Napanee -- Except for the hideous new mall in the north end, the Victorian facades and mom-and-pop shops on the main drag of this pretty eastern Ontario town drip 18th-century charm.
And for a few surreal moments at the main courthouse last Friday (August 10), it was difficult to escape the feeling of being caught in a time warp at least for those protestors bused in from all over the province in a show of support for jailed Mohawk activist Shawn Brant.
Brant led the blockade of CN rail lines near Tyendinaga during the June 29 Aboriginal Day of Action, and before that to demand the return of a quarry on his reserve near Deseronto. He's been in prison since turning himself in more than a month ago on charges of mischief.
Just inside the courthouse door, the friends and family here for Brant's second bail hearing his first request was denied are asked for I.D., to sign their names and to disclose their address and birthdate after being searched with metal detectors.
There are cops in each stairwell on each floor, several outside the courtroom door and more inside.
"You'd think we had Osama bin Laden here," mutters a Tyendinaga community member.
When I enter, one of Brant's lawyers, Peter Rosenthal, and Judge Denis Power are discussing some of the finer points of civil disobedience and the tactics of Mahatma Gandhi.
Rosenthal is contesting a statement by Judge D.K. Kirkland who, in turning down Brant's original bail request on July 5, claimed that Gandhi never committed "economic disruption."
Though the judge and Crown acknowledge that two blockades of rail lines organized by Brant have been peaceful, they make much of suggestions that Tyendinaga demonstrators rural folk and hunters like their non-native neighbours in the Quinte area have access to firearms should they need them.
Crown counsel Brad Kelneck relies a great deal on comments Brant made to the media in April promising a campaign of "an escalating degree" of actions.
But Brant's biggest problem is that the June 29 action is considered to be a breach of earlier bail conditions.
The judge agrees that protest has its place in society but calls Brant's attitude to authority "arrogant" and says, if tolerated, it could lead to "chaos."
Brant's mother and a family friend have arranged to post a total of $100,000 bail, placing two family homes on the line.
"Our client has said he would not dishonour his mother," says Rosenthal.
All parties, though, can agree on one thing: "Shawn Brant is a man who does what he says he's going to do." His bail request is denied.
It all ends with a court officer's shout of "God save the Queen." Now I know I'm living in the 18th century.
Rosenthal turns to consult his client and is initially refused permission by the earphone-wearing officer guarding Brant.
Except for a flurry caused by this cop's action, we are all as good as gold, calmly filing out through the building to mill around on the front lawn. Native teenagers in fatigues mix with pierced and tattooed activists. Brant's family hold their heads up, though tears aren't far from his mom's eyes.
I catch up with Kelneck.
"It's almost impossible to think of a set of bail conditions that would have ensured the safety of the public," he says. "I've got a family member who was due for treatment [at a cancer clinic on the day Brant's last protest blocked the 401]. I'm sure there are tens of thousands of people who were impacted not simply financially but in a serious way."
Dustin Brant, who's taken on the role of spokesperson for the Tyendinaga in Shawn Brant's absence, can't fathom what he sees as the court's warped sense of fairness.
"For some reason, everybody else's safety and concerns and fears were heard and not ours."
John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which organized buses here, issues a call to those in social justice circles.
"There are so many people out there who claim to be progressive, who claim to believe in social justice," he says. "They need to speak out on this; they need to challenge this."