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December 22, Atlantica Trial, recap

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Many thanks to all those who came to support! A further thanks to all those who helped with the benefit show on Dec 19th! Court solidarity is so important to keep morale high amongst those who the State tries to use as examples to scare away further dissent.

There were about 35 people in attendance for support through the day. It was amazing and very uplifting for the defendants to have the supporters in the room. It helped give us a boost of energy as we took the stand, always a difficult experience.

Also, some people served food outside. The "From G8 to Atlantica: Resistance is Global" banner made an appearance as well. Thanks to everyone.

Our defender

Vaughn Barnett, non-lawyer advocate from New Brunswick, is defending the four of us. He's been helping Atlantica defendents since the arrests. He's doing it because he's committed to defending the poor and political dissidents. Vaughn helps greatly in the fight against the system using his over 14 years of experience with the law. His own politics, recognizing the systemic injustices of capitalism, make him approach the defense with the open-ness to making broad challenges.

The proceedings

The point of the day was to see if the charges would even go to trial, to attempt to get a stay of proceedings. The argument brought fourth by Vaughn was that our charter rights were violated through the arrests and treatment in jail. The official name of the kind of procedure we were going through was called a "charter challenge." The hope was that it would be made obvious that there were sufficient violations of procedure to nullify the trial. In his application for the charter challenge, Vaughn demonstrated that there were precedents of other judges granting stays of proceedings because of similar circumstances, the idea being that if a judge were to find there were significant charter violations, the matter can't go to trial unless the charter violations are tried first.

The day started our with Vaughn arguing for a stay of all the proceedings, including the charter challenge, because the Crown provided late disclosure of Gottingen Jail video footage of defendents and the other people arrested at the Atlantica protest. Vaughn received these tapes and CDs just before the proceedings began. Obviously there was no time to review the 24 hours of footage by then! The judge denied giving a stay of proceedings because of the late disclosure. So, the charter challenge proceeded.

Vaughn asked questions to each of the defendants about how they came to the arrest and about treatment during the arrest and in custody. His goal was to reveal improper feeding, lack of respect for legal rights and intimidation. There were many examples of these kinds of treatment.

The prosecutor was very aggressive. He asked questions to each defendent about their presence at other protests to try to make us look like we had chronic problems with protests and violence, and that we knew what we were getting ourselves into. To the first defendant, the prosecutor asked about things on fire being thrown at the police. There were no things on fire thrown. Other questions were asked to the first defendant about violence and aggression at the protest. The prosecutor asked him about his presence at other protests and whether or not they were violent protests. The prosecutor questioned him about his presence at the WTO protest in Montreal in 2003 and the Summit of the Americas protest in Quebec City in 2001, asking if they were violent protests. He responded: "the police were violent" for each of these questions. He also asked him "were you in Seattle?" (WTO protest), to which he responded with a very determined "no". The crowd laughed at this question because it was obvious the crown was trying to make him look like a chronic protester with violent tendencies and wasn't getting anywhere. The prosecutor complained that he was being laughed at and the judge politely informed the crowd about resepcting the court or they would be asked to leave. The prosecutor also mocked one of defendants for wearing a dress at the protest, to which the defendent announced that it was a "beautiful dress". To another defendant, he interrogated him about dressing in black at the Atlantica protest, to which he responded, "I always wear black".

As the day carried on, it looked like the judge was not really averse to us; however, he gave the prosecutor some leeway to ask questions that seemed like they were focused on our protest history, which should not have been considered relevant, but the questioning was allowed to proceed for each defendent in that manner. In the case of the first defendent on the stand, the prosecutor was finally stopped only when the prosecutor started asking about his presence at the Seattle protest.

There was one other witness other than the the defendants. It was the director of Corrections Nova Scotia. He was asked questions about what proper procedure at the prison was supposed to be, such as proper feeding, respect for vegetarian diets and other legal rights we were supposed to have been afforded according the procedure. There were some startling statements that he made. Prisoners are not supposed to receive vegeterian or any other "special diets" unless they are practitioners of one of the main, recognized religions (monotheistic) or if they have medical conditions. Some religions are not even recognized by the Corrections institute! They are referred to as culture. They do no provide special diets for "lifestyle" reasons. The judge actually asked a question to him about what the difference was between someone being bound to obey their consceince if they didn't believe it was ethical to eat animals, versus if they believed they were being instructed by a holy power to do so. The man did not realy have an answer to this. No surprise that the actual policies of prisons are so discriminatory, after all, the whole institute is based on putting up walls. All the inmates were also supposed to receive a "handbook" that told us what our rightw were. No one recieved this. The guy from Corrections was asked about this, saying we should have been informed of this. He also revealed that there was a copy of this book in the min room in our cell block, which was news to us, over a year-and-a-half later.

The Prosecutor then asked the director of Corrections some of his own easy questions. Following, the proceedings were adjourned after some negotiations over what would happen next. The Crown wanted to call in some police officers to get other versions of what happened at the protest. There was arguement over why this was relevant. Vaughn was not the one who strayed into that line of questioning -- i.e. trying to include what happened BEFORE the arrest in the charter challenge -- it was the Prosecutor who did this. Vaughn argued that the Crown had plenty of time to have called in any such witnesses he was suddenly interested in calling, but he didn't. The arguement Vaughn made was that he should not be allowed to delay the proceedings if he didn't prepare for such witnesses already. Vaughn argued that there should not be an adjournment. In the end, the Judge decided to allow an adjournment, and the dates were set for August, for both the remainder of the current procedure and the trial! That's a very long 9 months away. Vaughn argued for the conditions to be removed because the process was lingering. Neither the judge or the Crown condeded, claiming that the defendents had to go to the Supreme Court to argue for such changes.

Despite the dissappointing limbo we're in, we're bolstered by the great solidarity shown.

Resistance to Atlantica will continue.

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