by Ann Hansen
Ann Hansen is a former member of Direct Action, an underground anarchist group active in the 1980s, who presently lives as a writer, farmer and public speaker in the Kingston area. On August 3, 2012, Ann was arrested and had her parole suspended for ‘unauthorized associations and political activity’ in the context of growing anti-prison organizing in Kingston, Canada’s prison capital. Ann, with the advice of her lawyer, chose to not publicize her arrest until after her parole hearing. On October 30,the Parole Board canceled her parole suspension and released her on stricter conditions. This is her first public statement regarding her arrest and imprisonment.
On August 3, I was at my home near Kingston, Ontario, sitting in a lawn chair after supper when out of the corner of my eye I saw a line of black SUVs speeding towards our driveway. With a sinking feeling, I realized one of my reoccurring fears as a parolee was becoming a reality. Four SUVs turned into our driveway, slammed on their brakes and out hopped about six to eight cops from the Ontario Provincial Police dressed in full Darth Vader gear with a couple of them brandishing automatic weapons for full dramatic effect. As I struggled to stay calm, I noticed the acronym ROPE (Re-Offenders and Parole Enforcement Squad) in bright yellow blazoned across their bullet proof vests.
They parked askew all over the driveway, and while a couple of them with their fully automatic rifles took positions at the top of our property, the rest walked rapidly up to where I was and handcuffed me without saying a word. I asked the one female cop what this was all about and she said my parole was being suspended.
I spent a few days at the local remand center, Quinte Detention Centre, before a new parole officer (my regular parole officer was suddenly replaced) and a Security Intelligence Officer (SIO) from Correctional Service Canada (CSC) came to see me for a post suspension interview. They spent an hour and a half interrogating me and trying to intimidate me into giving them the names of anyone involved in EPIC (End the Prison Industrial Complex) or any other anti-prison activists, as well as information about any possible “bombings and arsons” which the SIO warned me I would be responsible for “if it all went sideways.” Needless to say, they were not satisfied when I told them I didn’t have names for them. The interview would have made a hilarious Monty Python script with the SIO comparing me at times to Ghandi and then in the next breath to James Holmes, the “joker” who killed twelve people during the Batman film in Colorado. The outcome of the interview wasn’t quite so hilarious.
On August 13, I was transferred to the maximum security unit at Grand Valley Prison for Women in Kitchener. Ten days earlier I had been lounging in my slippers in a lawn chair after supper, and here I was suddenly transformed into a high security federal prisoner who had to be put in leg irons and handcuffs just to be led from the admitting area into one of the pods of the maximum security unit. It was so funny, I felt like crying.
A few weeks later I received parole papers stating that the CSC parole office was “strongly recommending” that my parole be revoked with a long list of reasons why. As I suspected, the library was the scene of the ‘crime;’ I was not charged with any actual crime. The ROPE squad had arrived the day after I had screened a film about Prisoners’ Justice Day (PJD) at the Kingston Public Library. The film was followed by a ‘direct action workshop’ conducted by a lawyer who explained what to expect at a blockade/picket, which was to be held at the entrance to Collins Bay Penitentiary on PJD. These ‘direct action workshops’ have become commonplace globally as training workshops for large scale demonstrations or civil disobedience actions in order to familiarize people with the legality of different kinds of activities. They also teach people how to participate in large consensus decision-making processes, how to interact with the media, what to do if one is arrested and other skills necessary for protests.
The planned Prisoners’ Justice Day blockade/picket of Collins Bay was the most obvious reason why my parole was suspended, but there were many other ‘reasons’ listed based on paranoid suspicions that are not worth the time and effort of explaining. It is worth noting, however, the political context in Ontario, which provides the most logical reasons for my parole suspension. I believe that the reasons for my parole suspension are similar to the G20 Main Conspiracy Group prosecution; that is, ‘preventative security measures’ aimed at arresting people before any ‘illegal act’ is even committed. These kinds of measures are used not only to disrupt political actions but also to have a chilling effect on political resistance in general. They put us on the defensive and force us to fight for our basic rights, which are supposedly entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It could be viewed as a sad day indeed when we are reduced to fight for our basic human rights, but I think it is actually a sign of the strength of our resistance. In the minds of the authorities, they are so threatened by the potential of our movements that they are reduced to trying to pre-empt our organizing efforts by arresting us for going to meetings, speaking out, and demonstrating, which are supposed to be legal activities even in a capitalist society.
I think the back story to the latest rounds of preemptive arrests in Ontario begins in the year leading up to the Toronto G20 Summit in 2010 when undercover cops were embedded in the Guelph and Kitchener/Waterloo anarchist communities. Billions of dollars were spent on police security and intelligence gathering in the year leading up to and including the actual days of demonstrations against the G20 Summit. We see similar police preparations occurring now to counter organizing against the Alberta tar sands and the line nine pipeline reversal in Ontario.
In Kingston, local police forces were no doubt taken by surprise by the sudden emergence of a relatively large and diverse movement to stop the closure of the prison farms in 2009. Prison abolitionists saw this as an opening move to free up land and money at Collins Bay Penitentiary to construct a regional superprison, as outlined in the government’s “Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety.” In August 2010, hundreds of people in Kingston participated in a two-day blockade of the entrance to Collins Bay and Frontenac Institutions to prevent the removal of the prison farm cattle herd. The local cops were not prepared for the size of the movement and had to call in provincial police reinforcements on the second day. There were twenty-four arrests. Local prison abolitionists had also begun organizing against the plans for a massive prison expansion, which by 2012 has translated into the construction of six new prison units in the Kingston area alone.
In the months leading up to August 10, 2012, local prison abolitionists and some people involved in the prison farms campaign worked to organize for Prisoners’ Justice Day. Across the city, posters invited people to participate in an early morning blockade/picket of Collins Bay to halt construction on the new prisons as an act of solidarity with the prisoners fasting and refusing to work inside the walls. In the minds of the cops and CSC, visions of hordes of anarchists and outraged locals danced in their heads. Based on the ludicrous expectations for PJD expressed by the CSC during my Quinte interrogation, I don’t think it would have surprised them if ‘what to their wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.’
For three months I waited for my revocation hearing with the Parole Board. It’s hard to be optimistic inside the maximum security unit where Ashley Smith died, and Nyki Kish waits for her appeal after being convicted of a murder she did not commit. It’s always easier to do time when you have nothing to lose, but in my case I live with two others on a small self-sufficient farm and work with a great community of comrades locally, so I have a lot to lose. In the end the Parole Board released me with stricter conditions on October 30, 2012.
There is no doubt in my mind that I would have spent many more years in prison without the tireless support of a network of friends, family, anarchist allies and a good lawyer. It becomes clear in prison, that all the efforts of the CSC are directed towards isolating the prisoner from their networks of support both inside and outside the walls. I owe my ‘freedom’ to all those who supported me throughout this episode of my life, and I just hope I can reciprocate through my solidarity and by continuing the joyous lifestyle of resistance!!