CANADA

Clenched fists in court

MALCOLM GRAY February 7 1983
CANADA

Clenched fists in court

MALCOLM GRAY February 7 1983

Clenched fists in court

BRITISH COLUMBIA

The hallway outside Vancouver’s provincial courtroom 101 resembled a cross between a demonstration and an airport security check last week as 200 spectators—friends, family, reporters and simply the curious-lined up for the appearance of five people accused of terrorist activities and a sabotage conspiracy. Half the crowd failed to get in. Those who did had to undergo a body frisk and electronic scanning before they entered the 115-seat courtroom.

The young defendants face charges that include the bombings last year of a B.C. Hydro substation, which caused $4.5 million in damages, and arson attacks on three stores selling adult videotapes. The accused are Brent Taylor, 26, Gerald Hannah, 26, Ann Brit Hansen, 29, Juliette Belmas, 20 (all sharing the same house in New Westminster), and Douglas Stewart, 25, of Vancouver. They seemed unconcerned by the heavy security surrounding their appearance in court and hugged each other, mouthed messages to friends in the packed courtroom and gave clenchedfist salutes. They were not in court long—it took only 12 minutes for defence lawyers to obtain an adjournment to Feb. 21 so that they could get the details of the case against their clients. As the defendants were led back to jail, Hansen turned and shouted, “Be strong and resist,” drawing cheers and applause from most of the crowd.

The five face charges that include: conspiring to attack an icebreaker being built for Gulf Oil in North Vancouver; conspiring to attack the Canadian Forces base at Cold Lake, Alta, (proposed testing site of the U.S. cruise missile); another alleged conspiracy to rob a Brink’s armored car; and allegedly possessing explosives, stolen goods and weapons.

The five were moved to provincial prisons from Vancouver police cells after defence lawyers said that Toronto detectives were harassing their clients in interrogation cells with questions about the Oct. 14 bombing of a Litton Systems plant which injured seven people. Before he left the courtroom, the bearded, dark-haired Taylor joined Hansen in gesturing to the crowd. “Lively up yourselves,” he shouted, raising a clenched fist in the air as he quoted a song by Bob Marley and the Wailers, formerly one of the most politicized reggae groups in Jamaica.

Taylor himself is perhaps the best known of the five defendants, who were active in causes that included feminism, native and prisoners’ rights, environ-

mental issues and the movement to ban nuclear weapons. He grew up in the wealthy Victoria community of Oak Bay and is remembered by high school teachers there as an above-average student interested in rugby, music and skiing. On Nov. 29,1977, he drew attention to himself by hitting Opposition Leader Joe Clark in the back of the head with a cream pie at a time when self-styled anarchists were regularly hitting politicians with pies in Vancouver. Taylor —he was not charged in the pie incident —identified himself on that occasion as a member of the New Questioning Coyote Brigade. Twelve days before the pie-

throwing incident he had joined the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada militia regiment in Vancouver, turning out for Tuesday evening parades for almost a year before he decided to quit in 1978. In 1981 he attended public meetings with his girlfriend, Ann Hansen, to discuss opposition to B.C. Hydro’s since-shelved plans to build a coal-burning generating station on Hat Creek, near Lillooet in the B.C. Interior.

Hansen, who was active in attending antinuclear demonstrations, wrote for the early editions of Bulldozer, a paper published by a Toronto organization dedicated to protecting the rights of prisoners. Before moving to Vancouver in 1982, Hansen also wrote for the To-

ronto Clarion, a left-wing monthly newspaper.

The other pair sharing the rented house with Hansen and Taylor —Gerald Hannah and Juliette Belmas—both grew up in the Vancouver area. Before Hannah became “Gerry Useless,” the bass guitar player in the Subhumans, a now defunct punk rock group he helped form in 1978, he went to Burnaby North Senior Secondary School. He left school in 1974 after failing to complete Grade 11. Rick Zimmerman, a boyhood friend, remembers him as a teenager absorbed in science fiction. “He became interested in music in high school and always had some band or other going,” Zimmerman said. “He had quite low marks and wasn’t academic at all.”

Hannah’s girlfriend, Belmas, the youngest of the defendants, went to school in Port Coquitlam before graduating from Argyle Secondary School in North Vancouver in 1980. Belmas’ older brother Peter, a television technician at a station in Reno, Nev., described his sister as a bright, intense girl, eager to try out her arguments on feminism and nuclear disarmament on him. “Half the time I used to play devil’s advocate to test her beliefs but most of the time I agreed with her positions,” Belmas said. He was not as enthusiastic about her preference for punk fashions, including cropping her hair and dyeing it pink last summer before allowing it to grow out to its normal brown color. The fifth defendant, Douglas David Stewart, is also from Vancouver, but little is known about him except that he has participated in antinuclear demonstrations for the past two years.

The arrests and the display of weapons and explosives captured by police stunned peaceable activists who oppose massive hydro projects, pornography and nuclear weapons but who do not approve of bombings to express opposition. Many activists object to the expropriation of the term Direct Action, the heading on two communiqués justifying the Toronto Litton and B.C. Hydro bombings: it is a phrase that normally refers to people’s attempts to take control of their own lives through less violent methods, such as forming food coops. “Despite what the police and the news media seem to think, nobody has the DA [Direct Action] franchise in B.C.,” grumbled the anarchist publication B.C. Blackout. The police, for their part, appear to have sanctioned a kind of indirect action. For example, they have not yet explained why surveillance of the suspects, which was in place before three Red Hot Video stores were attacked on Nov. 22, was not in place around the clock at the time when the stores were fire-bombed.

-MALCOLM GRAY in Vancouver, with Carol Bruman in Toronto.