Hollow Victory: Shawn Brant Acquitted of Threat Charges


Update: April 18, 2008

On Monday, April 14th, a trial involving highly political charges laid
against Shawn Brant and two other Mohawks from Tyendinaga, ended in
acquittals for two of the three charged. The charges stemmed from a
demonstration that was part of the struggle for the Culbertson Tract.

Shawn Brant was found not guilty on Monday on three charges of
uttering threats at soldiers during a 2006 demonstration against a
proposed development on Mohawk land. Justice Charles Anderson, in
Napanee, Ont., also cleared his co-accused Jerome Barnhart on two
charges of uttering threats and one charge of mischief. Mario 'Skin'
Baptiste Jr., was convicted of two counts of assault soldiers and one
count of mischief for attacking a vehicle. Sentencing of Skin will
occur after the completion of a pre-sentencing report, which could
take eight weeks to prepare.

These particular charges stemmed from an earlier demonstration around
the Culbertson Tract, land which the federal government has long
acknowledged rightfully belongs to the Mohawks but which is
languishing at the negotiation table. On November 15th, 2006, Mohawks
from Tyendinaga erected posters at the site of a proposed 140-home
development project which was later scuttled due to Mohawk resistance
to building on their land. During the protest, five Canadian Military
vehicles were spotted traveling in a convoy through the reserve. In
the context of the history of military involvement in policing Native
protest across Canada, the convoy was seen as a veiled threat. The
Mohawks blocked the vehicles' path with cars and trucks, eventually
allowing the O.P.P. to escort the military away. No one was charged
until two months later - just days after Shawn Brant announced that
Tyendinaga Mohawks planned to take blockade actions as part of the
upcoming June 29th Aboriginal Day of Action, the three Mohawks were

The defence attorney argued during this trial that the laying of these
charges was politically motivated, in order to ensure that Shawn Brant
would have outstanding legal issues before the Day of Action, and
would likely be held without bail if he participated in any future
blockades. After this week's acquittal, Shawn Brant told reporters, "I
know it weighed heavy on the judges when I was denied bail on two
different occasions." He went on to say, "I spent two months in jail
because of this; I've been on conditions for 18 months. To have them
set aside like this is a hollow victory at best." In addition, Shawn
Brant is the sole Mohawk facing charges in connection with Tyendinaga
Mohawks' highway and rail line blockades in April and June 2007. The
latter blockades happened in conjunction with the Assembly of First
Nations' National Day of Action.

The political nature of this trial, and the on-going criminalization
of Tyendinaga Mohawks around their struggle for the land, continues to
be made clear through the heavy police presence each time the Mohawks
appear in court. On Monday, OPP officers in tactical uniforms were
stationed at the courthouse, and anyone entering was scanned with a
metal detector. People attending the verdict were not allowed to bring
cellphones inside, after being told that explosive devices could be
smuggled in this way.

Similar to previous occasions when Shawn Brant and other members of
his community have gone to court in 2007 and 2008, this excessive
security presence is repeatedly implemented in an effort to influence
the outcome of the court proceedings, and is another form of
intimidation and threat against people who are fighting for their

A CBC documentary aired last month (see below for link), revealed that
OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino had heavily armed tactical units on
hand, to use lethal force against the Mohawks if necessary, in order
to re-open Highway 401, which was shut down during the actions of June
29th. The OPP ignored the recommendations of the Ipperwash Inquiry
Report, which resulted from Dudley George's death, and disregarded
their common practice of obtaining injunctions before considering
using force against indigenous occupations.

The lengths to which the colonial state, cops, and courts are prepared
to go, in their efforts to repress and destroy indigenous resistance
and struggle for sovereignty, self-determination, and justice, is laid
bare by these facts. Shawn Brant goes to trial in January 2009,
facing a possible 12 years in a federal penitentiary.

The personal sacrifice and the tremendous price he stands to pay for
his leadership and courage warrant our utmost efforts to ensure Shawn
Brant does not go to trial isolated and unawares of the depth of
respect and support that exists across Turtle Island, and how deeply
tied the struggle for social justice must be with First Nations
peoples. It is vital that people of conscience act to support the
Mohawks of Tyendinaga.

The Tyendinaga Support Committee



1. Listen to the recent CBC radio documentary:
The Long Hot Summer
The Current CBC Radio 99.1FM
Link to hear the documentary at:

In June 2007, thousands of native Canadians turned out for the
national Aboriginal Day of Action, a day of peaceful protest designed
to educate non-native Canadians about the issues that plague native
communities. Despite concerns of violence, the day came and went more
or less peacefully. Those in power -- native and non-native --
congratulated each other on how well it all went and concluded that
the predicted "long, hot summer" of aboriginal discontent had been
skillfully, peacefully and -- in the most Canadian of ways -- quietly
averted. But that very nearly wasn't the case. And the day came closer
than most people realize to ending with a violent confrontation.
Freelance broadcaster Susanna Kelley investigated what happened that

2. Donate money to the Tyendinega Legal Defence Fund, which divides
funds raised between Shawn's legal costs and maintaining the quarry
reclamation site. Cheques can be made out to "Tyendinaga Legal
Defence Fund" and mailed to the address below.

3. Host a facilitated workshop or information session with a member of
the Tyendinaga Support Committee. Contact us at support.tmt@gmail.com

4. Put forward a resolution in your local or organization in support
of Shawn Brant and the struggle of the
Tyendinaga Mohawk community to reclaim their land.

5. Officially endorse the TSC campaign to support Shawn Brant's legal
defence and the quarry reclamation site by contacting us at

6. In Toronto, contact us to become actively involved in the work of
the TSC and come to one of our meetings.

7. Visit our website to sign an online petition or to join our
mailing list: http://www.ocap.ca/supporttmt.html

Tyendinaga Support Committee
c/o 10 Britain St. Toronto ON
M5A 1R6
Tyendinaga_support mailing list

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