Toronto, January 20-- About 60 people from Windsor, Durham, Ancaster, Brampton, Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton and Toronto gathered in -20 degree weather today at a major military manufacturer to celebrate Martin Luther King Day and to nonviolently resist Canada's "contribution" to the ongoing war against the people of Iraq. From high school students to seniors, they shared readings, song, and their communal warmth.
By day's end, 8 people, including one man a week shy of his 70th birthday, had been hauled off and charged with trespassing after most sought "unfettered access" to the facility, the same access demanded -- and received--by U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq.
The gathering, organized by Homes not Bombs, focused on the Northrop Grumman Canada Navigation Systems plant, formerly Litton Systems Canada. Few driving by and reading the company sign would have any clue about the horrific weapons systems which have been designed and produced here.
The list includes the guidance system for the cruise missile (first used against the people of Iraq in 1991), weapons release computer sets for the F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber and the F-111 fighter-bomber, guidance systems and navigational equipment for the U.S. F-22, described variously as the "next-generation air superiority fighter" of the U.S. Air Force as well as a fighter designed for a "first-look, first-kill capability against multiple targets," cockpit displays for the depleted-uranium-spewing A-10 Warthog, displays for the CF-18, and the BAT precision weapon system, designed to bring "unmatched range, accuracy and lethality to the battlefield."
Members of the group had written the company requesting a dialogue about ways in which the company could be disarmed and turned into a place that makes socially useful products, but a brief letter sent back days before the demo stated the place was private property and "any inspections or technical discussions regarding our facility are subject to pre-approval by the Canadian Government." So much for the glorious firewall between private industry and government!
After readings from Martin Luther King, Jr., and about the devastating consequences of war and sanctions against the people of Iraq, and how these were directly related to the manufacture of weapons systems at Northrop Grumman Canada, members of the citizens weapons inspection team walked onto the property, initially catching off guard police officers who must have thought their earlier, friendly-officer-order that everyone stay off the property would be heeded by the nice group of obedient Canadians.
Police began running after group members and immediately pounced on Andrew Loucks of Hamilton, Frank Barningham of Durham, Gary Connally of Brampton and Matthew Behrens of Toronto, all of whom were dragged to waiting police cruisers. The other inspectors found they had to be a bit more persistent, as police dragged them repeatedly to the sidewalk, whereupon they would regroup and walk back onto the property.
Despite the closed main entrance gates and boarded up front doors of the plant, police nonetheless freaked every time someone set foot on the grounds. They were kept busy by the persistent attempts to enter of Ed Babb of Burlington, Kirsten Romaine of Etobicoke, Diana Ralph of Toronto and Kevin Shimmin of Toronto, all of whom were eventually arrested and hauled off as well.
Charged with trespassing, all were transported to and held at 23 division before being released on a promise to appear in court in mid February to set a date for trial. While those who violate international and Canadian law through their production of weapons and components for weapons of mass human destruction sat comfortably in their heated offices yesterday, the irony was not lost on those who, in trying to uphold the law, had been arrested, charged, detained, and forced to return to court.
This was the third generation of protesters to focus on the weapons facility. A nonviolent campaign begun in 1979 and lasting almost 10 years featured weekly leafletting, hundreds of vigils and sleepouts, and scores of nonviolent direct actions at which hundreds were arrested. During the 1991 war against Iraq, 13 people were arrested for pouring human blood on the windows of the management building, and 31 women were busted trying to arrest Litton executives on International Women's Day, 1991.
Homes not Bombs, which took part in a similar inspection at Burlington's Wescam on December 10, where three people were arrested, plans other inspections at sites around Ontario. Members of the group will go to War Minister John McCallum's office next Monday, the day Hans Blix delivers his inspection report, to deliver peace zucchinis to McCallum, demanding that Canada drop zukes, not nukes, and build homes, not bombs.
On February 14, Homes not Bombs is organizing a mass silent sit-in at the War Dept. in Ottawa, with hundreds from across Ontario and Quebec expected to take part.
Copies of the weapons inspection certifcate are available from firstname.lastname@example.org
Notice of Impending Weapons Inspection
Weapons Inspectors Declared Guilty
For more info:
Homes not Bombs
PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
(416) 651-5800, Hamilton: (905) 526-7982, (905) 627-2696, Windsor, (519) 258-1555, Ottawa (613) 237-0730
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