Homes not Bombs
"Because Canada should build homes, not blow them up"
PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
(416) 651-5800; firstname.lastname@example.org
Kitchener-Waterloo: (519) 745-1681, Guelph: (519) 836-2409
Hamilton: (905) 528-5925, 627-2696,email@example.com, Windsor: (519) 258-1555; Ottawa (613) 237-6278
For Immediate Release January 15, 2001
It appeared from a half empty parking lot that today's Martin Luther King Day nonviolent direct action at Diemaco -- Canada's "Centre of Excellence" for machine guns, grenade launchers, assault rifles and other combat weapons -- was successful in significantly slowing down work at the Kitchener, Ontario factory. But it appeared that the action was also a lesson in the ways in which our society's commitment to weaponry and violent solutions to conflict serve to restrict the democratic process.
Since 1980, the federal government has pumped $250 million into the making of weaponry by Diemaco. The protesters arrived today on Martin Luther King's birthdate to say that, as taxpayers, we have a right to demand that money be put into the building of a civil society instead of into killing machines.
The lack of democracy that citizens are faced with when confronting the arms industry was evident in the way that Diemaco locked its doors on nonviolent Citizens Inspectors and in the brutal police arrests of two demonstrators later in the day long after the demonstration was over.
Over 120 students and teachers, peace and anti-poverty activists, Raging Grannies, and even a high school principal arrived at the plant shortly after 7:30 am to hand out flyers to arriving workers and engage in a series of creative nonviolent actions. But no workers came into the parking lot between then and 9 am, the normal peak period for arrival, leading members of the Homes not Bombs organizing group to conclude that workers were told to stay away because of the demonstration.
This was significant, and a sign of the strength of a small number of people gathered together to say "no" to war: that a plant responsible for producing thousands of deadly weapons every year appeared to be forced to shut down part of its production on Martin Luther King Day.
Even more ironic was the fear inside the plant of an open, honest, well-advertised, nonviolent gathering: it was the managers and other workers who refused to engage in dialogue with peaceful protesters and allow the public inside to see what federal tax dollars are used for.
"What are you guys so afraid of?" asked one of the demonstrators through the doors. "After all, you've got all the guns, and yet you still don't feel secure!"
Despite the peaceful -- indeed, loving -- nature of the demonstration, Waterloo Regional Police did not heed the words of Dr. King and the civil rights movement as they enacted two punishing arrests after the demonstration was over.
In one instance, a police van overtook the car driven by Homes not Bombs site coordinator Laurel Smith, and grabbed Citizens Inspector José Martinez from the back seat, threw him against the car, and arrested him in a physically brutal manner. When Smith protested, she was threatened with arrest and having her car towed; at that point, two other support cars filled with peaceful protesters arrived, and police immediately focused on them, threatening their occupants with arrest if they did not scatter. In the confusion, Smith quickly turned her car around and followed the police van carrying Martinez back to the police station.
Shortly thereafter, demonstrator Julian Ichim was arrested outside Stirling Mennonite Church, as folks were getting off the bus which had returned them from Diemaco. He was thrown into a van and taken to police headquarters and, like Martinez before him, charged with criminal mischief. Martinez was released on condition he stay out of Waterloo Region; Ichim will appear in Kitchener Court (on Frederick Street) tomorrow (Tuesday, January 16) morning at 10 am. A courtroom full of supporters would be greatly appreciated.
It is unclear how either charge will stick, as nothing that any of the demonstrators did today could be construed as criminal or violent. Rather, Homes not Bombs points out the real violence and legal violations are committed by weapons construction at Diemaco.
Despite pea-soup-thick fog blanketing the area and a steady drizzle, the spirited group of nonviolent folk joyfully illustrated ways of transforming Diemaco, the weapons manufacturer, into Lifemaco, the builder of community. A large, "human transformation machine" was set up with a tunnel formed by two long lines of people; individuals would enter the "machine" carrying a large picture of a Diemaco weapon and, as the line of transformers moved, danced, moaned and groaned to the sounds of a well-oiled machine, help push through that individual to the exit, where s/he would emerge with the symbols of a civil society: public transit, affordable housing, accessible education, and anti-violence programs, among others.
A delivery truck on its way to Diemaco was stopped for 15 minutes by a "die-in" of some 40 individuals who showed the all-too deadly results of using a Diemaco weapon for just a few seconds. Diemaco weapons advertise a rate of fire that often exceeds 800 rounds per minute. The driver of the delivery truck complained that it had been hard finding Diemaco; when told that Diemaco made weapons, he commented, "That must be why they like to be so out of the way." Some 40 individuals lay down on the wet pavement and chalk outlines of their bodies were left on the roadway.
As groups of demonstrators sang songs out of the civil rights movement and read from the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., a group of 8 Citizens Inspectors approached the building around 8:15 am. A police officer in an unmarked van immediately drove at them, informing them that they were "breaking the law" by trespassing. The inspectors replied that Diemaco was breaking the most basic precepts of international and domestic law and that police were thus obliged to allow the inspectors in to do their work, just as Canada and other western nations require such compliance in Iraq and other countries around the world.
Upon arriving at the front door, the inspectors found a number of police looking on from the inside who refused entry to the inspectors. The Homes not Bombs activists carried with them a seven-page document outlining the violations for which Diemaco needed to be checked. For example, the inspectors pointed out that government spending on weapons produced at Diemaco made it difficult for Canada to maintain its obligations to the people of this country under the Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (A complete copy of that text is available upon request from firstname.lastname@example.org).
After waiting for some ten minutes, the group proceeded to approach each window of the management side of the complex, carrying placards with messages of peace "Throw a Parade, Not a Grenade!", "Homes not Bombs," "There is No Way to Peace -- Peace is the Way."
They also carried placards which called for the company to transform; at the top of those placards was a picture of the Diemaco logo, a sinister-looking sniper with a large weapon pointed at an unseen "enemy;' below was a transformed image of Lifemaco, that same individual crouching to plant seeds next to a tree of life.
Some also chalked on the bricks slogans such as "Peace, not war," "Become Lifemaco" and "Homes not Bombs."
The demo marked 10 years since the beginning of the war against Iraq, a war for which Diemaco proudly supplied weapons. One demonstrator pointed out that the reserved War Dept. parking spots were marked by pieces of wood which were shaped very much like a cross, so a poster in remembrance of all the victims of the war against Iraq and subsequent criminal sanctions was placed underneath one of those cross-like structures.
As the inspectors went from window to window, they noticed a number of violations -- signs that weapons were indeed being made -- as well as violations of basic human dignity: in one window they witnessed managers looking at website pornography, a graphic reminder of the link between militarism and violence against women. (Indeed, during the war against Iraq in 1991, bomber pilots were "revved up"by viewing pornographic videos before getting into their cockpits to go on bombing runs).
After joining the larger group on the road for some readings, the inspectors gave it one more try at the entrance to Diemaco, where they read from sections of the inspection document and held a vigil of remembrance for all victims of war. By this time, as many as 25-30 people had walked onto the Diemaco site, as police kept a wary eye and videotaped the proceedings.
A huge circle of remembrance was then formed on the roadway to draw the morning to a close.
It is still unclear why Martinez and Ichim were singled out for their brutal arrests and charges, as most individuals on the property were engaged in similar peaceful activities. A local reporter queried police as to whether other arrests were to be made in the near future from the demonstration, to which a sergeant replied, "Hopefully."
Homes not Bombs, in the meantime, is proceeding with the groundwork for a new Campaign to Demilitarize Canada, details of which will be forthcoming soon.
For more information, contact HNB at the above numbers or e-mails.
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