Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerrilla (pdf)
For those who struggle so our planet can flourish;
for those whose names may never be known.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s there was in Canada a large anarchist community that was particularly active in the prison abolition, feminist, Native, environmental, and Third World solidarity movements. While still working within these movements, some anarchists began to adopt direct action tactics that went beyond the legal boundaries defined by the state. They took up direct action not because they couldn’t control their rage, but as part of a long-term strategy to build a revolutionary movement that would be beyond the control of corporations and the state. An even smaller group within this movement decided to start a guerrilla campaign — going underground to avoid possible arrest and imprisonment. I was part of a guerrilla group that we called Direct Action. I have reconstructed my story of Direct Action’s militant campaign based on my own recollections and using court documents and newspaper articles. Despite my best attempts to tell this story as though I were holding up a mirror to the time period, I do recognize the limitations of my memory, time, and the available documents. Inevitably my account of the details of events, and my presentation of the thoughts and emotions that I ascribe to people, have been guided by and represent my own interpretations. I have used the real names of the people involved in Direct Action because their participation in these events is part of the public record. But I have changed the names of many secondary characters not only to protect their identities but also because I have re-created conversations, thoughts, and emotions in order to tell a more complete story. One major character, “Wayne Fraser,” is a composite based on a real police intelligence officer involved in the investigation and surveillance of Direct Action. 1 fictionalized his character in order to create a counterpoint to our group’s unfolding campaign. The other policemen’s actions and characters are also based on real people, but their names too have been changed. “Rose Gibralter” is also a composite character created to provide more information about the popular legal struggle against the construction of the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir power line. I used the real names of the Litton bombing victims and the various anticruise missile protesters (chapters 28, 30, 35) because their comments come directly from newspaper articles and are therefore a matter of public record. Although I have tried to present the details of the main events surrounding the conversations involving Brent Taylor, Doug Stew art, Julie Belmas, Gerry Hannah, and myself as accurately as possible, I have re-created the conversations based on memory. Chapters 38 to 44, however, include largely verbatim conversations taken from transcripts of the RCMP wiretaps provided to us during our trial. Since the stack of papers from the wiretaps is about a foot high, I have had to edit the conversations, but in doing so I tried to remain true to the spirit and intent of the originals. I believe they give the reader a window into the group dynamic. Chapters 29 and 31, which describe police surveillance, are based on surveillance notes given at the time of our trial to the Crown prosecutor, Jim Jardine, by Corporal Andrew Johnston of the RCMP Security Service. These documents were available to us as part of the legal disclosure that the Crown had to make to our defence lawyers. Thanks go to Maureen Garvie, my writing mentor, who gave me the confidence to write about these events, and also to all the people at Between the Lines, who gave me total freedom to express myself on a taboo topic that most publishers would want to carefully mould in order to create the “right” message. And a special thanks to Brent Taylor, Doug Stewart, Gerry Hannah, and Julie Belmas. They were not involved in writing this book, but they risked the consequences of acting upon their convictions.
Julie Belmas and Ann Hansen, 1983, Oakalla
Ann Hansen stood trial as one of the so-called “Squamish Five.” Sentenced to life in prison, she served seven years. Now she tells her story for the first time. Direct Action captures the excitement and indignation of the counterculture of the early ’80s. Missile tests were fuelling a new arms race. Reckless megaprojects threatened the global environment. Alienation, punk rock, and militancy were on the rise. Hansen and her fellow urban guerrillas believed that sabotaging government and corporate property could help turn things around. To prove their point, they bombed the Litton Systems plant in Toronto, where components for Cruise Missiles were being made. Hansen’s book poses unresolved ethical dilemmas. In light of the recent explosion of anti-globalization protests. Direct Action mirrors the resurgence of militant activity around the world.