Friday, October 13, 2006

Direct Action (the Squamish Five), the Vancouver scene, and Punk


(Photo credit: an ongoing eBay auction for the original DOA benefit single for Direct Action, featuring a cover of Gerry Hannah's "Fuck You." It's item number 250038758210, if y'wanna bid! I remember having this single and playing it time and again; I was 15, and both fascinated and scared by the mood of political tension in Vancouver at the time).


I've been working on this feature interview on the Subhumans, and in preparation for interviewing Gerry Hannah, got to reading Ann Hansen's book Direct Action, and really doing research on the history and arrest of the group (who I knew by the media name, back in the day, the Squamish Five -- click the link for an archive of articles on them). It's a chapter of Vancouver/Canadian history that fascinates me, and to that end, I've visited the CBC archives in Toronto, interviewed filmmaker Reg Harkema (whose upcoming feature, Monkey Warfare, deals - sort of - with the Five), and interviewed or talked with many people involved with the Five in some way or other. I hung out with filmmaker Glen Sanford (a clip from his documentary on Gerry, Useless, is viewable here, tho' I would recommend ordering the film directly from Glen at glenette at shaw dot ca). I sent emails to Warren Kinsella and Chris Walter (who had interviewed Kinsella for the Nerve Magazine -- click Warren's name for that, it's a must-read). I talked to Subhumans members Mike Graham, Jon Card, Brian Goble, and of course, Gerry Hannah himself (more later on where that particular article will be published), and interviewed the security guard who was injured at Litton, Terry Chikowski -- tho' it took me some time to get up the nerve to do that. (Though I didn't have much luck engaging Mr. Kinsella in dialogue, he made the point that no look at the subject matter would be complete without talking to Chikowski, which, really, I think is true). What I'd be wondering, tho' - if anyone actually reads this and is interested - is what people made of the impact of the arrest of Direct Action back in the day, on punk and on punk political activism? How did people react to the fact that people were hurt? - because I know I kinda just swept that detail under the carpet and sung along with "Burn it Down." Any stories of how people were affected or how they reacted would be most interesting, be it Vancouver-based or otherwise... I've started a related discussion on the Nomeansno board that has gotten some interesting responses. Feel free to post your thoughts here; I'd be very curious.

See th' Vancouverites out there at tonight's Subhumans gig...

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the time of their trial, I 15 and big into the whole "Free the Five" moment during their trial. I went to one of their bail hearings - took the bus out to New West with one of my friends. Being frisked at the courthouse fuelled the oddly enjoyable outrage at being oppressed - somewhat akin to the enjoyment of being stared at and insulted by "greasers" who thought my friends looked mock-able with their wacky hair-dos and ripped clothes. We were getting frisked and this reinforced the idea that we were being oppressed - and the Five were fighting against this type of oppression and, well, we were just very glad to be part of the protest against it. The Five were such extreme martyrs for the cause - and, like you say, I too glossed over the idea that a result of their "direct action" caused injury. Ultimately it gave me a vicarious feeling of rebellion at a time in my life that I was rebelling against many things. It's a time of my life that saddens me to think about because I had so little "guidance" from anyone and ended up going into a downward spiral, and making some bad decisions - dangerous intoxications and self-destructive promiscuity just for the sake of nihilism... But now, nearly 40, I've bounced back from it all and am coming to appreciate the richness of that time of my life - being 15, going to punk shows, things that seem so legendary now...

12:18 PM  
Blogger ammacinn said...

Thanks for the great comment. I understand what you mean. I was depressed and lost in the suburbs, with guidance in short supply -- it was a miserable time in my life -- but also exciting; even if it was mostly in my head, it seemed like shit was going to happen, at least for awhile there. I lost some years, too, after that, didn't begin to get my life together until I was almost 30. I wonder if it's easier to be a kid nowadays -- if the internet makes a meaningful difference, say?

It's a shame, in a way, that we have so little respect for our own history, as Canadians -- people figure that Canadian history involves memorizing the names of Prime Ministers, but the arrest of Direct Action is a part of things, too. Glen Sanford makes the point that the US have respect for "outlaw history," make movies about the Weather Underground, read Abbie Hoffman, even romanticize bandits of the past, but I bet in Canada lots of people don't even know the Five existed now...

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is much more to the story than has been told. Ann Hansen's Book is a small part of the story and from her perspective. The dynamics of the group are interesting in themselves. Also not fully told. Perspective from Law, also not fully told. Our Intellence Service was formed in 1984 partly as a result of the action. It was luck that they were caught at all. Only the youngest member, Belmas took any responsibility for injuries to the people working the plant. After she renounced her action she changed her plee to guilty. I remember the cover of Resistance, one edition she was the poster girl for the save the 5 defence and the next she was labeled a rat on the front page. She was villified by the left for this, even though only 3 of the 5 were charged with the Lytton action. How they faired in their prison terms also not fully known. There is lots of this story that have questions without answers. As far as the wimmins fire brigade is concerned, I am sure there are participants in that action that are unknown and by now maybe have stopped holding there breath that the story has not been told.

1:20 AM  
Blogger ammacinn said...

Thanks. You know, if you have your own side to this, I'm considering doing a book, and collecting material. It will probably be a small press thing and no big moneymaker, but I think a series of interviews and oral histories would be really interesting. Email me at ammacinn@hotmail.com if you'd like to go into detail or can put me in touch with anyone. Also, check the next couple of issues of Discorder for some related articles.

3:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I have questions. Why would the police who had them under surveilance for 3 months. knew what weapons they have, choose to take them out when they did. They could have taken them at any time when the five were not armed. Why would they wait for the five to fully arm themselves? What reason did the five have to go on their spontaneous training exercise at that time? Did some of the five consider others in their group a liability? What was in the wiretaps that Brent Taylor and Ann Hansen so protected that it was kept from the court proceedings and from the other 3 members? Maybe if they had not been interupted it might have been the Squamish 4 or 3. Do you think Gerry Hannah Knows the answers?

8:51 PM  

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