Joel Bitar sentenced to 19 months for 2010 Toronto G20 actions

From Guelph ABC:

On February 13th 2014, Joel Bitar was sentenced to 19 months minus 17 days for his participation in the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. As soon as we have his address we will publicize it, and Joel welcomes letters and visits. GABC is also collecting funds for his canteen and to help folks to visit him. Joel – our hearts are with you!

Here is his statement:

Hello,

I have not been able to speak much since my arrest last February so I appreciate the opportunity to make a statement today. I only plan on taking a small amount of your time. At the end of my statement I am going to to issue an apology to some of the individuals who were affected by my actions. It is my hope that this statement better contextualizes the choices I’ve made that have led me to this courtroom.

I came to Toronto four years ago for many of the same reasons as the tens of thousands of other people who marched on the streets that day. These are many of the same reasons why hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, in Genoa against the G8, in Quebec City against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, in Gothenburg against the EU summit, in Rostock against the G8 and in Pittsburgh against the G20. They are many of the same reasons why people are now protesting in the streets of New York, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain. It is only really possible to understand the events that took place in Toronto in the context of the global movement against neoliberalism and the corporatization of the planet. It is my belief that this movement is best explained as an individual and collective response to various forms of domination and exploitation. My politics are inseparable from my own life experiences, which I would like to briefly speak about now.

I grew up in an environment where I had access to many of the things required for conventional success. I had – and have – an extremely loving family, I played tennis competitively and had a working-class, but generally supportive upbringing. I graduated from high school with honors and then got my bachelors degree in Economics from the City University of New York. My plan in college was to work on Wall Street with the goal of making a lot of money. That goal was widely reinforced and encouraged by society at large. Trying to get rich and focusing on my own personal comforts seemed right when everyone else was chasing the same thing. However, two events occurred during this time that fundamentally changed the way I now see the world.

The first event was the global financial crisis of 2008. During this time, banks that engaged in predatory lending practices were given billions of dollars to keep their businesses afloat while millions of people lost their homes. It was shocking how closely government officials who once worked on Wall St. collaborated with the financial sector to organize the bailout. It seemed profoundly unjust to me that those who precipitated the crisis were rewarded, while masses of people were literally tossed to the street. I came to the conclusion that Wall Street’s obsession with profit comes at the expense and detriment of the majority.

The second event took place in December, 2008, when Israel launched an invasion into the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of 800 civilians (many of whom were women and children). This destruction was carried out with weapons manufactured by U.S. Corporations and was paid for with U.S. taxpayer money. During this invasion, banned weapons like White Phosphorous (made in the U.S.) were fired at Palestinian schools and hospitals in contravention of international humanitarian law. I saw images of innocent children killed by missiles, tank shells and bullets. At the same time many of these people suffered, weapons manufacturers and government officials profited from their obliteration.

From these two events I developed an opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have died in these wars while corporations like Halliburton and Lockheed Martin have secured billions of dollars in government contracts. George Bush erected a worldwide torture regime, that Obama has only expanded, and has since been immune to any prosecution for his crimes. It is evident that those who commit crimes at the top levels are government are immunized while someone like Chelsea Manning, who revealed the extent of government criminality, is banished to a cage for decades. It is apparent to people, all throughout the world, that the real motivations for these wars is rooted in the economic interest of a few and that masses of innocent people have needlessly suffered as a result.

This led me to see more and more about the world that I could not unsee, including how the continued exploitation of the environment is connected to the same economic interests mentioned above. One notoriously brutal example of environmental exploitation is happening here in Canada at this moment. In Alberta, pristine boreal forestland the size of Florida has been turned into a toxic wasteland for the extraction of oil. James Hansen, a professor of climatology at Columbia University believes that the tar sand project is “game over for the climate.” He says: “If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities.” It should not be acceptable to us that private corporations and western governments regularly exploit natural resources for profit while simultaneously destroying the environment and injecting pollutants into our air and water.

Financial crises, war and environmental degradation share a common thread. They are born of the prevailing economic system, which is only interested in maximizing profit and increasing growth. This system is predicated on maintaining vast levels of inequality, where a small number of people have incredible amounts of wealth while the masses are locked in poverty. A recent report published by Oxfam International states that the 85 richest people possess the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people combined. Rather than providing wealth and opportunity, or having a trickle-down effect, the current system enriches the few at the expense of the many. This is not a particularly radical analysis, this is the only rational interpretation of how society is structured. Even such a mainstream figure as the Pope recently said: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.” Rather than addressing these structural causes, Western governments do everything they can to foster the status quo that leads to the problems.

