naked trump statue the emperor has no balls

Question:
Is the recent guerrilla art installation Emperor Has No Balls (nude Trump statues in various parks) just an example of body shaming or does it get a pass because the subject, Trump, is obsessed with sexist body norms for women?

Answer:
As an American citizen I am embarrassed and abhorred that someone like this has gotten so far in our obviously flawed political system. He is the actual Republican nominee for President of the United States.

He is a racist, sexist, bigoted meanie face. All of his beliefs and moral stances are foolish and full of shit, he is not a politician, he is an ego maniac celebrity, a money grubbing monster, and downright evil doer. BUT, he is a human being.

While I do think he is an idiot and I want to see his campaign crash and burn, I do not believe in body shaming or making fun of any of his physical attributes. You are only as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside, so obviously he doesn’t have much to work with. Judge him on his idioic ideas and not his lack of genitalia.

I don’t want to be shamed for my imperfect body so I will never do the same to another human. The piece features fat shaming and transphobia.

There is no pass when it comes to body shaming. I am a firm believer in two wrongs don’t make a right. If I judge him for being a jerk I can’t go right back and be a jerk in response, we must Love Trumps Hate to move on.

This publicity stunt got his name in the news again, the dumb people are still seeing his name. In good or bad context doesn’t matter, it’s in their impressionable minds. The stunt made headlines.

Although, on one hand I do believe that people should have a sense of humor. Public art is made to stand out, make people think. Trump’s naked body has nothing to do with his political agenda. I do agree that he would be a terrible president, and would probably erect similar statues of himself anyways.

I have dressed up like Trump in the past, mocking him and being satirical. I was a parody, a personification of his idiocracy and “perfect hair.”

Trump wins every time someone says or types his name, I am feeding the machine by even writing this article. He is an “even bad press is good press” believer.

He pulls this stuff out of his ass just to rile people up. He excites the hate mongers and ignites the protesters into a fury. Justice has not been served by erecting the larger than life nudes, he honestly probably really loves them, and will have the whole collection in one of his mansions.

Activist art crew Indecline was in charge of this public art frenzy, naked Trump statues appearing in many major cities: Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Cleveland, and Los Angeles- to protest the Republican presidential nominee. At 11 am in each city (8 on West coast) two people dressed like construction workers carried out this 6’5″, 80 pound sculpture under a blue tarp and then literally glued it to the ground and disappeared into the crowd.

Each statue was beautifully hand painted by an artist known as Ginger, a Las Vegas based horror artist (that admits he was once a Trump supporter, then wisened up as the campaign got more out of control). Ginger is known for his monsters, and Trump is a monster.

Once the tarp was removed mayhem insued. So many selfless were taken, one was “jerked off” by a homeless man, another was dragged into a nearby art gallery, but most were taken down by the police. The new goal is to make them for high end galleries and restaurants, willing participants.

Tiny penis and no testicles were the main attraction. Although art is subjective and takes liberties, it is not confirmed whether he actually has testicles in real life or not. He definitely suffers from foot in mouth disease and is a raging sociopath, but that is beside the point.

The Emperor Has No Balls is part of Indecline’s 15 years of art as activism, usually sticking to murals and graffiti. They are responsible for the Rape Trump graffiti on a fence at the US Mexico border. They knew that larger action needed to be taken as the Trump campagn was a real thing, he is the nominee, wow, this is happening!

Everytime I turn on a TV or look at the news I get sick, I worry that this impending doom is the final apocalypse. What will he do as our commander in chief? Not saying I love Hilary Clinton or anything, but COME ON! He is the worst, it’s a joke that has gone too far, and at OUR EXPENSE!

They started to think about how dictators were memorialized in giant statues throughout history. Illama Gore’s infamous drawing of naked Trump got so much attention (even the artist being assaulted due to her work) that it was a clear inspiration for this project.

Trump’s campaign did not comment on the statues. Of course not…

* Featured image: Naked Trump statue in Union Square, NYC

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trans march 3

The trans march kicked off Montreal’s Pride week yesterday in Place de La Paix. For its third edition, the event chose to focus on the rights of trans migrants. Organizers called attention to the additional obstacles faced by transgender migrants, especially when changing their gender and name on official documents.

“It’s completely sad that trans migrants have to wait up to seven years in order to be able to change their documents while trans Canadians can easily do that, thanks to Law 35 and the Law 103,” explained Dalia Briki, spokesperson for the event.

Law 35 was passed in 2013 to allow transgender people to change their legal gender without having to undergo surgery and removed the obligation to publish their transition in the newspaper (which was actually a thing). Law 103 recently extended that right to minors.

However, this much applauded update of Quebec’s Civil Code has little effect on trans migrants since immigration procedures do not allow them to change the gender they were assigned at birth.

“We feel trans migrants have been left aside. The government did not help them, the government only helped trans Canadians,” deplores Briki, who identifies as a trans immigrant and woman of colour.

Demands trans march1in the press release include:

  • Removal of Canadian citizenship from admissibility conditions for a change of name and sex in Quebec’s Civil Code
  • That documents of immigration authorities at the provincial and federal levels recognize the actual current gender of migrants
  • That deportation of trans people cease
  • More funding for organizations specifically aiding trans migrants

Around 150 people of all ages and genders gathered in Place de La Paix around 2 PM. A couple of transgender people of colour spoke to the crowd and a short march started, followed by a pick-nick.

A special effort was made to ensure that people of all origins, economic backgrounds and abilities were included. French and English translations, as well as a sign-language interpretation were available. Organizers provided snacks and bus fares.

Speeches particularly focused on the lack of accommodations in immigration services and procedures, the disproportionate rate of violence against trans women of colour and the deportation of trans immigrants despite obvious risks to their safety.

