Remembrance Day: Crucified Soldiers

In May of 1915, a brief news story appeared in the London Times reporting that some Dublin Fusiliers had seen a Canadian soldier crucified with bayonets before being “riddled with bullets”. The story was reprinted in Canada and was brought up in the UK Parliament. Before long, various versions of the story were circulating: the soldier was one of a number of wounded left by retreating troops in a barn, the Germans bayoneted all except a sergeant who was tied to the large cross from a village church before being killed; the sergeant was pinned to a church wall with four bayonets before a fifth went through his throat; it was eight bayonets; it was many bayonets; he was dead when pinned to the wall/fence/tree/barn door; he was alive, and so on. The soldier’s name was given as Thomas Elliott of Brantford, Ontario. Elliott himself wrote to his pastor to say that he had not been crucified. Canada set Albert Kemp, Minister for Overseas Military Forces, to investigate and he found three soldiers, one of them a Victoria Cross winner, ready to testify. But: One claimed to have seen three soldiers, all crucified to a church wall; one was not in Europe at the time of the alleged crucifixion; and one claimed to have seen the crucifixion in a place that the Germans did not occupy. Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps said that he could find no evidence of the event.

Ad for Bonds, Calgary Herald, November 2,1918

Ad for Bonds, Calgary Herald, November 2,1918

But Allied propagandists jumped on the story, printing posters and including the incident in a propaganda movie, The Prussian Cur. There is speculation that General John Charteris, chief of “Black Propaganda” and author of the German Corpse Factory myth and possibly the Angel of Mons story, may have been involved in promoting the story of the Crucified Canadian.

Still from The Prussian Cur, propaganda movie made 1918. The film is now lost.

Still from The Prussian Cur, propaganda movie made 1918. The film is now lost.

The Canadian soldier was said to have been crucified April 22-24 in the Ypres salient, perhaps at, or near, St. Julien. This was the extreme allied flank and the Germans meant to break through the defense and, perhaps, turn the Allied flank. But a direct assault seemed impossible of success until the German High Command came up with a new tactic: gas. On the 22nd, the Germans let loose a cloud of chlorine gas toward the Allied lines. Many troops ran from this new horror, but some 4000 Canadians stood their ground and kept the assault from victory. Some say that the Canadians may have killed Germans, including prisoners, after that as payback for the gas attack. Some say that the Crucified Soldier was German revenge for Canadian war crimes. Few speak of the crime of chemical warfare, possibly because the Allies were developing that very same weapon, using it for the first time in September, 1915. Crucifixion was an atrocity with more resonance for people — not many have been gassed but everyone has seen a crucifix.

"Canada's Golgotha" by Francis Derwent Wood on display at the Canadian War Museum. [via MelbourneBlogger]

“Canada’s Golgotha” by Francis Derwent Wood on display at the Canadian War Museum. [via MelbourneBlogger]

In 1918, Francis Derwent Wood cast a bronze image, less than a meter high, titled Canada’s Golgotha that depicted the incident. The bronze was to be exhibited in January, 1919, but Germany protested, demanding to see evidence that the event had occurred. There was none and the sculpture was withdrawn. Germany also requested that they have a representative on the Canadian commission under Albert Kemp investigating the claim. Shortly afterward, Canadian authorities pronounced that the story was “not proven”.

But while all this was going on, a nurse in France heard a wounded man tell her of a Canadian soldier whose body he had seen bayoneted to a barn door. He identified the man as Sergeant Harry Band. Band’s family, then living in Kelowna, B.C., had received letters from members of his outfit that also claimed that he had been crucified by German troops. Iain Overton investigated the incident and became convinced that Harry Band had indeed been crucified by German troops. [see a documentary here].

Sergeant Harry Band

Sergeant Harry Band

Band was born in Scotland and had seen service in the British Army before moving to Canada. In September, 1914, he signed up with the 48th Highlanders, an Ontario unit composed largely of Scots immigrants and people of Scots ancestry. A thousand strong, the unit was reduced to 300 men after the fighting at Ypres. Band listed his father in Kelowna as next of kin and directed that his pay be sent to a Miss Isabella Ritchie in Dundee, of whom nothing is known. Band was well-thought of by the men who served with him.
Many who studied this story mention that Belgium, around Ypres, is full of crucifixion imagery. There are statues by the roadside everywhere, not just churches. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory: “The image of crucifixion was always accessible at the front because of the numerous real physical calvaries visible at French and Belgian crossroads, many of them named Crucifix Corner.” Fussell and others think that exhausted men fed their imagination with the everpresent imagery. But British soldiers hardly needed hallucination to see one of their own crucified, it was a rather common event.

