Supporting Unfree Friends…RBC Arson Update

-this is a repost from the Ottawa Movement Defense List-serve–

Honouring Unfree Friends
Prison solidarity for man charged in RBC arson

http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/3813

by Sara Falconer

TORONTO—It’s two days before Christmas, and it’s Matthew
Morgan-Brown’s birthday. It’s hard for him to celebrate, however; his
friend, Roger Clement, is being transferred to Millhaven Institution,
where he will begin serving the rest of his three-year, six-month
sentence for the firebombing of a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch in
Ottawa in May 2010. No one has heard from Clement for over a week,
which isn’t unusual during transfers, but that doesn’t make it any
easier for Morgan-Brown.

“It’s that time of year,” Morgan-Brown says. “It’s difficult to be
separated from family and friends.”

Clement, a 58-year-old retired civil service employee, is well known
to local activists from years of social justice organizing. He was
sentenced on December 7, 2010, having pled guilty to the RBC arson, as
well as breaking windows and ATMs at a different branch in February
2010. It’s an unusually harsh sentence for property damage crimes,
given that both the defense and Crown attorneys acknowledged he took
great care to eliminate any possible injury to people.

Morgan-Brown’s own arson and mischief charges in the May 18 RBC
firebombing were stayed due to lack of evidence. He is now taking an
active role in Ottawa Movement Defense (OMD), a group originally
formed to support the three people arrested on June 18: himself,
Joseph Roger Clement, and Claude Haridge. Haridge, who was never
charged with arson but with careless storage and handling of
ammunition, had his final day in court postponed in December 2010.

In addition to returning to his job at Ontario Public Interest
Research Group (OPIRG)-Ottawa and devoting his spare time to OMD,
Morgan-Brown says he is grappling with the psychological scars of the
arrest and months of uncertainty. “I often put my emotions on hold,
and then try to find time to deal with them later,” he says. “It’s
just not a skill that I have. I don’t know how to deal with what
happened. I know that it was a traumatic experience.

“It was also a learning experience. It was the first time I’d ever
been in prison…other than two or three days when I challenged some
conditions I’d been given. That was scary in itself, not knowing what
was going on, what it would be like. I’d be a lot more prepared if I
had to go to prison again.”

Morgan-Brown spent two months inside, including the addition of a
20-day sentence for participating in a Barriere Lake First Nation
blockade on Highway 117 in 2008. Algonquins from that impoverished
community in north-western Quebec are struggling to protect their land
and environmental resources.

Morgan-Brown has long been an active member of Indigenous Peoples
Solidarity Movement (IPSM)-Ottawa, a grassroots organization that
directly supports Indigenous peoples in diverse struggles for justice.
“Not being able to organize was really shitty. It’s very important to
me,” says Morgan-Brown, who had limited communications with colleagues
due to his bail conditions. “The day they lifted my conditions I
started organizing again.”

His number one priority these days is supporting his friend Roger
Clement. Morgan-Brown encourages activists to write to Clement and
connect with him, as a way of showing support. “[Clement is] quite
limited about what he can say,” he says. “I expect that he feels he
can’t comment about his politics, which I know are super-important to
him.”

One way to honour Clement, Morgan-Brown says, is to learn about and
discuss subjects that are important to him. As a communist, he is
passionate about the Cuban revolution. “I know that he’d like to see
people becoming engaged, learning about different issues,” says
Morgan­-Brown. “He’d be happy if people were finding out about what’s
going on in Cuba now and how to support [the Cuban people].” In this
way, supporters can keep Clement involved in everyday organizing and
dialogue.

As with writing to any prisoners, it’s extremely important not to
speculate about illegal activities, or to act on behalf of a prisoner
without their guidance. “He’s got a parole board hearing coming up,”
Morgan­-Brown cautions.

Complicating matters, the issue of police infiltration in Ottawa
activist groups has been a source of rampant rumours. “As far as we
know from the disclosure the lawyer saw, and from what we heard in
[our] bail hearing, there’s no evidence he was involved in either of
the actions Roger pled guilty to,” says Morgan-Brown.

Meanwhile, Morgan-Brown still finds it challenging to speak freely,
although a publication ban on the case has finally been lifted. He’s
on a relatively short leash, as his charges have only been stayed, not
dismissed; the Crown still has a year in which it can reinstate them.
“It’s definitely something I’m more mindful of than I usually am,” he
says. “Hopefully I can find something positive in it, step back in
certain situations where I would usually step forward, and encourage
people to take on roles that I enjoy.” An avid public speaker, he is
working to help other group members develop those skills.

Morgan-Brown was already familiar with prison issues through his
activist work, but witnessing first-hand the ways in which
imprisonment is so blatantly tied to race and class, he says, was
eye-opening. “So many guys were in there just because they didn’t have
the resources to get bail.”

Moving forward, Morgan-Brown aims to link his Indigenous solidarity
and prisoner justice work more closely, starting with support for
people arrested from Barriere Lake. “There are so many Indigenous
people in the criminal justice system, and so many people being
arrested for resistance,” he says. “I feel more emotionally connected
to prisoners than I did [before], and I hope that Ottawa Movement
Defense will find a way of connecting with other people who are
supporting political prisoners, and the G8/G20 defendants.”

Sara Falconer is a Toronto-based journalist. She helps publish Certain
Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar and is a member of
Toronto Anarchist Black Cross, which produces http://www.4strugglemag.org, a
zine of analysis by and for political prisoners.

For more information about supporting Clement and Haridge, visit
http://www.exilebooks.org/en/links/ottawa-movement-defense.

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Dr.Joey Only will knock you out...and do it with country music!!! HIYAAAAAA!! View all posts by joeyonly

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