About / Joel / Kevin

Via Group Affect: The G20 Five and an Interview with Guelph Anarchist Black Cross

Our comrade Dane Rossman is currently locked up at Toronto West Detention Centre in Ontario, Canada. Dane was extradited June 14th, after being held without bail since February 21st at the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence, Arizona. Another comrade, Joel Bitar, is currently free on bail in New York, awaiting the start of his trial in Toronto. They are both facing heavy fines and prison time for their alleged participation in breaking windows during the 2010 G20 in Toronto. They are among five Americans that Canada has sought to extradite for such offenses, along with Kevin Chianella, Quinn McCormic, and Richard Dean Morano.

While extradition for vandalism is incredibly rare, it is not entirely unheard-of. In January, a Mexican man was extradited to Houston, Texas for spray-painting “CONQUISTA” on Picasso’s Woman in Red Armchair. And Singapore, which drew international attention in 1994 for caning an American citizen convicted of vandalism, is currently seeking to extradite a British national for his participation in spray-painting a subway car.

The G20 Five are accused of having caused between $700,000 to $1,000,000 in damages. For Canadian prosecutors, these huge sums of money seem to be the main justification for this international procedure. The higher number exceeds the $750,000 estimate reported by a glazier to the Star, and approaches half the $2.5 million estimate testified by Detective Sergeant Giroux at parliamentary committee as the total losses for private and public property damage and lost wages.

Bitar alone, facing 26 counts of mischief, is accused of damaging at least $375,000 worth of property–all related to an alleged pickaxe assault on the windows of a Canadian Imperial bank building that took “less than 30 seconds to commit,” according to Detective Giroux. Chianella is being charged with a comparably high amount in damages. As far as G20 vandals go, Girioux says, “the two Americans [Bitar and Chianella] are at the top of the list.” Rossman might appear much further down Giroux’s “list.” He faces only three counts, and an estimated $10,000-$15,000 in damages.

The American suspects were targeted based on investigations that involved compiling private surveillance, citizen and journalist footage from the riots, the monitoring of the suspects’ social networks, and the implementation of new facial recognition software donated by the Canadian Banker’s Association. Although all of the suspects were well-masked, the prosecution will attempt to match particulars in their clothing to later, unmasked images of the protesters. To date, the use of this sort of evidence has convinced Canadian juries most of the time, but some have been found innocent.

Aside from the property destruction, Giroux stresses that the broken windows could have injured Canadian citizens. Joel Bitar’s support committee released a statement that responds to this claim, saying: “Governments claim that property damage somehow endangers the lives of citizens, all the while their police and military forces brutalize and kill people at home and abroad that they deem undesirable—non-citizens.”

The vast majority of those injured during the G20, for instance, were protesters who were inhumanely treated, beaten, and verbally humiliated following the mass arrests which occurred during the summit. In May of last year several senior police commanders were charged for a variety of offenses regarding their conduct during the G20. 28 other officers were charged as well. Ironically, the Toronto Police Union attempted to have these charges thrown out due to “lengthy delays.”

After the mayhem, many in the reputably nice city of Toronto questioned if the troublemakers could really be Canadian. The riots in Vancouver against the Olympics in February 2010, and again following the Canucks’ Stanley Cup loss in June 2011, as well as 2012’s several-month long student unrest in Quebec seem to answer that question. Nonetheless, Giroux seems to be playing close to that narrative, saying the Americans were “the worst of the worst. They came with a specific purpose in mind. We’ve never seen anything like that here.”

While the events in Vancouver and Montreal may have slipped Giroux’s mind, the Canadian State is no less paranoid of its population than the U.S. is of theirs. With their monitoring and prosecution of G20 protesters, the mass arrests during the summit, the ongoing surveillance of First Nations activists, with Bill 78 enacted to suppress last years’ student protests in Quebec, and the recent enactment of an anti-mask law that could put protesters in prison for 10 years, we’re reminded of a trend similar to the United States’ coordinated suppression during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Once in custody, Rossman, for example, was interrogated by the FBI about his political affiliations in New York and Florida. Bitar was likewise questioned by Homeland Security before a flight last year. Giroux confirmed he had worked closely with the FBI in monitoring and apprehending the suspects.

Read the full post, with Interview on year0.org