Field Punishment No. 1. British War Office contemporary illustration.

Field Punishment No. 1. British War Office contemporary illustration. Note the pencilled instruction at left: “make the post look entirely unlike the cross”.

Crucifixion was the name given by British troops to Field Punishment No. 1. Men who were accused of petty crimes — losing a piece of equipment, for instance — would be bound to a post or caisson for hours at a time over a period of days, sometimes under conditions which resulted in fatalities. The War Office instructed that the post was to “look entirely unlike the cross” but the troops could see a resemblance. The Canadian War Museum helpfully notes that military punishment had little to do with justice but was intended to instill discipline. This concept of “pour encourage les autres” was carried to the extreme during the War as British officers ordered more than 300 troops to be executed for various infractions without any meaningful investigation. Canada honored its twenty-three executed soldiers in 2001, England gave a posthumous pardon to these executed soldiers in 2006.
One vet, at the age of 105, recalled the War and said he doesn’t know if posthumous pardons for those executed was a good idea, but he did remember feeling sorry for one man who was crucified:

One day I was ordered to stand guard over a chap who had been tied to a wheel, without food or water, as a punishment for something. I can’t remember what he’d done. But I felt sorry for him so I put my fag up to his lips so he could have a smoke. It was a very risky thing to do because if anyone had seen me they’d have tied me to the wheel as well!

"Ecce Homo" by George Grosz, 1924. Grosz was charged with blasphemy.

“Ecce Homo” by George Grosz, 1924. Grosz was charged with blasphemy for making this drawing.

After the War, German artist George Grosz produced a drawing which summed up the experience of all those men who had served in the Great War: “Ecce Homo”, subtitled “Shut Up and Do Your Duty”. Other artists echoed this theme. William Faulkner’s A Fable has a Christ-like doughboy as central character who winds up interred as The Unknown Soldier. Paul Gross’ film Passchendaele references the Crucified Canadian several times and has its hero undergo his own Calvary.

Paul Gross in Passchendaele, 2008.

Paul Gross in Passchendaele, 2008.

Many men died at Ypres. Some are buried in marked graves but other corpses simply disappeared in the mud. Those whose bodies were not recovered are memorialized at Menin, their names inscribed on the walls of the Gate. Occasionally a farmer will turn up bones in his field and, once in a while, these can be identified. When that happens, the remains are interred in a proper cemetery and a name is removed from the wall. More than 54000 names remain on that wall; one of them is Band, H.

Inside the Menin Gate Memorial near Ypres.  The names of more than 54000 men whose bodies were never identified are carved on the wall. Tens of thousands whose remains are identified are buried in the surrounding cemeteries. Five battles were fought at the Ypres salient with over a million casualties.

Inside the Menin Gate Memorial near Ypres. The names of more than 54000 men whose bodies were never identified are carved on the wall. Tens of thousands whose remains are identified are buried in the surrounding cemeteries. Five battles were fought at the Ypres salient with over a million casualties.

The evidence that Harry Band was crucified is presented in this documentary.
Story from The Ottawa Citizen with Iain Overton’s remarks.

Various blogs and web pages exist on this subject. These may be useful:
Spartacus (John Simkin)
Above Top Secret (links are dead)

Paul Gross’ Passchendaele

Heaven’s Maps

Sibusiso Mthembu, who lives near Durban, South Africa, has drawn a map of the way to heaven on the wall of his home. Pilgrims troop by to view this marvel and newspapers are reporting this as yet another weird event, something to chuckle over. But maps of heaven have been common throughout human existence and they are usually quite serious affairs.

Sibusiso Mthembu in front of his map to Heaven.

Sibusiso Mthembu in front of his map to Heaven.