Studies conducted in Canada and the US found alarming rates of violence against trans people, and especially trans women of colour. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 55% of victims of hate homicide documented in the US in 2014 were transgender women. Almost all of those were women of colour.

“You don’t talk because you’re scared, you’re afraid to be in trouble. Migrants don’t say anything. Well, I’m talking now,” declared one speaker as the crowd cheered.

Pride and Representation: The Ongoing Saga

Euphorie dans le genre organized the event on the eve of the official start of Montreal’s Pride week.  Pride activities across the world have often been accused of failing to properly include both the transgender community and cultural minorities. The feud between Black Lives Matter and Toronto Pride last month brought a sudden spotlight on this issue.

Dalia Bikri is “quite worried” about the lack of representation of both communities in the Montreal chapter as well. The trans march, she says, wants to fill that void.

“I feel that trans people of colour are not involved in the organization of the big events of Pride as much as they should be. On the other side, at least in our trans march, trans people and migrants are on the front line.”

The distinctly militant aspect of the march also sets it apart from the usual Pride events, believes Bikri:

“Pride tends to be more celebratory. Our march is more militant. Our needs have not been fulfilled; our demands have not been fulfilled, that’s why we are marching.”

According to co-organizer of the march Gabrielle Leblanc, “there is not quite enough” representation of the trans community in the overall organization of Pride yet, but it’s “getting better every year.”

Montreal Pride runs from August 8th to 14th.

Image from the Ni una menos: movilización nacional ya Facebook group

Content Warning for descriptions of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse

On July 17th, a friend from my hometown, Lima, Peru, added me to a private Facebook group called Ni una menos: movilización nacional ya (Not one less: national mobilization now). Launched by a small group of young Peruvian women, the group described itself as a platform for strategic mobilization against violence, harassment, and discrimination against women in the South American country.

I am a Peruvian female human being, so this group directly struck a nerve. Like many of the women in the group, verbal street harassment scares me, unwanted physical contact angers me, and gender-based violence makes me feel powerless. In the past, I have normalized some sexist behaviors and comments by men and women in my life. Is this habit? Ignorance? Shame? Perhaps a combination of the three.

Posts calling for a protest in the streets of Lima soon evolved into the organization of a massive nationwide protest that will take place on August 13th . The turning point happened when hundreds of the over 56 000 women who are now on this platform started sharing their testimonies.

Strangers, acquaintances, and some close friends of mine all began sharing their stories in this open forum.

“…[the doctor] covered my mouth and while he touched me and put his fingers inside of me, he told me to be a good girl if I wanted to stay alive…”
– N, at six years old

Painful stories of abuse bled over the group.

“…I was repeatedly raped by more than one person during my childhood. My brother “rented me” to strangers for sex…”
– J

For many, it was the first time speaking about these issues at all.

“…He [her cousin] lifted me and placed me on his penis. He was erect…I stepped down and ran out. I said nothing I felt guilty because I had gone to speak to him, I felt that I had brought this on me…”
– F

At the same time, an indescribable sense of companionship and newfound strength grew. Initiatives such as spontaneous committees for psychological and legal clinics by practitioners within the group began taking shape. What started as a group for strategizing has grown into a space for questioning, sharing, healing, and denouncing.

Let’s put this movement into context.

As in many of its Latin American neighbors, institutional response against gender-based violence in Peru is mediocre at best. At worst, it dehumanizes the victim, and justifies the assault by questioning what she possibly could have done to provoke the incident. Machismo is rampant across all socioeconomic strata.

nia una menos artwork peru

Additionally, judicial bullshit processes, mass media, and the Catholic Church are often accomplices in the violation of women’s rights and liberties. One needs to look no further than Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima.

He recently stated that “there are young girls getting abortions, but it is not because the girls are abused, but often because women put themselves on display, provoking [attacks].” This individual gets a monthly salary that is twice the national minimum wage, courtesy of all the taxpayers of this “secular” republic.

His latest declarations have outraged thousands and prompted a petition to remove him from his charge. Members of the cabinet of newly elected president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, such as Ana Maria Romero, Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations, have also voiced their rejection.

Young girls and grown women keep quiet because abuse is not something you talk about in public. Contrary to what many think, abuse mostly happens at home and the majority of victims know their aggressor. Assaults by strangers hiding in a dark alley are only a small fraction of the overall numbers. This is true in Peru, in Quebec, and in most places around the world.

Reporting an aggressor can take a huge psychological toll on the victim and in many cases put her in further danger. The financial burden of filing a case also falls on the on the victim, unless the case leads to a conviction. The latter is highly unlikely as accusations are regularly minimized, and rarely lead to consequences for the aggressor.

“They have to see you dead to make justice happen.”

These are the words of Lady Guillen, a young Peruvian woman. After years of pursuing a trial against her former partner who savagely beat her in 2012, he walked away with four years of probation instead of the seven years of prison that, by law, correspond to his offense.

Lady Guillen’s excruciating fight is one of a few cases of violence against women that have received attention from the Peruvian media. Another case is the one of Arlette Contreras, a woman whose aggressor walked away with a year of probation for “minor injury,” despite there being videotaped evidence of him beating her and dragging her on the floor.

The impunity and judicial indifference in the Lady Guillen and Arlette Contreras’ cases were catalysts for the #NiUnaMenosPerú movement.

nia una menos fb group image peru

They survived, but too many do not. So far this year, according to the Peruvian Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, 54 Peruvian women have been murdered by their partners. These tragic ends are the logical consequence of the micro and macro aggressions that are the underlying norm.

Furthermore, sexual violence is rampant. In a country that ranked first in a Latin American study for prevalence of sexual assault in 2013, DEMUS (The Center of Study for the Defense of Women) estimates that 75% of rape victims in Peru are under 18.

