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   Toronto Citizen Weapons Inspectors Declared Guilty


Toronto Citizen Weapons Inspectors Declared Guilty

TORONTO, AUGUST 1, 2003—Eight citizen weapons inspectors were declared guilty of trespassing and fined $75 in Ontario Provincial Court for their role in a nonviolent action at military manufacturer Northrop Grumman/Litton Systems Canada. The action, which took place on January 20 (Martin Luther King Day), was organized by Homes not Bombs. The event was designed to show that while US weapons inspectors had gained unfettered access to suspected weapons facilities in Baghdad, Canadians were hauled away in handcuffs for undertaking similar actions at home.

Even before the trial began, it was clear that this was no ordinary day in the provincial court. Access, normally smooth, was slowed up only at court 701, site for the trial, as all spectators and defendants were searched with airport-style security equipment.

Matthew Behrens provided a defense summation to the court, pointing out that in a variety of Homes not Bombs acquittals, judges of the Ontario court have concluded time and again that protests should not only be allowed, but encouraged. In such a context, he asked, how can peaceful protests be encouraged if they are met with arrests, charges, and the potential for a fine, in this instance, as high as $2,000?

The defence summation continued with cases based on defense of necessity--that the action was necessary as part of the worldwide condemnation of the impending escalation of the war. The Crown's reply was that the activists had no right to be there, because the corporation is private, and what it does is legal.

All defendants were found guilty. The sentence was a $75 fine.

Behrens stood up and addressed the judge. "We again have an inkling of how difficult it must have been for German citizens to hold to account their own regime, whose courts were the legal arm of genocide at Auschwitz and Dachau,” he said. “You should read your Nuremberg Principles." The judge ordered Behrens to be removed from the court.

Though the defendants lost their case, as they walked past the windows of the court clerk's office, a group of young women who had been in court for the first part of our trial during their lunch breaks stood and applauded.

“They had gotten the message and were very supportive of the concept that one must do everything one can to stop mass murder,” said one of the convicted activists in a letter to the press, “and that things like the Nuremberg Principles are not simply words on paper, but laws which should be respected and adhered to.”

Homes not Bombs’ address is P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0; e-mail or call (416)651-5800.

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This story was published on August 15, 2003.
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