The current situation in the world is urgent and much needs to be done. I truly believe we can build a new system that puts human need and the needs of the environment ahead of the interests of business. At some point, we need to decide if profit, innovation and economic growth are more important than the long-term sustainability and well-being of our species and planet. I understand that this proposition might not sound so good to someone who is financially benefiting from the current system but we are running out of time. We have enough resources to make sure every person on this planet has health care, food, an education and a place to live. There is no reason why people should be homeless and begging on the streets while food is thrown away en masse and foreclosed houses remain empty. There is no reason why such massive levels of inequality should persist in the modern age. These systems are antiquated and must be fundamentally transformed.

It was not, and has never been, my intention to scare or hurt anyone. I want to build a world based on the values of love, compassion and understanding; not fear and intimidation. I take responsibility for my actions and apologize to anyone who felt fear as a result of them. Before closing, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my family, friends and supporters. This process has taken an incredible toll on myself and especially my loved ones. It means the world that they have stood by me through it all.

Thank You

Joel Bitar

Dane Rossman is out of prison!

From Support Dane Rossman:

Dear friends,

Dane is out of prison and back in the US! He took a non-cooperating plea, was sentenced to one day and about $1,500 in restitution. We will be posting a statement about his case within the week. Thank you all so much for your support during this time.

Please remember that there are still 4 other people who need support to deal with G20 extradition charges and consider donating funds or putting together an anti-repression event in your city if you are able.

Respect, love, resistance

Toronto G20 State Repression Goes International With the Arrest and Request for Extradition of American Activist

On Thursday, February 14th, at 6 o’clock in the morning, federal marshals arrested an American activist, Joel Bitar, in his New York, NY home on a provisional arrest warrant issued by the US Attorney’s office, acting on a foreign extradition request from Canadian authorities. The complaint against Joel cites 26 counts, almost all relating to property damage that occurred during the G20 summit protests in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in June 2010.

After a temporary delay in court proceedings—due to an outbreak of lice in the federal prison where Joel and many others have the misfortune of being held, the weekend, and a national holiday on Monday—Joel went before Magistrate Judge, Gabriel W. Gorenstein, on Tuesday, February 19th, to determine whether he would be granted bail as he awaits his extradition hearing in the United States. During the proceedings, a general timeline of the actions of the Canadian and US authorities was established.

Joel was arrested in Toronto, along with a little over 1,100 other people, during the G20 protests on June 26 and 27th 2010, in what is thought to be the largest mass arrest in Canada’s history. Joel was processed and released without any charges. In December 2010, lead G20 investigator, Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux, announced to various Canadian news agencies that Canada was seeking the extradition of three Americans for damages amounting to $500,000. Soon after, Joel retained the services of an attorney, Martin Stolar, who contacted Giroux. According to Stolar’s testimony on Tuesday, Giroux confirmed that Joel was a suspect and they were investigating him on charges relating to property destruction. The Assistant U.S. Attorney said that the original complaint against Joel—which details the charges—was prepared in October 2011. Canadian authorities then spent some time going through their image and video database from the G20, as well as obtaining Facebook posts that Joel allegedly made regarding the G20 summit in Canada, and submitted a request for extradition in October 2012 which jumpstarted a winding process involving the US Embassy in Washington DC, the State Department, and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. It is worth noting that in this time period beginning in December 2010 up until his arrest in February 2013, Joel traveled overseas several times, and was not arrested, although he was stopped by the Department of Homeland Security and questioned. Joel’s response was that they should speak to his lawyer.

Establishing this timeline of events took up the longest part of the proceedings, and there was much back-and-forth between the Assistant U.S. Attorney—who opposed bail, pressed US legal obligations in respect to treaties with Canada, and claimed that the allegations against Joel, which mostly relate to property damage, are extraditable offenses that endangered Canadian citizens—and Joel’s current attorney, Philip Weinstein—who argued several special circumstances (such as delay, the political nature of the charges, and community ties) that allow for bail in extradition cases. After some consideration, Judge Gorenstein granted bail on the basis of the special circumstance of “delay” (it had been over two years since Det. Sgt. Giroux had spoken with Martin Stolar, and alleged Joel’s involvement) and acknowledged Joel’s low risk of flight. The stipulations of the bail are steep: Joel was granted bail to the tune of $500,000—a little tit-for-tat—as well as house arrest with electronic monitoring. He was released into the custody of his parents on Wednesday, February 20th. His next court date—which is his actual extradition hearing—is currently scheduled for March 20th.