As the #NiUnaMenosPerú’s D-day, August 13th, comes closer, more women and men are joining in. T-shirts, billboards and signs are being created with sentences such as “You touch one of us, you touch all of us,” “They’ve taken so much from us, that they even took our fear,” and my personal favorite: “Cipriani, take your rosaries out of my ovaries.”

This movement is a vital first step in bringing women’s rights to the forefront of the public agenda. Storytelling played a crucial part in sparking this dialogue, allowing for women’s voices to be heard and protected. Personal testimonies have translated cases of gender-based violence from statistics into raw, human experiences that are too brutal to overlook.

The energy that has built over the past weeks needs to translate into policy that is held accountable by civil society and by the State. There is promise in the newly approved 2016-2021 National Plan Against Gender-Based Violence which, for the first time, recognizes LGBT women as a vulnerable group.

The skeptic in me cringes when I read the words “official, government, plan, and action” all in the same sentence. However, the skeptic in me would have never have predicted the exponential growth of #NiUnaMenosPerú. I have been truly moved by the empathic responses of astounded men and most of all by the incredible courage of women who have spoken up.

It is now in the Peruvian public’s hands for the momentum to continue after August 13th. I am done feeling powerless, and so are thousands of other women in Peru and around the world.

On the 13th, I will scream for the girls who haven’t had the chance to speak up yet. After that, I will keep questioning and confronting misogynistic norms and behaviors around me, even if it makes me and you uncomfortable.

#NiUnaMenosPerú #NiUnaMenos #13A

Note: The testimonies in this article were shared with consent from their authors

Edit: An initial version of this article referred to Juan Luis Cipriani as the head of the Peruvian Catholic Church. As Archbishop he heads only one fifth of Lima’s Catholic Church, sharing the leadership with four bishops. The title of Archbishop does not necessarily entail a higher degree in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, which has often caused misportrayals in the media.

Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.54.37 PM

I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

montreal police killings protest

Around 300 people gathered in Montreal on Wednesday to protest police treatment of black people, both here and in the US. Over a thousand people have announced their intention to participate in a similar event this Saturday. The Black Lives Matter movement might be finally picking up momentum in Montreal.

Protesters met in Nelson Mandela Park on Wednesday, responding to the call of the Black Coalition of Quebec. The event was organised in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded last week in the United-States.

It was partly in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by the police in the space of a couple of days. Several people payed tribute to them and to the five police officers killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.

It was also meant to call attention to the way Montreal’s black community is treated by the police. Several speakers stood up on a pick-nick table to address the crowd; some were planned, some were spontaneous. A peaceful march followed and no incidents were reported.

If you missed all of this, you will have another occasion to show your support, this Saturday in Cabot Square. A new Montreal NGO, Twese, is inviting people to gather there at 2pm “to honour the lives lost and express our rejection of police brutality and any kind of racial prejudice.”

Cabot Square is a historically and socially meaningful place for indigenous people in Montreal. Co-founder of Twese Anne-Sophie Tzeuton says that the organisers are aware of the importance of Cabot Square to First Nations and that they want to honour it.

Police brutality and discrimination are also “a huge problem” for First Nations, she noted, “of course we intend to talk about it and we hope many will attend.”

Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society
Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society

The main objective of Saturday’s event, aside from rallying people to the cause, is “to offer concrete solutions that we can all apply to our daily lives.” Several speakers will take the microphone to that effect. Spoken word performances and other artistic tributes to lives lost in police shootings are also planned.

Tzeuton is happy with the unexpected popularity of the event on Facebook, but she fears that all this attention won’t last. “It often happens, after a tragedy: there is a lot of media attention at once, but it passes and then we forget.”

She hopes the current momentum can be used to discuss lasting solutions before the hype dies down.

Twese (“everybody” in Kinyarwanda) describes itself as a platform encouraging the diasporas to exchange ideas and further a collective reflection about various topics. It was created this summer by four young black women who have played active roles in black student associations in McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal.

Discussing Canadian Racism

Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety Martin Coiteux reacted amiably to Wednesday’s protest: “We have to be very careful to protect the rights of all minorities in Quebec so I support people who are demonstrating for having equality of rights and we are completely in solidarity with what happened.”

However, according to him, “the situation here is, fortunately, very different to the United States.” He insisted on the importance of preserving “our model here of peaceful coexistence.”

How Different is it Really?

In 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that native people were alarmingly overrepresented in federal jails. In 2016, aboriginal youth made up 41% of people entering the justice system, despite representing less than 7% of the overall population.

Quebec’s commission of human rights officially recognizes that police forces practice racial profiling since 2010. An internal investigation published that year by the SPVM revealed that in 2006-2007, in Montréal-Nord and Saint-Michel,41% of young black men had had their identity checked, compared to 6% of young white men. The study also found that black people were more often carded for “vague” motives.

Just a couple of months ago, a black man named Jean-Pierre Bony was killed by the police in Montréal-Nord during a drug raid. Bony was shot in the head with a plastic projectile in front of the bar where the raid was conducted. He died in the hospital four days later.

“The only difference between Jean-Pierre Bony and what we’ve been seeing in the U.S is that there was no camera,” remarked Will Prosper, an ex-cop turned black rights activist, in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.

Many Canadians, like Coiteux, feel that the kind of systemic racism observed in the United-States doesn’t happen in Canada. According to Tzeuton, those claims are most often made by people who are racially or socioeconomically privileged.

“It is very easy for people who are not living those problems to claim they don’t exist.”

* Featured image of the April 6th Montreal North protest following the police killing of Jean-Pierre Bony by Gerry Lauzon (creative commons)

Central-East_Correctional_Centre

While Syrian refugees have been greeted with widely applauded warmth by the Canadian government, other immigrants, jailed without trial, are resorting to a hunger strike to get themselves heard.