Heaven is not necessarilly Paradise; it may be simply the Land of the Dead, the place human beings go after death. Still, it is a place and places are located by maps. Sibusio Mthembu is unusual, though, in that he has managed to return from Heaven. Usually this is a place that people only glimpse in dreams.

Journey of the Dead to Dhuwa, Land of the Dead for the Jiridja Australians, by Binyinyuwuy, 1948.

“Journey of the Dead to Dhuwa”, Land of the Dead for the Jiridja Australians, by Binyinyuwuy, 1948.

Humans have made maps for thousands of years but one culture’s version may be unreadable by other humans from other cultures. Maps derive from concepts of the World and people’s place in it. Medieval European maps used to place Jerusalem in the center and the known continents were arranged around it. The medieval concept of Heaven has to do with concentric rings of spheres of existence. Heaven is in the outermost sphere.

A map of Existence according to Dante. [via Kinkanon]

A map of Existence according to Dante. [via Kinkanon]

As Western concepts have become more technical, so Heavenly maps have become more diagrammatic:

Chart of Heaven by Clarence Larkin, about 1895.

Chart of Heaven by Clarence Larkin, about 1895.

But ecstatic visions still occur and are recorded by those who do not fear social judgment.Brenda Davis paints what she dreams. “I can’t help it. God knows I can’t read or write, so he tells me the stories.” Here is her “Map to Heaven”:


The most exact maps to Heaven are possibly those made by Athapaskan tribes in northeastern British Columbia. Hugh Brody has written of this in his great Maps And Dreams. Hunters, some of them, would dream of the hunt they would have and the game they would take. This was a special gift of a few. Amongst these, some would also dream of Heaven and the way to get there. The maps that are made from dreams are very special and not to be seen except on special occasions, such as when the Beaver people were trying to convince certain bureaucrats that they did indeed understand their area in geographic terms and had mapped it. They brought a moosehide bundle into the meeting place:

…they untied the bundle’s thongs and began very carefully to pull back the cover. …the contents seemed to be a thick layer of hide, pressed tightly together. With great care, Aggan took this hide from its cover and began to open the layers. It was a magnificent dream map.
The dream map was as large as the table top, and had been folded tightly for many years. It was covered with thousands of short, firm, and variously colored markings. …Up here is heaven; this is the trail that must be followed; here is a wrong direction; this is where it would be worst of all to go; and over there are all the animals….all of this had been discovered in dreams.
…it was wrong to unpack a dream map except for very special reasons. But…the hearing was important. Everyone must look at the map now. …They should realize, however, that intricate routes and meanings of a dream map are not easy to follow. There was not time to explain them all. The visitors crowded around the table, amazed and confused.
A corner of the map was missing…someone had died who would not easilly find his way to heaven, so the owner of the map had cut a piece of it and buried it with the body. With the aid of even a fragment…the dead man would probably find the correct trail, and when the owner of the map died, it would all be buried with him. His dreams of the trail to heaven would then serve him well.

But the bureaucrats did not understand the map nor the Beaver people’s claim to the land. Their mindset was biased toward the geological survey maps being used by the companies who wanted to build a pipeline through Beaver territory. So it is: we are unable to understand the maps of others and we lose our way to heaven.

Pictures I Like: “Mary Greyeyes”, photographer unknown 1942


The Story: This photo is in the Library and Archives of Canada with the following untrue caption: “Mary Greyeyes being blessed by her native Chief prior to leaving for service in the CWAC “. Other places have Mary as an “Indian princess” being blessed by her father and chief. Also untrue.

The Facts: Here is the true story as related by her daughter-in-law, Melanie Fahlman Reid. Mary Greyeyes, aka Mary Reid, enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps  in 1942. Her brother David had joined the Army not long before, so Mary decided to give it a go as well. She was living on the Cree reserve at Muskeg Lake, north of Saskatoon, at the time. She wrote to the War Department and eventually got a letter telling her to travel to Regina and take a test. Mary had gone to a residential school and, in those days, there was no education for Indians beyond Grade 8, so she was apprehensive. But she passed with flying colors and became the first native to join the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

Lt. David Greyeyes, 1943. [Department of National Defence]

Lt. David Greyeyes, 1943. [Department of National Defence]

