, 17 Turkey Vultures were up in the sky. Just months later however the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources overruled the court’s decision, and said that the city could continue work. So we spent that winter trying to build momentum again, preparing for another fight. And then, 10 years ago, while we were all sitting in jail on charges from the g20, they bulldozed this beautiful land. My heart is still broken. I still feel like I abandoned this land I had formed an agreement with. I still have not been able to visit the business park that is in its place.

A lot happened during that summer of 2009. Now, as I mentioned before, during this time we ALREADY had undercover cops deeply entrenched in our communities. Both of them entered in through Guelph. Brenda was a white, middle aged woman, who came with a (fake) British accent and a story about domestic abuse and why she needed to leave the UK. Brenda entered by cooking food for folks and driving people in her car, quiet, sneakily, getting people to open up to her and confide in her. We had no idea. Well, most of us didn’t. Later we heard some people had some reservations, didn’t trust her, found some holes in her story. So much came out later that I only wish we had talked about before.

And then there was Khalid. Khalid was a brown, middle aged man, who came in through coming to LIMITS meetings. Who ran his mouth a lot about wanting to do waaaaaay heatier actions (involving arson and guns) than we were talking about at the time. Who had endless access to van rentals and a laminating machine. Many of us in Guelph had our spidey senses tingling. And so during the Hanlon Creek land defence action a crew of us asked him to leave. Which he did do, and went right to Kitchener – Waterloo, along with a couple other friends he had managed to make, all telling the story of he had been asked to leave Guelph because the Guelph anarchists were racist.

And this is where shame stopped me up. This is the moment where I feel that we have so much to learn from. Because yes, he was right. I was little bitty me who was raised white in a white supremacist society, and I have been deconstructing my whiteness and unlearning racism every day since then, and I see that this is not a journey that ever ends. And also ~ this does not take away from the FACT that he was an undercover cop. And that by utilizing my shame, I let him silence me, which resulted in charges being way worse than they would have been if we had effectively kicked him out of our communities. But I let this shame turn into doubt. I thought that perhaps my gut instinct was just an outcome of racism ~ even though we had so much pointing to him being a cop. And so I silenced my gut, and even started going to meetings with him 8 months later after he has integrated himself into the anarchist scene in KW.

The State is smarter than we often give it credit. It knows about identity politics. It knows how to utilize our weaknesses: shame, interpersonal conflict, etc. Brenda came in with a story about domestic abuse, that prevented us from questioning her past too much. Khalid called me and others racist as a tactic to prevent our outing him as an undercover cop. And it worked. It completely silenced us. I don’t doubt that they might try this tactic again. And so it is SO important that we all do our work ~ especially white people ~ in unlearning white supremacy, in learning how to work with our shame, and how to prevent it from ever silencing us from speaking our gut. How I wished I could have said back then: “yes, I have a lot of work to do. And ALSO ~ here is why we think Khalid is an undercover cop: he runs his mouth, tries to get people to do higher-risk actions, has access to so many resources: vans, laminating machines, gets people intoxicated to get them talking, etc…”

There is a lot to learn from this story. How do we cultivate genuine community with one another, welcome new people into our circles, and also keep one another safe? (For more information about security culture and keeping each other safe, see this amazing publication: https://north-shore.info/2019/11/05/confidence-courage-connection-trust-a-proposal-for-security-culture/ ) How do we trust our gut and be brave in our communication with one another? How do we let ourselves be wrong and constantly in a process of (un)learning? How do we confront our own racism and deconstruct the socialization of whiteness? How do we centre BIPOC organizers? How do we (white folks) not be paralyzed by white shame? One thing I am learning is the importance of grounding our organizing in relationships, friendships and community. Now I am surrounded by such badd ass Mi’kmaq grandmothers whose spidey sense I trust more than anything.

A lot has changed in the past 10 years. Having an anti-colonial analysis in organizing has become front and centre, and millions of people are standing up all over shouting BLACK LIVES MATTER.  I spent my 10 year anniversary of the g20 at a sit-in at an intersection in front of the Halifax police station, with break out groups discussing how we can provide for ourselves, how to have a world without cops, followed by a dance party in the streets. I am forever blown away by the organizing around me, and in many ways feel that I have a lot to learn from the younger generation. The more I participate in resistance, the more I see how much I have to learn from BIPOC folks around me, especially all the badd ass women, and how important it is for them to lead this moment. I see how it is our responsibility to keep these stories of resistance and repression alive so that all might learn from them, as we fight for a better world. A world without cops, a world full of mutual aid, care, and responsibility to each other and the land.

2 thoughts on “10 years ago ~ reflections on the state’s utilization of shame: #MyG20Story”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story of resilience. There were so many more of us than they wanted us to know. With you in love and rage. <3

  2. Thanks for posting this great reflection. It’s unreal this was ten years ago. It brings up old feelings in me of frustration at how many comrades turned their backs on an incredible local struggle to confront a summit. I remember one of the main lessons after the anti-globalization years was that local struggles are where it’s at, and protesting summits should be reconsidered because it takes vital energy away from those local struggles. And yet somehow that’s what everyone did this time around. I remember driving past the business park that very same weekend – hundreds of acres were being ravaged and burned. They knew exactly when to do it. It still breaks my heart.

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