Fifty immigration detainees have started a hunger strike in Ontario to protest the conditions and the too-often undetermined length of their detention. Like thousands of others across Canada, the fifty men have been placed in custody without charges or trial, because their situation does not conform to the country’s immigration laws.

They have been refusing food since Monday and intend to keep doing so until they get a meeting with the Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Immigration detainees had originally gone on a hunger strike April 21st and stopped after representatives from the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) met with them to discuss their concerns. But the group End Immigration Detention (EID) says that the Agency has not followed through with their promises and now the detainees want to speak with elected officials.

“We would like immigration detention to end and something more fair or realistic be worked out,” said Toby Clark, detained since 2014 in an EID press release.

Migrants are the only category of persons that can be held in custody indefinitely and without charges in Canada. Every year, the CBSA issues between 4000 and 7000 arrest warrants against immigrant men, women and children who haven’t been able to prove their identity or haven’t been granted asylum.

The lucky ones are sent to one of the three overflowing CBSA immigration detention centres in Vancouver, Toronto and Laval. The others are held in provincial prisons, among criminal offenders. This is the case of the fifty protesters detained in Central East Correctional Centre and Toronto East Detention Centre, where they are often subjected to lockdowns and solitary confinement.

Immigrant detention lasts 23 days on average, but some people wait for years to either be granted asylum or deported. “If your country refuses to issue travel documents, some people are held months, some people are held years and there is nothing that they can do about their country not issuing travel documents,” explained Clark.

Despite the fact that immigration detention is supposedly an administrative procedure with no intent of punishment, the detainees are effectively treated like criminals in jails and CBSA centres alike.

One woman recounted her ordeal in the Laval facility to Radio-Canada last February: “when they escort you to court or to the hospital, they always cuff you, as if we were murderers.” She recalled the shame she felt, after waiting for hours in an emergency room, cuffed like a prisoner. “I asked God to take me, so I could just stop living. What use could all of this be? It was too humiliating,” she confided. She was released after one and a half months.

Immigrant detainees are released if they can provide the proper documents, but it is very hard to do so while in custody. Jenny Jeanes from Action Réfugiés Montréal visits detainees in Laval twice a week. According to her, they don’t have access to internet and are only permitted local phone calls at certain times.

The Larger Problem

Over 80 000 immigrants were arrested by the CBSA between 2006 and 2014, according to End Immigration Detention. Many of them were children, often unaccompanied. The UN has chastised Canada for making detention a systematic response, when it should be an exceptional one. The Red Cross, the High Commissioner for Refugees and multiple groups of legal experts, social workers and doctors have called on Canada to change its ways.

One would think that the election of PM Justin Trudeau, praised around the world for his compassion and acceptance of refugees, would have put an end to this practice, but they would be disappointed. The number of immigrants detained yearly is still above 4000 according to more conservative guesses.

And people are indeed guessing, since the CBSA has not known exactly how many people are in its custody since 2013. Apparently, it’s the fault of an outdated computer system.

90% of immigrants are detained for reasons unrelated to security. Half of the immigrants detained are asylum-seekers.

Who is Overseeing the CBSA?

Two years ago, Lucia Vega Jimenez died while in CBSA’s custody. The 42-year old Mexican was risking deportation when she hung herself in a cell in Vancouver’s airport. When the affair was finally made public one month later, it raised some serious questions about the federal agency.

Who is overseeing this process? What resources are available to detainees? Why didn’t Jiminez get medical assistance when she needed it? And how come Canada routinely infringes on the basic human rights of non-citizens?

These questions, just like the chorus of calls for a public inquiry, remain unanswered. Since 2000, 13 people have died in CBSA custody.

A Burundian refugee hung himself in Toronto East Detention Centre just last March, while he was awaiting deportation for killing his wife. Last year, a diabetic Somali refugee died in Central East Correctional Facility. Both those cases, like many others, are shrouded in suspicious secrecy.

Federal bodies with coercive powers usually have an independent commission overseeing them. The RCMP, the Canadian Intelligence Service and the Centre of Telecommunication Security all do.

There is no independent entity overseeing the CBSA, or receiving complaints about them.

Last February, a senator with liberal allegiance introduced a bill to change this. Senator Wilfred Moore wants an independent inspector to be appointed as watchdog of the CBSA. “I don’t want Mrs Jimenez’s death to be in vain, he told Radio-Canada while explaining his motives.

The government refused to acknowledge that the CBSA’s methods were in any way problematic but claimed that they were open to consider ways to ensure some accountability mechanisms.

migrantstrike

Fifty men are currently resorting to a hunger strike, facing indefinite detention in maximum security prison, despite having committed no crime. Canada would never treat its citizen that way; it should not treat anyone that way.

End Immigration detention has launched a campaign to reach out to Minister Ralph Goodale and ask him to meet the detainees.

You can participate by calling him at 613-947-1153, or tweeting at him using the hashtag #migrantstrike.

Just like Justin Trudeau told us, when greeting Syrian refugees in December: “show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations.”

pit-bulls

With Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s proposed ban on new pit bulls set for a vote in September, opponents of Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) just caught a glimpse at how it may be defeated: through public outcry and protest. At least that seems to have done the trick in Quebec City for the moment.

Mayor Régis Labeaume had planned to get rid of all pit bulls in Quebec City by 2017, period. This was a much harsher move than Montreal’s plan to bar new pit bulls from the island and license and muzzle those that are already here.

Today, dozens (according to the CBC) of Quebec City dog owners and supporters protested outside of City Hall. Just a few hours later, Labeaume said that he had only been trying to start debate on the issue.

“We won’t eliminate pit bulls,” the mayor told the press, “we wanted to hit hard so things would move.”

