activists were at the ass end of a bizarre police manoeuvre June 15 when 20 riot police and plainclothes officers descended on a Euclid Avenue house and seized a Mike Harris mannequin sporting two beach-ball buttocks from protestors waiting to attend the nearby OCAP rally in Christie Pits.The Harris doll was deemed a potentially dangerous weapon by the police, who kept it at 14 Division headquarters before returning it June 18.
The builders of the full-bottomed effigy, Fernando Soto and Neil Braganza, say it was designed to raise money by giving contestants the chance to kick the Mike Harris derriere into bowling pins to score points.
Police, however, took a dim view of the ass and conducted a thorough investigation before confiscating the suspicious object. "They asked us for names. We said, "We don't have to give you our names.' They said, "Yes, you do.' They were filming us the whole time," says Soto. "Then, when we started to walk toward Christie Pits, they followed us with a van, Mike Harris's ass and a guy in a car taking pictures with a big zoom lens."
Calls to the 14 Division major crime unit officer whose name appeared on the property receipt for the seized puppet, Detective Constable Lawson, were not returned for several days.
A call to police media relations revealed, interestingly, that another police unit was actually in charge of the June 15 operation.
"I spoke with Intelligence, because they were working that day," says police spokesperson constable Debbie Abbott. "They're the ones who were in charge of anything that happened."
But no comment was forthcoming from the Intelligence squad either.
OCAP gets jail welcome mat
ocap's shawn brant, released on bail June 25, may have had a publication ban on his hearing, but he's more than happy to talk about his activities while on the lam ducking police after the Whitby "evictions."Brant says he managed to give numerous media interviews while on the run by having reporters' calls forwarded to his various hiding places. Deciding finally to come in, he first participated in the early-morning June 21 blockade of a Kingston-area bridge by fellow Mohawk activists, part of the OCAP-led anti-Harris "economic disruption."
Intelligence officers from Toronto helped arrest Brant after the blockade ended peacefully 14 hours later.
Brant, who faces charges of assault, unlawful assembly, causing a disturbance and mischief over $5,000 in connection with the Whitby incident, says the OCAP members got a warm reception from the Whitby jail inmates, many of whom asked to join the anti-poverty coalition. "We got four-star treatment," he says.
Brant was represented in Oshawa court by Peter Rosenthal, who is also defending the four OCAP members still in Whitby jail at press time -- John Clarke, Omid Zareian, A.J. Withers and Sean Lee Popham. A publication ban has also been placed on details of their June 27 bail hearings, at the Crown's request. Rosenthal says he intends to challenge this.
OCAP's Sue Collis, who faces the same charges in the Whitby affair as Brant, except for assault, was also released June 25.
She had been re-arrested June 15 after speaking at an OCAP rally. Defence lawyer Peter Hatch argued successfully that the bail conditions prohibiting her from speaking at public rallies were unconstitutional.
usually, ndp leader howard Hampton is quick to return calls. After all, as leader of a nine-member caucus, soon to be eight, he's desperate for ink.But this week, after his handlers said he would be available Tuesday morning to comment on OCAP leader John Clarke's continued detention, they called back to say, sorry, he would be too busy. NOW tracked him down Tuesday afternoon at a demonstration on University Avenue protesting changes to Ontario employment law, where, ironically, chants of "Free John Clarke" could be heard.
Asked by NOW to respond, Hampton -- who was once attorney general in the Bob Rae government -- initially said that the matter is before the courts, and it is up to Clarke's lawyers to deal with it as they see fit.
"I know Clarke has very competent legal counsel, and I know that his legal counsel is preparing all the legal arguments,' said Hampton.
Pressed to comment on the direct action in Whitby that landed Clarke in jail, Hampton said he supports OCAP's goals but disapproves of its methods. "I don't think the tactics are appropriate. I don't think the tactics are going to work. In fact, I fear that the tactics will actually play into the government's hands."
In a June 22 statement, Barry Weisleder, federal co-chair of the NDP Socialist Caucus, characterizes Clarke as a political prisoner and says Hampton and NDP MPPs should raise the issue of his release in the legislature. NDP justice critic Peter Kormos, however, declined to comment on Clarke's case, saying the matter is before the courts and that Weisleder is not speaking for the entire Socialist Caucus.
CAW rift over cash
caw president buzz hargrove has being telling the dailies, and Tory labour minister Chris Stockwell, that the CAW will end its funding of OCAP because of the coalition's "evictions" at Tory MPP Jim Flaherty's office.Behind the scenes, however, OCAP organizers and rank-and-file CAW members have been meeting quietly to see if some sort of reconciliation can be hammered out before the matter goes to the CAW's national executive for a final decision.
The CAW is OCAP's major union funder. Organizer Shawn Brant says it would likely be impossible for the anti-poverty coalition to continue in its present form without continued CAW support, even though CUPE has been increasing its donations to the group.
But Brant, who says he was dismayed to see Hargrove and other union leaders meeting with Stockwell to discuss the OCAP "problem," says he doesn't want to make the rift worse by attacking Hargrove.
The CAW flying squad members who met with OCAP members after the June 26 anti-Tory rally at the Ministry of Labour declined to comment on the meeting.
But one CAW member speaking generally says he hopes Hargrove's threats are not the final CAW word on the matter.
"It's not official yet. It's still got to go to the national executive board," says Larry Wells, a member of CAW local 707 who works in the Ford plant in Oakville.
Wells thinks the idea behind the direct action in Tory MPP Flaherty's office was admirable, even if the execution was over the top.