“this life is bigger than this, bigger than lines drawn by governments”
My name is Adam Lewis and I am an activist. I am part of 17 people who were charged with conspiracy as a result of our activism against the G20 Summit in Toronto in June 2010. I was violently arrested by two plainclothes police officers on the morning of June 26th 2010. I was crossing a street in Toronto, when I was jumped, thrown to the ground and held down and handcuffed. I was only told that I was being arrested for mischief. The two police officers, one who refused to identify himself, said very little further to me. I was never formerly told I was under arrest, I wasn’t read my rights and I wasn’t told that there was a warrant for my arrest that had been issued and that’s why I was currently face down on a narrow patch of grass on a Toronto street. And so began my formal engagement with the Canadian legal system…
My arrest on June 26th has now culminated in a guilty plea for counseling others to commit mischief to property. This marks the relative endpoint of a one and half year tour of the Canadian “justice” system. I spent two weeks at Maplehurst in a maximum security prison before I was let out on bail. Keep in mind that at this point I had no been convicted of any crime, I had not seen any of the evidence against me and that I was arrested before any of the so called “rioting” occurred on June 26th 2010. When I was finally released on bail I was subject to a host of restrictive conditions. I was unable to associate or communicate, whether direct or indirect, with many of my close friends that I have engaged in political and social activism over the past 5 years. I was unable to leave my parents house unless accompanied by one of them. I was not allowed to plan or participate in any form of political demonstration, whether peaceful, non-violent or otherwise. If I broke any of the conditions I would be returned to jail with a breach charged and my parents would be on the hook for $75 000 as my sureties. And although these conditions have relaxed mildly over the past one and half years, my life (as well as the lives of my parents, friends, loved ones and partner) has been put on hold.
This brings us to the current circumstances. Part way through the preliminary hearing where the Crown lays out its case against us, we were offered a plea deal. It was ridiculous and so we rejected it. In working through what a plea deal would mean for us as individuals and as a group we were forced to face the realities of our legal case, our lives and projected outcome if we were to go to trial. And so we made a choice. Six of us agreed to plea guilty and to go to jail for anywhere from 6-20 months, while 11 other people would have there charges dropped. We engaged in a collective process, with long meetings and much discussion to figure out our best option in a process that has put us at a disadvantage from the start. We worked together, we maintained our commitment to one another as codefendants and as friends, we made hard decisions and we may have made decisions that were not the most informed at various stages in the process. But we are at a point where we all agreed on what needed to be done.
And so I am one of six people (out of the current 17, and a previous total of 20) to plea guilty to counseling others to commit mischief to property. We are “choosing” (in as much as anyone can actually make free and informed choices in legal system that is on the side of politicians and the police and where the police, Crown attorney’s and politicians face no penalty, risk or accountability in this process) to end this process on our own terms as much as it is possible to do so. If we were to continue the judicial process we may be looking at a trial in 1.5-2 years from now. That means we need to live with restrictive bail conditions for a further 2 years. That means that our lives are still on hold, and that we face the possibility of being convicted of conspiracy charges with a greater penalty sometime down the road. And so we have chosen to take this plea deal.
We have taken this plea deal not because we actually believe we have done anything wrong, but because the legal system in which we find ourselves has forced us to make difficult choices. This process has put us in a current position where we might face greater penalties somewhere down the line. And so we have chosen to end this process now, to have most of our friends charges dropped. This isn’t a victory or a defeat – this is a reality that we are faced with.
Taking this plea deal now means several things: It means I will be sentenced to a jail term of 6 months for counseling unnamed, unknown and unspecific others to engage in property damage. It means 11 out of 17 people will face no punishment, it means that they are out of this process now and that they can get back to their lives, that they can get back to organizing and political activism. It means we end this now and that even those of us who will be going to jail can get back to our lives sooner rather than later. It means the Crown doesn’t get any convictions for conspiracy charges.
Now a word on my actions, my statements and counseling. I do not regret any of my involvement in protest planning and activism around the G20 or at any other time. I did tell people that they should engage in processes and acts of resistance in ways that they feel are empowering and meaningful. I believe that social change comes in a variety of ways and that there are many forms of action that are both necessary and justified. I believe that living things are always more important than property. I believe that there is something inherently wrong with a society that thinks that the smashing of windows is somehow worse than when police engage in the widespread assault of human beings. I have been charged because the organizing that I did encouraged people to engage in property damage. And I will be going to jail for that organizing. The police, who beat, threaten and detain people during the G20 and on a general day to day basis in targeted communities are not held to account. They are allowed to do as they wish, they are allowed to act with impunity. This is the society that I believe needs to change. This is why I am an activist – because oppression and injustice are still ingrained within society.
I am an anarchist. That doesn’t mean I believe in “chaos” or “disorder”. It means that I believe that people must engage in direct action as individuals and groups to actually create change and a new, more free society. It means that I believe we can create communities that look after themselves, that are accountable and respectful to one another. I believe that governments, politicians, police forces, corporations and countless others are part of what is standing in the way of creating a new and better society. I believe that these are the people and systems responsible for continued injustice. They are responsible for the colonization of Indigenous peoples and their lands. They are responsible for poverty, war, greed and injustice. They are responsible for the evils, oppressions and injustices that exist in the world. As such, they must be opposed. They must be resisted. All people have the ability to create a better world and that will occur in many different ways. People may not agree with my politics, and we cannot expect everyone to agree. But what must be expected is that people get involved, people get mobilized, people get engaged and people get active.
This may come as a bit of a shock to some, that I am pleading guilty for counseling unnamed and unknown others to commit mischief to property. It has been agreed that I didn’t counsel anyone specifically, but rather that my participation in meetings and the organization of protest actions against the G20 Summit in Toronto. That this participation and organizing led to the window smashing that occurred on the 26th of June 2010.
It was my suggestion that people engage in forms of action and resistance, in the spirit of a diversity of tactics, that they find empowering and useful for their particular analysis of the oppression and domination that exists within this society. It was my suggestion that action needs to be taken, that there are profound injustices in this world that need to be changed, and that it is up to individuals, and groups to create this change. It is my belief that this change has not and will not come from governments and politicians who act within a system that serves the interests of profit and corporations over those of common people and the environment.
I stand by these statements. I stand by my belief that the direct action of individuals and groups is what is needed and necessary to create a more just society. I feel no shame, no remorse and no guilt over the actions and statements that have been attributed to myself. I stand firm in my belief that direct action is what is needed for social change. I stand firm in my belief that society would be better off without oppression and domination. I stand firm in my belief that society can be organized differently – that we can organize along lines that are based within communities themselves. I believe that people themselves can engage with one another to create meaningful relationships that are not built around hierarchies, but rather engage with one another on equal terms, in a spirit of solidarity. I believe that this means we need to stand up and fight for a better society and a better world. This means we need to resist the G20.