The white women didn’t want her in the barracks and so Mary boarded outside the barracks. One day, her sergeant and two Mounties came by the boarding house and told Mary that, if she came with them and had her picture taken, they would give her a new uniform and a really good lunch. So they drove out to the Piapot Reserve, which is northeast of Regina, and there Mary knelt in the grass before band councillor (later chief) Harry Bull and had her picture taken. She remembered that there were a lot of bugs in the grass and it was uncomfortable. She and Harry had a conversation:

Harry says, “God it’s hot. What did you get for this?”
Mary says, “I get a good lunch.”
Harry says, “I got 20 bucks.”
Mary says, “So what are you bitching about? You get 20 bucks and I’m down here with bugs.”

Harry was a World War I vet and probably the original notion was to show an elder blessing the youth going to war or some such. The photographer went to local houses and found some stuff — pipe, bonnet, blanket, a knot of sweetgrass –that was cobbled together into a costume for Harry. He wasn’t Mary’s chief — they’d never met — and she wasn’t an Indian princess, whatever that was supposed to be.

Anyway, after the picture was taken, Mary was shipped out to England where she mostly worked in a laundry, which she hated. She asked for a transfer and her sergeant wrote on her application “Does Not Speak English”. But she did get reassigned to a kitchen. Whenever there was a need for a bit of colonial color to brighten up the news, they called on Mary who became “The Indian”. “She’s A Full-Blooded Indian But Now She Cooks For Palefaces” was one headline. It wasn’t all bad. She met Princess Elizabeth and the Queen Mother and sometimes enjoyed her status. Later she said that these were some of the best years of her life.

In 1946, Mary shipped back to Canada and was discharged. She returned to the Muskeg Lake reserve. One day, during a federal election, her old sergeant and a couple of Mounties showed up. They said, “Mary, you’ve got to come and vote.” The deal was, Indians who had served in the war could vote, if they gave up their treaty rights:

So Mary says to them, she says, “Can my mom vote?”
And they said, “No, she didn’t fight in the war.”
She said, “Well, what about my cousins over there, can they vote?”
And they said no. They said, “C’mon Mary, you gotta come, we’ve got the photographer.”
And she said, “All those years, I said nothing. Now I’m saying no.”

And that’s the real story of Mary Greyeyes.

[for a more complete version of the above, see Melanie Fahlman Reid's account in The Tyee]

Remembrance Day: The Hampton Gray Memorial At Onagawa Bay

On August 9, 1945 Lt. Robert Hampton Gray led two flights of Corsairs on one of the last operations of World War II. The first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima two days before. Senior officers had been informed that a second bomb would be dropped on the 9th. Admiral Vian, commanding Royal Naval forces attacking Japan, ordered that his pilots were to take no unnecessary risks — they would only take one run at a target, for instance. Gray’s planes were set to attack an airfield near Matsushima but, at the last minute, Gray was informed that the field had been intensively bombed and was probably unusable. If so, Gray was to seek out secondary targets such as ships.

Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, photographed in 1942

The Corsairs took off from the flight deck of HMS Formidable and flew inland to check out the airfield, It was indeed devastated and Gray ordered his planes to Onagawa Bay where at least four ships were anchored. Gray chose the largest, the escort Amakusa, as his target and dived to the attack. The Japanese ships and the shore anti-aircraft batteries opened up and Gray’s plane was hit and began to burn. One of the two 500-lb bombs he was carrying was knocked off the plane by enemy fire. Gray continued on course and dropped his remaining bomb perfectly, hitting the ammunition hold. The Amakusa erupted in flames, rolled over, and sank in minutes. Meanwhile, Gray’s burning plane rolled over and plunged into Onagawa Bay.

Gray’s Corsair attacking the Amakusa. Painting by Don Connoly in the Canadian War Museum

“There goes Hammy!”, radioed another pilot. Lt. McKinnon took over the mission and the Corsairs went on to attack two more ships. A few hours later, a nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The next day, Japan surrendered. Hampton Gray was the last Canadian to die in combat in World War II. He had already been cited for a Distinguished Flying Cross for an action near Tokyo where he sank a destroyer, now the military authorities listed Gray for a Victoria Cross. He is the last Canadian to date to win that honor.