Now, he seems content to wait for the results of a provincial workgroup on the idea of a province-wide pit bull ban. So pit bull owners in Quebec City and their beloved companions aren’t out of the proverbial woods yet, but the imminent, harsh law is off the table for now.

So is Montreal’s proposed ban also a fakeout designed to gauge public opinion? If so, then he Global Anti-BSL Peaceful Protest on July 16th is a good thing for opponents of Coderre’s ban to attend. In Montreal, it starts in Parc Pélican and makes its way to Parc Lafontaine.

Seeing as the Quebec City ban and the one in Montreal were both created in response to public fear, vocal public opposition may be the way to eliminate them and influence the Couillard Government not to pass one in the first place.

* You can also still vote in FTB’s poll on the Montreal Pit Bull Ban Poll.

* Featured image: Radio-Canada

anarchopanda police

In 2012, at the height of the Quebec Student Protests (Maple Spring), Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay’s administration amended Municipal Bylaw P-6 to include a ban on covering your face at public demonstrations and a requirement that protest organizers provide an itinerary. This effectively allowed Montreal Police (SPVM) to enforce Jean Charest’s controversial (and now defunct) Provincial Bill 78 without actually enforcing it.

This lead, of course, to more protest. Protest for the right to protest freely without first having to ask permission which had been taken away by these amendments. Kettling became a frequent SPVM tactic to end marches, sometimes just moments after they began.

Photo by Cem Ertekin
Photo by Cem Ertekin

Anarchopanda (the protest character of Julien Villeneuve) decided to challenge the bylaw amendments in a court of law as well. He argued that they were an unconstitutional violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which impeded freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Today, four years later, the Quebec Superior Court agreed with him.

In its ruling, the court declared that Article 3.2, which barred anyone participating in an assembly or procession in a public space from covering their face without a “reasonable excuse,” was excessive, unreasonable and arbitrary. They also ruled that Article 2.1, which bars anyone from assembling in and/or marching through public space without first providing authorities with a route, could only be applied in cases where the march hampered automobile traffic and was inoperative when it came to spontaneous demonstrations.

In a press release posted to his Facebook page, Anarchopanda, who was represented in this case by Sibel Ataogul and Marie-Claude St-Amant of the Association des juristes progressistes, called for the immediate withdrawal of charges on all pending P-6 cases. A large number of P-6 cases had been previously thrown out due to the way the SPVM had enforced the bylaw.

Anarchopanda concluded his press release by saying he hopes “the SPVM will reform its practices to ensure respect for the constitutional rights of protestors.”

* Featured image from Anarchopanda via Facebook

stella sex work grand prix campaign

The Montreal Grand Prix is always noisy. First, there are the rather loud Formula 1 engines revving on Ile Notre-Dame at the event itself on Sunday. Then there are the street parties all weekend on a blocked off Crescent and more recently lower Saint-Laurent as well. And, of course, there are the protests.

As in previous years, people will be out in force against the hyper-capitalism intrinsic to the event. One of the things many protesters argue the F1 promotes, including those who put together this Critical Mass event, is sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Montreal-based sex workers’ rights organization Stella is, of course, also against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, but feels that during the Grand Prix, sex work is unfortunately conflated with trafficking in quite a bit of the protest messaging. They have launched a social media poster campaign to counter this perception.

In a press release, they argue that:

“(The Grand Prix) brings with it exaggerated and unfounded claims of an increase in human trafficking, and youth and sexual exploitation. In more recent years it has also resulted in increased police repression and surveillance of people working in the sex industry and our clients. Amidst this flurry of attention, sex workers in Montreal are placed at greater risk of violence as they undertake working practices to avoid police detection, that put our security at risk.”

– Stella press release

This evokes a similar style to that used by Femen’s Grand Prix protests: topless women with messages written on their bodies. What’s different with Stella’s campaign is that the women’s faces and nipples are covered and the messages are against the criminalization of sex work, a.k.a. prohibition.

(* Ed’s note: We mentioned Femen just so it was clear that this campaign wasn’t at all the same as that group’s stunt at last year’s Grand Prix, but Stella made quite a good and correct point: “Is it our campaign that is reminiscent of Femen’s or is it Femen who appropriates our culture and fails to recognize the work of all the sex workers who have been pioneers of toplessness and of using breasts to subvert patriarchy?”)

Will this campaign help change the messaging of anti-Grand Prix protests? Given some of the comments already on event pages that argue against lumping sex work in with exploitation and trafficking, it’s possible that it could tip the balance by giving those comments a unified voice.

Will this campaign get lost in the shuffle? Given the huge amount of attention paid to the Grand Prix as well as the multitude of divergent protests, that is possible as well.

One thing is for sure: the Grand Prix will be at least a little louder this year.

You can read more about the Stella campaign on their site and Facebook page

katie nelson police

We can report that the lawsuit student protester Katie Nelson brought against the Montreal Police (SPVM), certain officers and the City of Montreal has been settled. That’s pretty much all we can report as Nelson isn’t allowed to discuss the terms of the settlement.

During the 2012 Quebec Student Protests (aka Maple Spring), Nelson amassed over $6000 in tickets including for things as banal as spitting on the street and swearing. Realizing that she was being specifically targeted by police and singled out for fines (some officers even referred to her by name), she decided to take the cops and the city to court for political profiling. We had a chance to speak with her in 2013 shortly after she launched the suit.

Since then, she had continued to participate in protests and speak out against various forms of oppression and violence, both caused by police and the state and not. All the while, she made many court appearances fighting her many citations and preparing for her profiling case.

In December 2015, she was attacked from behind and briefly hospitalized during a nighttime protest after she identified some officers from her case undercover dressed as protesters. She claims it was one of the undercover agent provocateurs who knocked her to the ground, a claim that was not confirmed by police but verified by photos and videos and others at the scene. The December incident was not part of the 2013 motion.

