The first 9-11 and the blood that still flows: Preparing once more to confront the killers
A Prelude to our September 12 actions
by Kevin Annett
I was a boy of seventeen when the slaughter began, on September 11, 1973. People just like me were rounded up by soldiers and bayoneted and shot, or tied like animals and herded into the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile. Torture experts from Brazil and Washington DC were flown there to rip apart the young men and women who had dared to try to reclaim their country and its wealth for the poorest of the poor.
After the CIA-funded Chilean generals had finished overthrowing the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, over 30,000 people had been murdered. Fifty years ago today.
Soon after the Chilean coup, I lay on a sidewalk in downtown Vancouver as my fellow protesters poured ox blood on me and held aloft a banner that said, “The blood of Chileans is on our hands if we do not stop their killers.” Little did I know that the bloodbath was much closer to home, and that it stained our Canadian hands more thoroughly. For across that street from where I lay stood Christ Church Anglican cathedral, whose clergy were torturing and killing indigenous children at that very moment, in the domestic death camps still falsely called ‘Indian residential schools’.
Twenty-five years later, I would help occupy that church with survivors of the Canadian genocide bloodbath, and witness again to the slaughter of the innocent. For whether a half century ago or now, their blood is still on our hands if we do not stop their killers.
That is a simple message that echoes down these past fifty years, carried by the voices of the dead who struggle to speak and act through us. It is a voice we will carry into the Vancouver City Council meeting this week when we demand that the city government obeys international law and cancels all tax exemptions and licensing for the genocidal catholic, anglican, and united churches that killed over 60,000 indigenous children.
It is a voice that will resound in these churches starting this week when we start reclaiming their buildings as reparations for a century of their genocide.
And it is a voice that will name the names of the men who murdered our friends Harriett Nahanee, William Combes, and Johnny Bingo Dawson, when we publicly indict the guilty and put them on trial, at our west coast common law court of justice that convenes on September 15 in Vancouver.
Two of those voices echo strongly in me today: those of Peter Sanchez and Harriett Nahanee. Though separated by decades, their message is the same.
Peter was a Chilean refugee who had survived electric shock torture and saw his wife gang raped and murdered by soldiers in front of him. At one of our protests he said to our crowd,
“Don’t ever think you can get justice with words. Because the rich and their paid stooges will ignore democracy and kill every one of us rather than give up a penny of their wealth. If you only make a revolution halfway you’re just digging your own graves. We Chileans have had to pay for not knowing that, and we’ve paid with our blood. Don’t repeat our mistake.”
And Harriett Nahanee, who was tortured by priests and buried other children, said something similar from the pulpit of holy rosary catholic church, which we occupied in March 2007:
“I tried asking for justice from the church my whole life, but they ignored me. But now after sixty years they’re listening because I’m doing more than asking. I’m standing here threatening their money. Talking doesn’t do shit. You’ve got to hit them where they hurt if you want change. That’s why we’re taking back these churches and ordering them off our land.”
Harriett was the first eyewitness to a residential school killing to go public, and the first native elder to evict these churches from her territory on Vancouver Island. And she followed up her eviction with action, as she demonstrated with me and others every time we seized a church.
Harriett’s actions were one of the reasons she was murdered in a Vancouver prison early in 2007: because she did more than talk. But we didn’t let her death be in vain. We picked up on her actions in 2008 when Squamish elder Kiapilano evicted the genocidal catholic, anglican, and united churches from Vancouver and authorized me with the legal right of entry into them to enforce his order. And when we started doing so that spring across Vancouver, not only did the police stand back and not stop us, but the Canadian government quickly responded by publicly acknowledging the genocide within a month of our Vancouver occupations.
Direct action always gets results. But that action must be informed and aimed strategically at where our enemy is weak. That was one of the reasons that we won: because we knew our enemy and struck at its Sunday church services at what it loved: its money and public image. We didn’t merely protest and ask for something: we created justice on our terms by invading the enemy’s territory and capturing what Sun Tzu calls the “chi”, or vital energy, of our enemy.
We proved in practice that such methods work, but only if they’re used by people who feel an unquenchable outrage at the mass murder of children, and who have the will to fight and never give up stopping such crimes. To feel that outrage commits you to a higher purpose that’s greater than your own life. And from that unwavering commitment comes all the courage and tenacity you’ll ever need.
That’s what’s kept me going year after year against impossible odds. I’ve put my own interests on hold and done what’s needed to struggle and overcome a monstrous, child-killing enemy. And even ten such devoted people who never give up can move mountains, as we’ve demonstrated time and again.
We have great need of such people now, for the genocide we exposed and confronted is reaching out to engulf our world and every one of you: especially here on Canada’s west coast, which is the front line of the Vatican-funded Chinese takeover of North America and the entire Pacific rim.
Everything we do to evict the catholic church especially from our communities will stem that takeover. International law and indigenous proclamations arm us to do so lawfully. Self-admitted and proven genocidal organizations like these churches have lost their right to operate and their money and property can and must be seized by the public. Each of you is empowered and required by the law to do so. That is why we are inviting the public and especially the homeless into these churches once we seize them.
We’ll be starting to do so this week and in the weeks to come. And we’ll be using those liberated spaces to hold court and prosecute the men who killed our friends: people like RCMP officer Peter Montague and united church official Gary Paterson and catholic archbishop Michael Miller, who arranged the murder of Harriett Nahanee and William Combes and Bingo Dawson in Vancouver after we began our church occupations in 2007. And our indigenous allies and their warriors will join us in arresting these and other killers, as the elders of nine nations pledged to do in their banishment proclamation on June 12.
That is how we will banish the killers and reclaim the law and the land for ourselves.
It is time for you to move from talk to action. Once you take the first step to do so, you’ll discover how weak that enemy is, for they know their guilt and they live in fear, which makes them vulnerable and easy to provoke. We have the law and the public and often the police on our side. It’s simply a matter of taking action now, at this critical moment.
The world is ours. Now is the chance for you to join us and reclaim it. If you fail to do so, you will have no one to blame but yourselves for what will befall you.
Soon after the military coup in Chile, a slogan appeared on the walls of Santiago and in the burned-out factories that had been seized and run by the workers. That slogan said,
“We don’t want money. We don’t want power. We want a new world.”
It is within our power to create such a world, but only once we join the fight for it.
I was taught that sacred lesson as a boy of seventeen, and it has never left me. May you learn it too, by joining our revolution now and stopping the killers while you still can.
Check back this Tuesday September 12 for another important broadcast straight from the front lines in Vancouver!