Hampton Gray was born in Trail and raised in Nelson, B.C. His brother, John Balfour Gray, was the first man from Nelson to die in the War. He enlisted in 1940 in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve and transferred to the air arm in 1941. He saw action in Africa and the Mediterranean and was part of an effort to sink the German battleship Tirpitz in the Baltic. His carrier force was assigned to the Pacific in 1945 and fought at Okinawa and then the Home Islands. He was well respected as a flier and a soldier. He was twenty-seven when he died.

Gray bust at the Fourteen Valiants memorial, Ottawa. [wikipedia]

A number of locations around Canada bear Hampton Gray’s name. In Nelson, the post office building, the Legion post, the local air cadets unit; in Halifax, the aviation school and on the monument to Canadians lost at sea; a mountain in Kokanee Glacier Park (named after both Hampton and his brother); the War Memorial gym at UBC; his bust is one of the fourteen Valiants at Ottawa; there have been two movies and several books about him — but the most interesting monument to Hampton Gray is at Onagawa Bay. There, a local named Yoshi Kanda began a campaign to create a memorial to Gray that was dedicated in 1989.

The monument to Hampton Gray erected in July after the original was damaged in the earthquake. Gray’s body lies somewhere under the waters of Onagawa Bay in the distance. [photo:]

The Gray memorial was seriously damaged in the quake/tsunami of 2011. It was refurbished and remounted across the bay from its original location in July, 2012. It is the only monument to an Allied soldier in Japan. The inscription contains these words:

 Now  former enemies have become friends. It is hoped this will contribute to the  repose of the souls of those who died for both sides and be a lasting symbol of  peace and friendship between our two nations.

Why The NHL Lockout Has Meaning For You

Perhaps you’ve ignored the National Hockey League’s lockout of its players because you think it doesn’t affect you. Guess again. The owners’ negotiating stance has become the standard for every employer.

Just to fill you in: When the current contract between the players and their owners ran out in July, the owners tabled a contract offer that would see player salaries cut and the total amount paid out to players reduced. The contracts that these players had signed individually with management became waste paper. In 2004, the owners locked out the players and, after a lost season, wound up with a deal that capped salaries and otherwise gave the owners an agreement that they said was final. But, of course, it wasn’t. “The intelligent victor always presents his demands in installments.” Now we’re at the next installment.

Back in 2004, the owners assembled a $300 Million fund to help each other through a season of no hockey. The players had whatever they had put away — that might be a lot for the stars but a whole lot less for the newly drafted and journeymen. This time the owners didn’t bother, NBC provided them with a contract that pays out even if not a single game is televised; the owners can sit back and giggle while they torture small animals or whatever else they may do for diversion.

But these power plays by management have become standard for employers. Take it or leave it, that’s the new by-word. Don’t want a salary cut? Then you don’t work. After all, nobody’s buying anything and interest on corporate debt is minimal. So shut the place down for a while — no one but the employees get hurt. If you’re in a public service job, then a contract can be imposed by the legislature and you must take whatever the politicians offer you. They’re not worried about you; they get rich from the backhanders and “campaign contributions” smeared around by the same people who use lockouts as a negotiating tool.

Oh well, you say, I’m not in a union job. But you are. Everyone that works is dependent on past union victories. All of that is now on the table. Looking forward to a pension? That means you want an “entitlement”. That’s what it’s called now. It used to be called insurance — after all, you paid a premium out of every paycheque for it — but now it’s an “entitlement”. And you know what, you are entitled. You are entitled to every damn nickel you put into that company or government plan plus a piece of whatever interest is left after the banks do their banditry.  

The model National Hockey League owner was Harold Ballard. He spent some of his time as owner in a jail cell. He reduced the once-might Leafs to a nothing team and openly laughed at the fans who came out every season to throw money his way. Ballard destroyed that team, but he made a huge profit, and his successors have continued to milk the franchise so that it is the wealthiest in the League. Harold Ballard set an example for owners everywhere: you can deliver a shoddy product and still people will buy it; you can destroy your company and make millions.

Mitt Romney headed a money-making organization whose business operated on Harold Ballard principles. It’s the current corporate model. We all of us — whether the 99% or Romney’s 47% — have skin in this game. And remember, next time you go into work, you might have to face some grinning scumbag in a tailored suit telling you, “Take it or leave it.”

