What is Activism?

Activism is an incredibly broad term that can mean many things to many people.

Activism consists of intentional action to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change.

This action is in support of, or opposition to, one side of an often controversial argument. In contemporary use, “activism” tends to be a word associated with the actions and ideologies of those on the political left.

The word “activism” is used synonymously with protest or dissent, but activism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, rallies, street marches, strikes, both sit-ins and hunger strikes, or even guerrilla tactics.”

Wikipedia: Activism

Of course, you can’t always believe what you read. Just because something is in print does not necessarily mean it is true or accurate, whether in a book, a newspaper or a web page. Wikipedia is certainly in error in conflating “violent revolutionary activities” with Malcolm X, who was himself non-violent like the majority of activists. It was only after Malcolm X was assasinated that his followers turned to “violent revolutionary activities.”

I’ve never met Byron Sonne, and only heard about him recently. The publication ban means what I know about it is limited to what has already been published. Which may or may not be true. Still, there is enough there in the public record to cause me concern, which is why I’ve written a couple of blog posts about it.

One of the comments posted to my first article Silencing Online Activism: From “Officer Bubbles” to “Free Byron” states emphatically that:

Byron Sonne is in jail because he purchased TATP explosives over the internet deliberately to provoke the police into arresting him. ”

—BelchSpeak commenting on Silencing Online Activism: From “Officer Bubbles” to “Free Byron.”

If Mr. BelchSpeak is correct, that would certainly qualify Mr. Sonne’s actions as being political. Which would be an act of political activism. The objective of that type of activism is to challenge laws and the legal system.

When I attempted to point that out to Mr. BelchSpeak, he didn’t seem to understand what I was saying, which is why I’ve written this post to explain it a little better.

In itself, buying explosives is not activism.


Explosives may be bought to blow up the large stump and root system that makes half your field unusable. That’s farming, not activism.

Explosives might be bought to blow the door off a safe. (An excellent Parker story springs to mind…) That’s criminal activity, not activism.

Explosives were bought to drop out of Lancaster Bombers on Nazi Germany in the second world war. That was an act of war, not activism.

Explosives might be bought to create pyrotechnic special effects in Raiders of the Lost Arc. That’s special effects, not activism.

Explosives are sometimes bought to blow up symbolic buildings as a means of attempting to intimidate governments into doing things they otherwise would not do. That’s terrorism, not activism.

Fireworks with title text reading community

Explosives are bought to create community fireworks displays in communities across Canada on Victoria Day or Canada Day. That’s community spirit, not activism.

Explosives can also be bought to set off in back yards, although they are often used inappropriately and too often one hears stories of children harming themselves, sometimes even losing body parts or causing damage when using these fireworks without adequate supervision. That’s foolishness, not activisim.

But if explosives are bought for the express purpose of provoking the police, that would in fact be activism. Explosives purchased to expose flaws in G8/G20 Summit Security arrangements, with the intent of ridiculing the authorities, in the hope of encouraging them to not hold the G8/G20 Summit here now, or any in the future, would certainly qualify as activism, because it would be “intentional action to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change”

Again, I have no way of knowing if it’s true or not, I’m simply basing this on what BelchSpeak said.

But if it is true, it would mean Byron Sonne is an unlikely flight risk. Because this type of activism is done in order to challenge, draw attention to and hopefully change societal and legal inequities.

Mr. Sonne had a well ordered and comfortable life. He owned a business, a beautiful home, had strong community ties. People aren’t often willing to jeopardize those things unless they fee very strongly about an issue. Usually that the risk is warranted if there is a chance that wrongs can be righted. The last thing that Byron Sonne would be is a flight risk, since because having a day in court would be the point.

People accused of murder are routinely released on bail. Bail is granted if they are not considered a danger to others or a flight risk. Accused people are allowed to resume their normal lives while preparing for a trial date which may be years in the future. An accusation is not a conviction, and in the eyes of the law, people accused of crimes are considered innocent until they are proven guilty. Even convicted felons are sometimes subject to serve a sentence of “House Arrest” or “Work Release.”

I do not pretend to have all the facts. I don’t know what Byron Sonne actually did.  The point is that the charges brought against him could be very broadly interpreted.

The facts that I do have are that Byron Sonne has been charged, but not convicted of anything. Unless and until he is actually convicted of anything, he should not have to serve years in jail.

So if what Mr. BelchSpeak wrote is true, it would mean that Byron Sonne is neither dangerous or a flight risk, Byron Sonne’s denial of bail would itself be a serious miscarriage of justice.

Because it would mean that his bail was denied as a punishment.

Free Byron

Oh! G8/G20 Summit Madness

A post script to yesterday’s “Oh Canada” singing peaceful protesters: Oh! Toronto

Mother and child at Caribana a few years back
I have fond memories 0f living in Toronto.

Because Toronto is such a great city, this year’s summit madness bothers me so much.

Here is the other G8/G20 video that really got to me.

It bothers me deeply, partly because my sister lives nearby, partly because it’s Toronto, and partly because I’m a citizen.

Why is this happening here?

Canadian citizens, Toronto residents, have been confined to their homes and terrorized by a legal repressive regime.

This is Canada 2010

Canadians being intimidated by faceless black clad cops armed to the teeth. Tear gas. Ordered inside their own homes. Threatened for recording these government instigated breaches of the peace. This is madness. It sure as heck doesn’t look like anything that I recognize as democracy.

Canadian taxpayers… the same Canadian taxpayers and citizens being harassed and threatened and arrested on the streets of Toronto… are footing the bill.

Why? Did anyone ask citizens if we wanted to host these summit meetings? Did anyone ask if we wanted to foot the bill?

And what IS the bill?

Canadian Flag

The number being talked about for hosting the twin G8/G20 summits is

One billion dollars


That is a very large bite during a recession.

A lot of money a country with a total population of 34 million.

The thing to remember is:

the Billion Dollar price tag is
for the security.

How much are they we spending wining and dining these world leaders.

At a time when many Canadians are unemployed or underemployed.
A time when many Canadians are homeless.
A time when poverty is such that food banks are feeding a great many hungry Canadian citizens:
because our government is not.

Surely this isn’t my Canada.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

[Thanks to Liana Russwurm for passing the video along, and Zack Gilbert taking the risks involved to record this terrible scene from the front porch.]

Oh! Toronto

I was sad about the way the Olympics turned Vancouver into an armed camp. Absurdly expensive too.

But that was nothing but a warm up act for the debacle in Toronto.

Peaceful G20 protest at Queen & Spadina

Click on this link to see the full version if you really want to get a feeling for the happenings there.

Queen & Spadina Protest (original file/unedited) from Meghann Millard on Vimeo.

I am not proud of the people who are running my country today. I rather liked the idea of democracy.

The G8/G20 is absurdly expensive.     And very sad.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

[thanks to @russellmcormond]