An other anarchist in jail
On repression on anarchists in Canada.
This has been a big month for Hamilton. To contextualize Cedar’s arrest, we can start with the Anarchist Bookfair in early March, our first bookfair in 7 years. The event was a smashing success, and brought together people from all over the continent to explore possibilities for radical change, to envision a world without enforced hierarchies and domination, to simply meet each other and learn from each other. The weekend was particularly marked by a small riot through one of Hamilton’s most affluent neighborhoods and down one of its most noxious commercial streets. The “Locke Street Riot” was a collective expression of rage, not only against the rapid gentrification of Hamilton, but against capitalism and the violent world of alienation it fosters. It led to a lot of productive conversations about the inevitability of discomfort in fighting for new worlds, and the importance of clarifying and articulating our politics. The riot also kicked up some toxic Hamilton sediment, including a mass spillage of sentimental tears for small businesses, shrieks of “terrorism” from city councillors, and anti-anarchist fervor from local alt-right trolls who saw this as an opportunity to step into the limelight.
In the weeks that followed many of these reactions were channeled into Hamilton’s only anarchist social space, The Tower, which became the defacto target before they even had a chance to come out in support of the riot. First its windows were smashed, then the door was kicked down and the library got trashed, then the locks got glued, and more recently we’ve seen an ongoing wave of amateur graffiti, including the word “gay” written in crumbling wheat paste on the new plexiglass windows. In late March, while supporters of the tower were busy cleaning up after the break-in, a coalition of white-nationalist, misogynistic, homophobic trolls organized a rally in support of the businesses on Locke Street. Their sad rally was confronted and largely foiled, but not before a few of them had a chance to mingle with Locke Street business owners and chit-chat over a lemon-pistachio donut. Information was leaked revealing that the Soldiers of Odin and The Proud Boys were hoping to head over to The Tower after the rally in order to confront the “120 lbs beta males” they hoped to find there. The first time they showed up they found 40 anarchists ready to defend the space. They screamed about their democratic rights and ended up utilizing a police escort to get to the other side of the street. A few hours later a smaller group of them showed up drunk looking for a fight, and despite noble efforts to deescalate we ended up sending them home that day with bloodied and broken noses.
Meanwhile, public pressure to find those responsible for the riotous action on Locke street built. The police had been unable to apprehend anyone on the night of the action, and had responded to public outcry with promises of justice and desperate pleas for public cooperation. Finally on April 6th, one month after the riot, the police put on a show for the bloodthirsty public. Warrants in hand, they smashed down the door of a collective house at dawn and lobbed a flash grenade into the living room. With assault rifles drawn they stormed through the house putting people in cuffs, and arrested Cedar (Peter) Hopperton charging them with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence (unlawful assembly while masked). The others were released and made to spend hours in the driveway while the cops turned the house inside out looking for anything that might help their investigation. They seized computers, phones, loose papers, zines and books, which will take years to recover from their greasy hands.
Cedar’s bail hearing, which itself only occurred five days after the arrest and after one particularly sneaky maneuver by the Crown to delay it, was a painstaking ordeal. Four hours of blathering drivel in which it became clear that not only Cedar, but all of anarchism was on trial. Just as we saw after the 2010 G20 Summit, in which Cedar faced very similar charges, the prosecutor fumbled with the basic concepts of our politics and desperately grasped at every available trope to paint Cedar as a “ringleader”. In cross-examining Cedar’s would-be surety, the crown prosecutor attacked the very concept of friendship as an unreliable form of human relation, mistaking Cedar’s refusal to be governed with a refusal to be accountable to friends, thus revealing once again one of the basic failings of hierarchal social models. The presiding Justice of the Peace, clearly an authority on many subjects, stated that the only legitimate form of activism in the 21st century is through social media, citing the #metoo movement as proof that there is no longer any reason to assemble on the street. This is the level of buffoonery and arrogance Cedar was up against. In the end Cedar was denied bail and sent back to the hellscape of Barton jail where hordes of abducted people wait in wretched conditions for trial. He will potentially remain in Barton for a year or more while the state drags its heels in making a case against him.
We in Hamilton have organized a solid support team to make sure that Cedar has reliable legal defense and as much advocacy and communication as possible. We want to continue the projects they hold dear, and support any forms of organizing they might pursue in jail. We’ve launched this blog as a space where we can provide updates on Cedar’s whereabouts, their legal situation, and how they’re doing. Should there be any more arrests in connection with the Locke Street riot this site will offer similar outlet for those support efforts. Prison isn’t the end of the road for anarchists, it’s merely one dimension of the world we stand against. We will do everything in our power to resist the isolation they attempt to impose on those they capture, and continue to fight together against the world of police, courts and prisons.