One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding

The Bank of Canada is introducing new plastic money. Now the story has come out that the original design for the $100 bill was changed because a focus group said that the woman on the reverse side looked “Asian”. So she was re-designed to be raceless, which is to say, White:

Now the question is: what did that woman look like before being changed into what to all westerners is an obvious Quebeçoise? One of my contacts at the BoC managed to smuggle out a specimen given to the focus group:

But hold on, another contact produced this one:

And yet another came up with this bill:

Why so many? Well, it seems that the original $100 bill, designed by immigration minister Jason Kenney pleased no one, so there was much image changing. Here’s Kenney’s design:

This is the same government that began minting coins that wouldn’t work in parking meters, that killed the penny, and now this. I thought Conservatives were supposed to be smart about money.

Amir Khadir and Mise en Demeure

Quebec Premier Charest has announced that the group Mise en Demeure will not play at the official Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebration on the Plains of Abraham. Charest says the festival is not political.  [double-take] What? You’re having a St. Jean celebration on the Plains of goddam Abraham that isn’t political? In fact, a Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebration anywhere has been pretty political for, oh, as long as I can remember. Back in 2008, a couple of bands were barred because they sang in English. (After a public outcry they returned to the bill.)

St.-Jean-Baptiste arrests in 1968. Trudeau used the occasion to begin his rise.

The group (whose name means “Official Notice”, a legal designation, en Anglais) has released correspondence with the Quebec government showing that the province threatened to cut off funding to other groups if Mise en Demeure was allowed to play. So, Mise en Demeure withdrew so as not to offend government sensibilities.

Is the group political? Sure. It’s right up there with, say, Chumbawamba as an anarchist threat. Why ban them? Why add more fuel to the fire in Quebec? Well, that’s because of Amir Khadir.

Khadir’s house.

Amir Khadir was born in Teheran and immigrated to Canada when he was five. He is currently the only member of Québec Solidaire to hold a seat in the provincial legislature. Solidaire is a leftist, sovereignist party. Khadir has shown his support for the recent Montreal protests but he is hardly the only member of the provincial government to do that. Khadir has three daughters.

One daughter, Yalda, has been charged in connection with the protests. Yalda is a real live wire. At a court hearing she attacked a press photographer saying that she deserved her privacy. Well, no, Yalda, you’re in court now and this is part of being a public protestor. Hold your chin up and face the camera. Current charges against Yalda include vandalizing the office of a political opponent of her dad’s. I don’t know if she’s guilty or not but the Quebec press has already pronounced that she is. Currently, the girl is out on bail.

The Mise en Demeure poster.

But what has this to do with Mise en Demeure? Well, when the cops went to arrest Yalda, they searched the rest of the house and discovered a poster for Mise en Demeure under a glass tabletop. The poster is a take on Delacroix’s painting of Paris revolutionaries storming the barricades. Instead of the bare-breasted figure of Marianne/Liberty (which probably would have had the group accused of pornography) there stands Bananarchiste, member of Mise en Demeure. The stripped dead soldier on the ground has been given the features of Jean Charest. A Montreal cop kneels before Bananarchiste. It’s a very straight-forward takeoff substituting current figures for those of Delacroix. The face of the guy in the top hat with the musket is now that of Amir Khadir.

The Delacroix original.

I can see Khadir and his daughters thinking that this was great fun, but proper Quebec is scandalized. It’s violent, they say, sucking in their collective lower lip like Max Pointy. “Charest Dead  at the Feet of Khadir” screams le Journal de Montréal.  Everything in the picture is removed from context, every syllable in Mise en Demeure’s lyrics is examined for propriety. Quebec used to think of itself as cool, now it sounds like a Florida court  trying a hip-hop artist.

