In the Face of the Courts
This statement is to those who identify with struggle and who understand the dangers of playing into the hands of the state. A friend to many – Girr Rowley – made a bad choice in the course of his court process, and it is with sadness that we convey now the story and what it means to us.
Girr was identified in November, 2010, as having smashed a window in downtown Toronto during the anti-G20 protests that were taking place there. He was charged with public endangerment, masked with intent, and mischief under $5000. After more than a year of court process, Girr pled guilty to all charges.
During his sentencing hearing on January 27, 2012, the defense (Girr) was asked to agree to a Statement of Fact*. In this submission, Girr was portrayed in photos with other demonstrators. Some were masked and some were not. The prosecution (Crown) speculated the identity of one masked demonstrator, and asked the defense to confirm their identity. Girr made it clear that if he was to agree to the Statement of Fact, it had to be with consent to the person implicated. Girr’s Lawyer, Davin Charney, consulted with the other defendant’s lawyer (but not the defendent themself), and assured Girr that there would be no legal repercussions if Girr confirmed this other person’s identity. As for Charney, his background as a radical lawyer and community member gave Girr every reason to believe him. A week later, Girr was sentenced to nine months in jail.
Whether or not Girr’s action will have legal consequences for the other person, he did identify them in photos without their direct consent. This amounts to a level of cooperation with the State that we, as an organization, cannot support, and therefore Guelph ABC will not be providing support to Girr.
Many mistakes were made. Both Charney and the other defendant’s lawyer thought it was appropriate to make decisions on behalf of someone without consulting them. The “statement of fact” shouldn’t have gone through without a fight. Girr made a mistake by identifying someone else in court without their direct consent.
We recognize this situation for what it is and for what it is not. Our community is still recovering from a two year undercover police operation, and the exposure of long-term paid informants. Clearly, Girr’s cooperation is nowhere near the same level as these informants. Cooperation isn’t black and white. There is a spectrum, and many people fall into a grey area of cooperating in court without desiring to do so. Girr did not benefit, or think he was going to, for allowing this information to be submitted in court. None of this excuses these actions, but rather gives us motivation to effectively resist these manipulations in the future.
This is not the first time that people facing G20 charges have fallen into similar grey areas.
Court is designed to disempower people and make them dependent on lawyers and judges. There is no “self-representation” in canadian law; there is only representation and non-representation. Lawyers are trained to reduce time served for their clients. They are not trained to uphold their moral fabric, or to take co-accused or other people’s needs into account. Girr’s mistake shows us that when we are not prepared to be solid in the face of the courts, or even in the face of our own lawyers, our principles risk being compromised. It is fundamentally important that we learn to be unwavering in the face of courts, be vigilant in the face of lawyer maneuvering, and be sure to always keep our principles at heart.
Sometimes assumptions are made about what constitutes state cooperation, and what the appropriate reactions to that are. We encourage people to interpret the facts carefully, and to recognize that Girr is currently serving a prison term. Keep in mind that Girr is sitting in jail right now and throwing around loaded words could endanger his safety.
Given this interpretation of events that led to Girr cooperating, we encourage individuals to decide whether or not to offer support throughout Girr’s incarceration. Many comrades here will still be supporting him. It is our responsibility to learn together about how to resist our principles being compromised within the court process. Let us not be led into a trap that we don’t see coming.
Solidarity, In Unwavering Struggle,