While Nelson’s lawsuit didn’t end with a mass public shaming of the Police Department and heads rolling (figuratively, of course) at the SPVM as a new precedent set as many may have hoped, it also didn’t end with Nelson losing and another unfortunate precedent set. The suit was settled, and that’s all we can tell you.

* Featured image by Thien Vo

trump buffalo protest 16

Donald Trump held a rally in Buffalo last night. More important than the Don remembering 7/11 was the fact that a group of protesters (both inside and out) got their message across. Only two arrests were made and no violence was harbored.

Buffalo was not happy about the arrival of Donald Trump. We did not shut down the hate monger’s rally, rather we celebrated what counts with a dance party: Love and Freedom. We told the world that Hate is not acceptable in our city or anywhere.

All of the beautiful energy of this event was captured by Buffalo photographer and activist Pierce McCleary

(CLICK ON THE FIRST IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY)

Donald Trump Protest
Trump in Buffalo

On April 17th Donald Trump will be at The First Niagara Center in Buffalo NY… lovely.

All of the hair on my body stood up, I had heard rumors that he was coming, I was ready for it, but still a wave of fury coursed through my body when I read the date.

I suddenly feel like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone, I want to start setting boobie traps to catch this man in the act like the Wet Bandits. What do you do when you know evil is about to knock on your front door?

I have never been more angry about a politician in my entire life, and believe me I am not a fan of politicians, in the current system we have in the United States they are pretty much all bad news, with very few bright spots (#FeelTheBern). Donald Trump is a black hole of stupid comments and even stupid-er faces, his hate filled agenda and ignorant stance on every topic that means anything to me is enough to make me want to scream. I am disappointed in the American people for allowing this to go on as long as it has, even most Republicans dislike him.

Never Trump

I am a calm and loving person, not wishing harm on any creature but like most people I want to charge and tackle him, shave that stupid comb over off his head, and tar and feather the pompous sonofabitch. He degrades women, supports racism and xenophobia, loves violence, wants to build a wall around us, and has no intent of doing anything but glorifying himself and big business.

He is a media king, he knows how to get the headlines, and stupid people support him, the same people that watch Nascar and hope for a crash, the same people who passed around the baby dolphin to take selfles with it until it died, the same people who don’t lend a hand to someone who has fallen into a subway but would rather take a video of them getting hit by the train, the same people who spit on those who are not like them, the ones who bash gays and blacks, the ones who watch Fox News, the people who date their cousins and expose themselves to kids at playgrounds, the same ones who drown puppies and put their grandparents in terrible retirement homes. These assholes have power in numbers too.

I would love to set up fake polling stations in U-Hauls in all of the Wal Mart parking lots across the country that say Vote for Trump Here, this way all of the Trump supporters will just cast their votes there and think that they done good. Any person who says they like Trump because he “speaks his mind” is a true idiot, sure he speaks his mind, but every word sucks! There is nothing good in there.

We cannot fight hate with more hate, life is about loving one another and spreading positivity. In order to make the world a better place we cannot feed the snarling monster.

I want to be the first person to hug him when he gets off the airplane, because honestly I feel sorry for anyone who harbors that much hate. He must have been abused as a child, people just don’t come out evil like that, it takes some wrong doing.

Buffalo Feels The Bern
Buffalo Feels The Bern! #Bernlesque

The only way to protest this event is to be peaceful, anything but non-violence and positivity will be counterproductive. We are not like him, we don’t want to incite a riot.

Blocking roads and being disruptive will do nothing but fuel the fire, we cannot egg on or even engage the antagonists. We must make signs and artistic displays that show our dedication to community and freedom in general.

Like other Trump rallies I am sure there will be a designated area to protest, which I still think is ridiculous. I want to go inside, because I know I can as white person. Racial profiling at the gates and blatant abuse of anyone who “defies” Trump is rampant at these events. People are getting pepper sprayed and physically harmed due to the color of their skin or the clothes they are wearing.

This is the point where my white privilege can be allow me to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sure, I would love to dress in full drag and burst in with a super soaker full of fake blood and shower ol’ Donny with a Gwar style Buffalo welcome, but again we have to be smart about things.

We have to have power in numbers and create a positive environment of peace, tell him NO, this is not going down in my city, my country, my planet! Together we can stop him. Stay safe and stand together! Love is the only answer.

trump rally chicago protest

On Friday night, protesters successfully disrupted a rally for Republican presidential frontrunnner Donald Trump. When the race-baiting businessman realized that anti-Trump activists made up roughly half the crowd, he cancelled the event. Then he went on the offensive. Predictably Twitter moaning about freedom of speech:

First, Trump clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, that the right to free speech enshrined in the US Constitution (the states doesn’t have hate speech laws like we do in Canada, where Trump could probably be charged) doesn’t work that way. As this civil rights and constitutional lawyer pointed out:

What is really ironic, though, and what would really be tragic if Trump ever ended up in the White House, is that his recent rally rhetoric promotes an attack on the very constitutional right he claims he was denied on Friday.

Trump’s “Good Old Days” Were All About Suppressing Free Speech

Over the past few weeks, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to attack protesters more and more. As Rachel Maddow and others pointed out, this was most likely a deliberate attempt to provoke violence so he could claim he was the victim.

What is the most troubling about his rhetoric are his constant references to the “good old days” where there were “consequences” for protesting and protesters would most likely be “carried out on a stretcher.” To be clear, Trump misses the use of state violence to stifle dissent, to stifle free speech.

While his hypocrisy is palpable, so is the (perhaps willful) ignorance of his supporters. That they can claim to support a right while championing someone who seeks to repress it, most likely in a brutal manner, when in power, is stunning.