But worse than this is the way that the media accepts that no proper politician would ever own such a seditious poster, at least not where a cop can find it, and if he does he’s guilty of something. Khadir hasn’t been charged with anything yet but the press is ready to defend Authority when it cracks down. Here’s a sample: this guy in the Gazette wants us to know he’s cool, he’s a metal-head who’s been to tons of concerts and he’s not offended by bad-taste album covers (he prints a Cannibal Corpse cover depicting one rotting corpse fellating another to demonstrate just how much he can tolerate) but this, this!, is too much, he says. Oh, my. Your poor bruised metallic feelings. But anyone who still looks to newspapers for unbiased news is doomed to disppointment. All of Quebec’s press is now and has always been opposed to the protests. Bring on the Law, they cry, and await Judge Dredd to sort things out.

Mise en Demeure remembers the good times. Quebec premiers’ heads on the wall.

So, another day, another stupid move by Charest. Meanwhile, you can listen to Mise en Demeure here. In fact, you can download a complete album for free! Don’t worry, Grand-dad, it won’t hurt your ears — it’s 99% acoustic and the lyrics are fairly clear; Chumbawamba is not an off-the-wall comparison.

More Montreal Protests

Protestors in Montreal are now disrupting the Formula One car race in the city. This has upset a number of people including ex-driver Jacques Villeneuve: “Villeneuve said he was raised to believe in hard work, and not imagine money will fall from the sky.” Villeneuve’s daddy was Gilles Villeneuve who was a champion F1 driver.

It’s not hard to dismiss Villeneuve — he’s paid, ultimately, by the 1% — but that raises the question: who benefits when the city is shut down for a monster automobile race? Businesses say that they will get $100 Million in extra revenue. Well, good! Except that it costs $15 Million to stage the race and that money comes from city, provincial, and federal taxes. That’s right, you in Nova Scotia, you in Saskatchewan, you in British Columbia (who ended Formula One racing in Vancouver), you are paying for this event.

The provincial government has attempted to get student leaders to end the protest but they say they have nothing to do with it. In fact, the Montreal protests have become something more than just student protests ever since the Casseroles began.

Casseroles are protests by ordinary people who walk outside and bang on a pan with a wooden spoon. This has really caught on; it’s sort of the Montreal version of “We’re not going to take it anymore!” Other places have been holding casserole nights in support of Montreal — even Calgary, in the Belly of the Beast, had one. Casseroles began in Chile in 1971 where they were called “cacerolazos”.  Now they are a fun way to show your dissatisfaction with… well, anything.

Click to play a casserole song

Innocuous as it may seem, this kind of protest is really getting to the powers-that-be. Demonstrators were arrested Friday for the first time in twelve days. Was it the casseroles or the complaints of F1 car owners? Who has more power in Quebec — the foreign billionaires who own these expensive toys or the local folks that possess a few pots and pans?  

Today, Sunday the 10th, is supposed to be a big demonstration in Montreal. The whole world is watching.

Here’s a Montreal story aggregator.

Printemps Érable

That’s a Québécois pun. It means “Maple Spring” but it sounds like “Printemps Arabe”, “Arab Spring”. Since February, Quebec has been the scene of massive demonstrations similar to the various Occupy movements of last year. These demonstrations have been prompted by the provincial government’s attempt to raise tuition for post-secondary education. Clashes with police are becoming increasingly violent, the government has introduced a draconian anti-assembly law, the minister for education has resigned, and the Spring has only just begun.

Protest march, May 22, Montreal

Reaction to the demonstrations has been remarkably similar to that expressed toward Occupy Wall Street and its cousins. First, serious pundits are asking for the program, the list of demands, and so on. They ask who the leaders are and are they willing to negotiate. Of course, these questions show an absolute misunderstanding of the entire situation: there are no leaders to be co-opted, no official demands that can be bargained into meaninglessness. The protests are a direct expression of discontent on the part of those who can feel themselves slowly being  crushed economically. And there is an immediate issue on the table, that of tuition hikes, though it is only one part of the general discontent with current conditions.

Second, critics have tried to paint the protestors as spoiled, privileged children who should be happy to be part of the great new world order. This has a special wrinkle in Quebec where tuition costs are the lowest in the country. So, Serious Commentators shake their heads and cluck their tongues — those brats should be grateful! And isn’t it unfair that you pay more? Of course it’s unfair but that doesn’t mean the answer is to make it just as expensive for them as it is for us; perhaps tuition ought to be reduced everywhere else. This raises the real problem which is the commodification of education and this is being protested in a lot of places — California, for instance, and England.

