Leah Henderson

Below you will find the statement that I read to the court, followed by a letter to my community.

Statement read in court at sentencing hearing:
All you need to know about me is that I am a person of conscience, I came to this situation from a place of morality within myself, and I am a member of a community that shares that morality and a powerful vision for a future that is truly free.

I stand here guilty of breaking your laws, not the laws of justice.

The court has been told, “this prosecution is not political”, and that this has been done to protect society from danger.

The truth is this entire prosecution is born from the politics of fear.  Fear of our ideas, fear of what we represent:

Freedom.

A Freedom that your jails will not confine.

I am not here for approval.

I am here because this is what stands for justice on this colonized land.

Though I stand here being judged by you, I am accountable to more, that is beyond these walls.

I am accountable to the indigenous communities whose lands we are on. To the earth who we’re daily assaulting with saws, and chemicals. To the elders in my life and to the generations yet to come.

The laws that govern our societies are not laws of community, or laws of consensus, they are laws of oppression. Laws that underpay and overwork mothers. That deport the poor and those of colour. Laws that rob Indigenous Nations of their traditions, their land, their childhoods. Laws that blame the unemployed and rewards those that get rich on their backs.

I have been deeply and profoundly affected by this process, but have not been changed by it. I have been moved by the incredible support that I have received, far beyond what I could have imagined. It has been made more clear to me through this process that this vision for the future is part of a groundswell.

I want to say thank you to everyone that has supported me, thank you to my friends, my family and my lawyer.

I submit to your jails because today you hold many of the weapons, and many people under your spell. A day is coming when that will not be so.

A day is coming where the distorted mirror that hides the lies of capitalism and colonialism will shatter.

Sometimes a cupcake, is just a cupcake.

A Letter to my community:
As most of you probably know by now, I have decided to plead guilty to the charge of counseling to commit mischief. Originally, I along with 20 others was charged with four counts of conspiracy in what was called  the G20 main conspiracy group.

I am writing because the past year and a half of facing these charges and living under bail conditions has meant that I have not been able to talk as openly as I would have liked. My voice has been muzzled by the state, which has served as a powerful reminder of the many voices that are muzzled by the daily colonialism, patriarchy, racism and violence of the world. While the silencing of my voice has an end date, the work to hear the chorus of our grandmothers and the Indigenous Peoples whose land we stand on is
ongoing.

I never considered that the people in power would see me, my community and our values as anything other than a threat — because we are a threat. We are working to tear this system down and to make space for life-centered systems that make the 1% irrelevant. Those who benefit from the status quo have always tried to crush that.

I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat. I want to tell you that you might be too. I want to tell you that this is something we need to prepare for. I want to tell you that the risk of incarceration alone should not determine our organizing.

My skills and experience — as a facilitator, as a trainer, as a legal professional and as someone linking different communities and movements — were all targeted in this case, with the state trying to depict me as a “brainwasher” and as a mastermind of mayhem, violence and destruction. During the week of the G8 & G20 summits, the police targeted legal observers, street medics and independent media. It is clear that the skills that make us strong, the alternatives that reduce our reliance on their systems and prefigure a new world, are the very things that they are most afraid of.

I organize openly as an anti-colonial, anti-capitalist anarchist. My organizing is focused on movement building, and this commitment to build skill sets and support other activists is another part of why the state has targeted me. However, this attempt to deter me has failed, just as it has failed to deter thousands of others similarly facing police brutality and jail. I am strengthened in my resolve to build communities of resistance. We are building the structures of a new kind of society in the midst of the old, and we cannot do that without a commitment to skill-sharing, mutual aid and collective liberation.

Since the G8 & G20 protests, Toronto (and beyond) has witnessed a wave of repression that has seen the justice system trap people and their communities in its jaws, using all of their time and energy to survive the resource-intensive and soul-sucking legal process. The state hoped that there would be no energy left to fight against them as they cut funding to essential services, ignored self-determination, and further criminalized poor people, migrants and people of colour.

They were wrong.

The awe-inspiring and humbling surprise in all of this is that we have refused to be crushed and, in fact, we have grown in strategy, strength and numbers: in Toronto, I’ve seen the anti-austerity movements grow with campaigns like “Stop the Cuts”; in Grassy Narrows, one day of powerful mobilization forced the government to listen to the community’s demands; globally, there has been a continued, intensified uprising that is showing collective dissatisfaction with the capitalist system and austerity agenda that the G8 & G20 perpetuate.

I took this plea willingly. I consented today to confine myself to a cage, away from the people, work and struggles that I am connected to. I did this for a reason.

As a group of accused, we come to organizing with different access to power. When the 17 of us found ourselves around a table facing a trial, continued disruption of our lives and livelihoods, possible convictions, jail sentences and deportations, it became essential that some of us plead guilty to ensure that the rest walk free.

It was a decision that could not be and was not taken lightly. I was inspired, along with the rest of the 17, by a proud history of political trials, where people have chosen to plead guilty to end the legal process? if it resulted in the best possible deal for all involved.

This plea is not a defeat. I am energized. I am hopeful knowing that we have each other’s back and will take care of each other, even if it means that some of us go to jail. I am proud. I hope you are too.

I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life who have been supporting me and who will continue to do so.

To the women who have carried me through this — you are my faeries with magick wands and combat boots; you’ve granted me wishes and kicked the crap out of anything I couldn’t handle. Your care and support is revolutionary. May it become less invisible to the world.

To my family — every day I am grateful for your unconditional love and support; that I chose you when I came into this world is perhaps the greatest gift I have given to myself.

To my community — you have grown and expanded with me since my arrest; this growth is a testament to our strength.

To my sureties — you took me out into the world when no one else could; you housed me, sat on absurdly uncomfortable court benches while pregnant and while waiting to see if your own child would be released from custody.

To the assistants, receptionists, lawyers, and legal workers that represented us — thank you for your dedication and commitment.

To my friends that stayed in to keep me company, moved me, brought me comfort and, most importantly, helped me to laugh and cry and rage-craft through this — I hope that I can give half as much to you as I have received.

To my co-evils (otherwise known as co-accused):

“While I can’t have you, I long for you… I spin worlds where we could be together. I dream you.” – Jeannette Winterson

I’ve missed you, friends. After all this time, my heart still beats as one with yours. But things have changed, we have grown, my heartbeat sounds different — I’m sure yours does too. Since we became wrapped up in this together, I have carried you with me everywhere I go. I’m excited to begin new relationships with you that don’t have the state stuck in between us. Thank you for all that you have been through this process: fierce,vulnerable, honest, inspiring, loving, strong, and deeply committed to working collectively, challenging oppression and building communities of resistance.

There is a complex combination of rage and inspiration that this experience has given me that cannot be summed up in one statement, let alone a lifetime of statements, but moving forward, I am energized and filled with hope that we will continue to struggle together in creative, supportive and inspiring ways. I would say see you in the streets, but if you know me, you know that I’m more excited to see you in a meeting.

With love, rage and solidarity,
Leah

Please write to me! If you don’t know what to write, send my a copy of your favourite poem(s), recipes, you really like or short stories.

Leah Henderson
c/o Vanier Centre for Women
655 Martin Street, Box 1040
Milton ON L9T 5E6

  1. December 20th, 2011
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  6. December 23rd, 2011
  7. January 2nd, 2012
  8. January 9th, 2012
  9. January 30th, 2012
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  22. February 2nd, 2012
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  27. September 9th, 2012
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