For those who may be unfamiliar, the G20 is a collection of finance ministers and central bank governors from nineteen powerful countries plus the European Union—along with representatives of international financial institutions. At G20 “summits” these figures are joined by top politicians to discuss their ongoing exploitation of the planet, its people and resources. Downtown Toronto was placed under heavy police control during the summit and protesters were arbitrarily arrested and held in a large film-studio, that was converted into a prison, specifically for the purpose of crushing dissent. It is well known that many were brutalized, insulted, or sexually humiliated by Canadian police, outraging large sectors of Canadian society. Protest organizers were attacked by police in their homes, arrested and charged for attending meetings and discussing protest plans.

The extradition of a protester for property damage is almost unprecedented in the histories of both the United States and Canada. Considering that state repression has been ratcheted ever higher in both countries over the past several years, this latest development comes with little surprise. Governments claim that property damage somehow endangers the lives of citizens, all the while their police and military forces brutalize and kill people at home and abroad that they deem undesirable—non-citizens. As long as there are states—and international summits of states—there will be protest and revolt by the non-citizens of the world. We are in solidarity with Joel Bitar—who is a friend, a son, a nephew, a Palestine solidarity activist, a co-worker, a prospective nursing student, and a real person whose life cannot be categorized so easily into the familiar tropes. The US and Canadian governments want to call him a criminal, and eventually, an inmate. We fight this legal process and will support Joel throughout this predicament. Joel’s case may be unique, but state repression is not. We are in solidarity with all comrades who face state repression, especially those in jail from G20 protest charges in Canada and the Pacific Northwest Grand Jury Resisters here in the US.

More updates as necessary.
supportjoel.com

Every Prisoner is a Political Prisoner: Kelly Rose Pflug-Back

From From Crimethinc, via Anarchist News:

On July 19, Kelly Rose Pflug-Back was sentenced to eleven more months in prison for her participation in the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. She remains unapologetic about her role in the black bloc that caused so much disruption during the summit, demonstrating that the forces that impose capitalism and patriarchy are not invulnerable.

To support Kelly and the millions like her who are imprisoned for the inconveniences they pose to the powerful, we are proud to present her eloquent and thought-provoking memoir of the time she spent incarcerated after her original arrest: “Every Prisoner is a Political Prisoner.” In this account, Kelly powerfully evokes the experience of captivity and the importance of understanding all captives of the state as political prisoners.

Our friends Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness are publishing a book of Kelly’s poetry as a fundraiser to benefit her during her incarceration. Walt Whitman argued that “to have great poets there must be great audiences,” but audiences is precisely the opposite of what there must be. To have great poetry, there must be people who are willing to act on their ideals rather than just watch from the sidelines. We are deeply grateful to Kelly for finding the courage to live her poetry as well as writing it.

Write to Kelly:

Kelly Pflug-Back
Vanier Centre for Women
P.O. Box 1040
655 Martin Street
Milton, Ontario
L9T 5E6 Canada
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Canada: Kelly Pflug-Back sentenced to 15 months for G20 Toronto actions

From Anarchist News:

Ontario based anarchist Kelly Rose Pflug-Back appeared in court July 19 to finish sentencing. Pflug-Back, 24, had accepted a non-cooperation plea bargain, pleading guilty to six counts of mischief and one of wearing a disguise with criminal intent. Kelly was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her sentence is reduced by 4 months to a total of 11 months in prison do to time served. Following her prison time she will be on probation for 3 years. This is after already being on house arrest and strict conditions for nearly a year preceding her trials completion.

To place this in context, the man who was convicted for murdering her friend, Victoria street kid Ariana Simpson (Harley) by pushing her under a bus was only given a one year sentence with 250 hrs of community service.

Kelly is a long time community organizer, activist, published writer, poet, artist and musician. Kelly works as an editor with various anarchist publications including The Fifth Estate, and Iconoclast Magazine based out of Ontario. A collection of Kelly’s poetry titled These Burning Streets is being published by Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness to support her.