It’s About the People Rising Up, Not Politics

By Saturday, Trump had already named a culprit: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. This was based, at least on the surface, on the fact that some of the protestors inside the event were vocally supportive of the Vermont Senator and completely ignored all the other protestors inside and the thousands in the student-led demo outside.

For his part, Sanders responded the best way he possibly could:

“As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests. What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama.”

In response, Trump threatened to send his followers into a Sanders rally and now the story has basically turned into Trump versus Bernie, at least in the mainstream press. While this will help Sanders in the upcoming primaries, especially given Hillary Clinton’s lack of support for the protesters, it distracts from what is really at play here: that a group of protester, mostly people of colour, were able to stop a Donald Trump bigot love-in.

Maybe Trump can’t fathom or admit the truth, so blaming a well-organized political machine is the only way out. I think, though, that admitting it wasn’t a power play but rather a play against power makes it impossible to deny that it is the protesters who are on the side of freedom of speech.

Donald Trump’s rights were not violated Friday night, he was in the power position while seeking a greater power position. But if he becomes President, you can believe he will do his best to eliminate the right of free speech through protest for everyone.

Berta Caceres 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient

This week will go down in history as the week in which our Canadian government discovered the solution to climate change: an increase in CO2 emissions will save the planet! The brilliant idea  is that the growth of the oil and gas sector will pay for our Green Transition. 

Climate Change shenanigans were all a problem of perspective. For so many years we were just looking at it the wrong way. It’s now obvious that the biggest polluters in the world were just asking for a concrete way to contribute and a listening ear.

Thankfully our new prime minister was capable of enlightening us all, and bridging public and private interests together. After all, it’s a known fact that problems are always best resolved by the initiative and the savvy of the private sector.

Case in point, one of the biggest problems multinational Canadian mining and energy corporations were confronted with was named Berta Cáceres, a renowned political leader and Honduran environmental activist. Her struggle to uphold indigenous rights, to put a hold on the destruction and pillage of Honduras, was put to a brutal end this week.

In this case the ingenuity, the constant push for innovation, private initiative and all those buzzwords at the heart of what makes the private sector the most competent problem solver, were missing. Apparently within the entrepreneurial world , simplicity is virtue: hire a bunch of thugs to ransack the person’s house, use the centuries old technique of cold steal and assassinate a dissenting voice in cold blood. Problem solved.

Although the death of Berta Cáceres, her activism and the struggle she ultimately gave her life for, unfolded thousands of kilometers from Canada, her death couldn’t be closer to home. The implications of her life struggle and its brutal end weigh heavily on the Canadian government and Canadian foreign policy.

Her blood indelibly stains Canada’s conscience, like the deaths of so many other activists killed in the name of private interests. First of all, it was Canadian corporate interests that she was at odds with and campaigned against.

The role of the previous Harper administration in the Honduran coup which ousted Manuel Zelaya, who was in favor of redrawing jurisdiction around foreign mining interests in the country, is unclear. One thing is certain, though: Canadian multinational companies have benefited the most from the trade deal that was signed between the military junta and the Canadian government in 2014.

Careces’s death and struggle sheds light on the unbearable lightness and lethal naïvité manifest in the idea that Climate Change is merely a “scientific” problem. This enables the idea that with the right equations, calculations, mechanisms put forward by the private sector the question of Climate Change will be resolved.

The abstraction of the talk about climate change revolving around targets and fancy conferences, with standing ovations, blueprints filled with buzzwords like “incentives” and “corporate solutions” and “private sector initiatives” omits the most important factor of climate change: its inherent violence. Climate change when disembedded from the social and geopolitical factors is seen at a fraction of its face value, as a scientific phenomenon, at best an environmental process, but not as a whole, as an environmental process that enables and fosters a social and geopolitical process.

The violent death of Berta Careces and the 100 plus deaths of environmental activists in Latin America, Africa and Asia are the figurative manifestations of the violence inherent to Climate Change. We know that indigenous communities and populations within the “global south” will be tenfold affected by the disasters brought about by environmental deregulation. It is also embodied by large scale violence employed in the commodification of resources and diverse natural environments.

Yet the discourse of Trudeau & co, of the COP 21 and similar conferences, sanitizes the horrific violence that is at the heart of Climate Change. It creates an unintelligible discourse that silences and ostracizes the voices of those most affected by it.

This “scientific” discourse that sees Climate Change merely as a warming of few degrees here and there, a rise in sea levels, a destruction of ecosystems, doesn’t take notice of the underlying social-historical structures, systemic racism and neocolonialism that make the bed for Climate Change as an environmental phenomenon to exist.

Without tackling the power structures that feed-off Climate Change: neocolonialism, racism, imperialism, there will be no solution.

The vision Trudeau champions, that the private sector offers the best solution to climate change, is the direct cause of Berta Cáceres’ death and the death of several hundred environmental activists and entire communities throughout the globe.

Justice for Berta Cáceres! protest in Washington, DC (image by Slowking4 via WikiMedia Commons)
Justice for Berta Cáceres! protest in Washington, DC (image by Slowking4 via WikiMedia Commons)

The private sector solution to Climate Change is that of giving a price to nature. The idea is as simple as it is flawed: a price tag to everything in nature, to the natural beauty of beach, the existence of species, the natural habitat of an indigenous community, will somehow help to preserve it.

This opens the door to the commodification of nature which allows for speculation, the creation of derivatives and other innovative financial products. Ultimately the usefulness, the value, of a given ecosystem or a species or the livelihood of a community, of a culture will be determined by how it fairs on the stock exchange.

This idea of “price tagging” nature coexists alongside two other private sector innovations: cap and trade, which relies on the dispossession on a massive scale of communities within the global south to function and the continued pillage of resources to satisfy the cult of perpetual and masturbatory growth.

