Monday 15 September 2008

War Resister Rally and March, Toronto

Saturday was the rally and march in support of the US war resisters. It was a national event—with people getting together to show their support all over the country. In Toronto, we met at “Lake Devo” on the Ryerson campus, where we heard from the campaign organizers, local politicians and a few of the resisters.

war resister walk 20080913-140452_0056.JPGJeremy Hinzman, who is due to be deported in 8 days, spoke to the crowd about how—if his latest appeal will not be heard in court and he is sent back to the US and court martialed—he will be proud to go to jail rather than kill people in Iraq, or even participate in the machinery that allows Americans to kill Iraqis. Jeremy's application to become a conscientious objector was twice denied by the American military; how the military could deny that Hinzman is indeed a conscientious objector is mind boggling.

war resister walk 20080913-141830_0074.JPGThe people gathered at Lake Devo were a diverse and interesting bunch, holding aloft some creative and even literary signage. The two most popular slogans were “War Resisters Welcome Here” and “Stop Harper from Deporting War Resisters”; and as we marched down Yonge St to the drumming of Samba Elegua (which was incredibly energizing, not to mention attention-grabbing), the chanting of the crowd took on a similarly partisan tone. The most popular chant was “Resisters In! Harper Out!” The public we passed in their cars or on the sidewalks was largely receptive, except for one or two individuals in SUVs who shouted pro-Harper slogans as we marched past.

Escorted by a huge number of police on bikes, we made our way to the US consulate on University Ave, where we heard the campaign organizers speak and outline the plan of action for the following 10 days before Jeremy's possible deportation. The campaign handed out window signs and urged everyone to put them up and talk to as many people as possible about the resisters. Write to newspapers. Write to MPs. Use the election to get this issue more attention. Don't let Harper quietly undermine Canada's long-held reputation as a peacekeeping nation.

war resister walk 20080913-143405_0106.JPGMake no mistake; despite the fact that these soldiers signed up for military service, there is grave injustice going on here. If (or when) Jeremy is court martialled upon his return to the US, he will first be imprisoned for up to five years. When he gets out of jail, it will be with a dishonourable discharge. He will be unable to apply for most jobs, unable to apply for a mortgage or a student loan. Keep in mind that this is a man who did his best to abide by his conscience while still working within the military system. He did not just desert and take off to Canada; Canada was his last resort after he'd already been denied conscientious objector status and had been to Afghanistan as a non-combatant.

If you feel, as I do, that this issue is yet another symptom of the deceptive self-interest inflicted upon us by Harper and his Canadian neo-cons, please talk to your friends about the resisters. Write to your local papers. Write to your MPs. I will happily share the letter I am sending to my MP with anyone who will use it to write their own letter. If you feel passionate about Canada's role in the world as peace-keeper, don't let Harper slip this subtle move toward militarism under the radar.

Click to see more pictures of the event."

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