Previous to her involvement in the Toronto G20 Black Bloc, Kelly was a long time activist, involved with groups such as Food Not Bombs and Camas Books collective in Victoria, and doing harm reduction work with SOS in Ontario, as well as hosting workshops and doing outreach for queer youth, and doing Indigenous solidarity work.
At the time of her sentencing Kelly was a full time student working towards finishing her degree. Kelly also eats a vegan diet which is very difficult to maintain in the Canadian prison system.

Most mainstream media has depicted Kelly as a violent vandal who has no remorse for terrorizing ‘innocent shoppers,’ as well as calling her cowardly for wearing a mask while taking on fully armed and armored riot police in the midst of one of the largest surveillance cultures in the world. Media has routinely referred to the breaking of windows by black bloc members as violent and occasionally even referring to it as terrorism. Meanwhile predictably downplaying the police violence and misconduct even though there was numerous cases of police sexually assaulting or threatening to rape female bodied persons during the 11 hundred person arrests. In one well known case related to the G20 in TO, police tore the prosthetic leg off a disabled man, as well as a deaf man was violently taken down and arrested. These were the largest arrests in the history of this nation state; nearly doubling the 700 people arrested during the implementation of the War Measures Act under Trudeau in response to the FLQ kidnappings that took place in 1970 in Quebec.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Kelly before her sentencing was completed. If you would like to hear her own thoughts on all this and how this has affected her, you may find the interview
here

The courts have clearly stated that they intend to send a message with this sentencing. We need to send a message back by increasing resistance, and supporting our imprisoned comrades so that they come out strong with a fighting spirit! Currently prisons in this nation state are being double bunked, while the Harper government is busy constructing 10 new ones and passing new legislation that includes mandatory minimum sentencing as well as cutting most programs and funding to help reduce prison recidivism. While Kelly, Mandy, and the others involved in resisting the G20 and global capitalism sit in prison cells, the men who are responsible for the policies that kill millions from poverty each year live in luxury and will likely never see the inside of a prison cell.

Please write to Kelly, she loves letters, and poetry. Writing to prisoners is one way to ensure they know they have not been forgotten.

Kelly will most likely be held in Vanier Prison. To send letters or post cards please address them to:

Kelly Pflug-Back
Vanier Centre for Women
P.O.Box 1040
655 Martin Street
Milton, Ontario
L9T 5E6 Canada

Toronto G20: Another comrade sentenced to jail

From sabotagemedia, via Anarchist News:

We learn through their media that a comrade was sentenced in Saint-Jérôme by judge Valmont Beaulieu to seven months of jail for charges related to the G20 in Toronto in 2010.

Charles Bicari has been sentenced after pleading guilty to charges of mischief, robbery, wearing a mask with intent, public nuisance and endangering public safety for having smashed the windows of two police cars, two stores and an ATM with a hammer.

some declarations from the juge taken from their Press:

“The courts must exercise wisdom and foresight. They do not have to wait until people die or are injured or that furniture or buildings are destroyed to denounce the unacceptable violence of non peaceful demonstrators”

“These crimes of this nature can not be treated as if they were commonplace incivilities, simple public disturbances, lack of control due to the spontaneous actions of others, or an exaggerated response to expose a social injustice … No court needs expert testimony to understand that rioters call for the police to intervene in large numbers, the cost being paid once again by workers. Because of delinquents, the image of our democracy and the country is distorted… “

Guelph ABC G20 Repression Update: March 2012

Introduction

It has been one and a half years since the leaders of the twenty richest nations and their commercial and financial interested convened in Toronto for a glamorized photo-op. In June 2010, the G20 Summit took over and militarized the core of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and saw a week of protests, actions and mass arrests.

In the lead up to the summit, police from different municipal, provincial ,federal policing and intelligent agencies formed the G20 Joint Intelligence Group to network and coordinate the state repression surrounding the G20 Summit. This included a number of tactics, including twelve undercover operations which led to the arrests of over twenty people on conspiracy charges.

During the weekend,militant actions were called by the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance (SOAR) and by a number of autonomous anarchist and indigenous groups. On June 25th, a break-away demonstration was called by SOAR called “Get Off the Fence”. This action saw a five hundred plus anti-capitalist bloc wreak havoc on Toronto’s financial and shopping districts, followed by generalized rioting throughout the core for hours following the demo.

What we have compiled here are some updates about anti-authoritarians and anarchists who have been facing serious criminal charges following the actions of people in the streets, and in meetings prior to the summit. Many of these cases are still open and there are many other people who have been convicted and are serving sentences who aren’t tied to anarchist networks. We hope this will shed some light on what has happened since the riot.

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