As long as the cult of growth is upheld, so will the constant commodification of all living things, the massive disenfranchisement and continued violence, the continued mobilization of neocolonial, racist and imperialist attitudes and ideologies be upheld as well. A poignant example is the racist rhetoric used by the “decayists” of pseudo-intellectual European right, towards Syrian refugees.

In Disaster Apartheid: A World of Green Zones and Red Zones, the last chapter of The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein refers to the idea that the neoliberal shock doctrine is reshaping the world in its image, dicing up the world into Green Zones (reference to the Green Zone in Baghdad) and Red Zones. There’s a relationship of domination between these zones; for Green Zones to exist there must be Red Zones.

For Canada and the rest of the “global north” to theorize a way to salvage the capitalist system and the cult of growth, many more Berta Cáceres’ must die. For the corporate Green Transition to work, the disenfranchisement of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities within Canada must continue, the denial of their rights to auto-determination must be upheld.

Cáceres’ blood wasn’t shed in vain. Like the hundreds of environmental activists that have died before her, Cáceres knew that within the struggle against Climate Change exists the extraordinary potential to dissolve the toxic power structures, the structures of domination, of oppression, that are the biggest polluters in the history of humanity.

* Featured image: GoldmanPrize.org

katie nelson

Last Wednesday, so-called “pickup artist” and advocate of legal rape on private property Roosh V announced that the “global meetups” his Return of Kings group had been planning were cancelled. Some Montreal-based feminists including Katie Nelson didn’t buy it one bit. They tracked down where the still-on meetup was taking place and on Saturday confronted the local organizer and saw to it that the event wasn’t going to happen.

In this audio interview (which will be included in our next podcast’s panel discussion available on Wednesday), Nelson speaks with FTB’s Jason C. McLean about Saturday night, why it’s important not to ignore Roosh and people like him, the master doxxer getting doxxed himself by Anonymous and Roosh’s beer reception in Montreal last August:

alan rickman 2

Thursday we got news of the passing of theatre and film legend Alan Rickman, just days after fellow Brit artist David Bowie lost his battle with cancer, Rickman succumbed to the disease at the same age, 69.

The internet was flooded once again with tributes, condolences, anecdotes and information on lesser-known parts of Rickman’s legacy.

Emma Watson, one of his Harry Potter co-stars, tweeted about how sad she was to hear he had passed and how lucky she was to have met and worked with him. She also tweeted some of his quotes, including one on feminism:

That didn’t sit well with some who took to Twitter to argue that Watson was somehow exploiting Rickman’s death to push her own agenda. While these people are clearly trolls, they also don’t know Alan Rickman as much as they may think. He was a very mainstream movie star, but he was also quite vocal about his progressive politics.

Die Hard with a Social Conscience

For most people, Alan Rickman was and will always be Snape in the Harry Potter films. For me, though, he will always be Hans Gruber, the German leader of a group of high-tech thieves masquerading as terrorists in the original Die Hard (not going to say spoiler alert on a movie released in 1988).

This was also Rickman’s introduction to Hollywood film acting. At age 41, he was already an established stage actor and agreed to play Gruber for one main reason, which I first learned about yesterday: the film’s treatment of its black characters:

“Every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent. So, 28 years ago, that’s quite revolutionary, and quietly so.”
– Alan Rickman in The Guardian

Playing Gruber turned Rickman into a movie star, but becoming top Hollywood talent didn’t turn off his desire to do things artistically for the right reason, even if it meant not playing it safe career-wise. This became crystal clear in 2005.

My Name is Rachel Corrie

American-born Rachel Corrie travelled to the Gaza Strip in 2003 as part of the International Solidarity Movement. The 23-year-old was there to protest Israel’s illegal demolition of Palestinian houses. An Israeli soldier ran over her with an American-made bulldozer, killing her.

Two years later, Rickman and Katharine Viner, a writer and editor at The Guardian (now its editor-in-chief) compiled writings in Corrie’s diary and emails she sent back home to the states and turned them into a one-woman play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, which Rickman directed. It was a success when it first opened in England at London’s Royal Court Theatre and in other places including Haifa.

The New York Theatre Workshop had planned to stage the US premier of the play Off Broadway, but “postponed” it after pressure from Zionist groups. Rickman didn’t accept that and got quite vocal in the media:

“Calling this production ‘postponed’ does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled. This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences — all of us are the losers…Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard.”
-Alan Rickman

alan rickman rachel corrieRickman and Viner, with support from Rachel’s parents Craig and Cindy Corrie, coordinated a global series of readings called Rachel’s Words. Full disclosure, I was part of the Montreal event which combined readings of Corrie’s emails and diary entries with a verbatim theatre retelling of what happened with the New York production.

My Name is Rachel Corrie did eventually open in New York properly in 2006 at the Minetta Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village. It also ran in Montreal presented by Teesri Duniya in 2007 and the same production moved to Vancouver in 2008. It is still being performed around the world, the most recent staging happening in 2015.

Now think about this for a moment. The whole time that Rickman was busy editing, directing and eventually fighting for a play that he believed in by standing up for both a work of art and Palestinian solidarity, something that could cause him problems with some potential audiences, he was also starring in and doing promo for uber-mainstream Harry Potter blockbusters.

Talk about multitasking. Talk about dedication to a cause no matter what else is going on in your life. Rickman embraced his celebrity status but didn’t let it prevent him from doing the work he knew needed to be done.

While most will remember Snape, Gruber and his other unforgettable roles, it is important to also remember Alan Rickman’s work on My Name is Rachel Corrie and the fact that he was a man of principle who brought his progressive beliefs to his work. That’s what he would want us to remember.

RIP Alan Rickman (1946-2016)