Education should not be a privilege reserved for the well-to-do, but that will be the result of making it more and more expensive. California schools used to have very low tuition but now they are among the highest in the U.S. Of course, California screwed up its economy so badly that the state must scramble for money. It can’t come from the wealthy (because that would mean raising taxes) so it must come from those with no income whatsoever: students. The death of cheap education is an attack on middle-class and blue collar families. We are on the road to a two class system: those on top and the vast majority toiling for them.

Nude march, May 3. This photo is from a Turkish source ( and just goes to show that idiot journalism has been globalized. Blot out the finger? Really?

When Quebec went through its Quiet Revolution in the 1950s and 60s, it envisioned a particular kind of future for itself. One part of this future was free education even though, at the beginning, some tuition was charged — the idea was to phase it out. The separatist Parti Québécois came to power in 1976 and Anglophone capital fled the province making the downturn of the 1980s very tough indeed for Quebec. All social programs, including education, have suffered. Unemployment has been high, especially for young people, ever since.  Tuition has slowly risen.

A Quebec child goes through eleven years of primary and secondary school but instead of Grade 12, Quebec students take a year or more at a CEGEP (Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel) where they enter a vocational or academic track, work toward a ticket or try to fulfill entry requirements for a university, vocational school, or advanced training. Public CEGEPs charge no tuition — at least not yet, though that seemed to be part of the plan before things blew up in the government’s face.  But the CEGEPs are a focus of the demonstrations in Quebec. Those students protest against the tuition raises that they will encounter after they finish CEGEP. Students have boycotted classes and set up picket lines preventing other students from attending.

Well, you know that sort of thing is going to trouble the law-abiding comfortable people and, up until a few days ago, public opinion was running against the protests but the government changed all that. First, Education Minister Line Beauchamp, refused to allow the largest Quebec student organization,  CLASSE, to be part of any negotiating. That was a world-class political error. Bring the group in, divide them, give one faction some meaningless points, and then raise tuition while the group disintegrates. Student organizations exist to be co-opted by administrations. Having cut CLASSE out of talks, Beauchamp then demanded that it immediately renounce violence but the two moves – one excluding, the other a peremptory demand – seemed more than a little contradictory. After all, if you’re going to exclude a group, how can you insist that it follow your rules? The upshot is that CLASSE has become more radical in its demands.

About that “violence”: there have been some broken windows, some campus vandalism. Meanwhile, the police have tear-gassed and beaten many people, some of whom had no real connection with the protest except to be in the wrong place when the cops came through. All this is evident on numerous videos of the protests.

But this led to the other big government error: Premier Jean Charest hurriedly introduced legislation to establish order and throttle any dissent. The law, Bill 78, was hastilly scribbled on scraps of paper, government members editing as they went. Originally the bill applied to groups of more than ten people. Cooler heads prevailed and the new law says that people cannot gather in groups of fifty or more without government permisssion. Good thing the Canadiens aren’t in the playoffs, eh? I can see it now: cops busting fans on their way into or out of the Forum. And CEGEPs that are boycotted will be closed for the semester. (That should save the government a few bucks, maybe enough to pay police overtime.)

A page of the scribbled memo where “10″ becomes “50″

Oh, and the law forbids supporting the students in any way. So, right after the bill was passed, cops arrested a Montreal restauranteur for wearing a red square, symbol of the protests, on his shirt. That is not the way to win friends and influence people. Public opinion is now swinging against the government.

Win Butler, of Montreal-based Arcade Fire, showing the Red Square on Saturday Night Live, May 19.

That has been the story in other places, too. The battle against tuition increases in Quebec, England, and California is part of a general revolt against the privatization of humanity, the concept that all our human relations are economic and, therefore, should be monetized. The idea that society is cooperative and that everyone shares in the greater good is being attacked with the counter-concept that, if something is valuable, it has a price and only those who can afford it can own it. Education is at the combative edge of this philosophic struggle. Is education available to everyone or only to those with money? Is learning a commodity to be bought and sold or is it a resource of value to all?

The Quebec protest, like the Occupy events, is a mass protest against the direction that society is taking. In the last federal election, the New Democrats, a social democratic party, won overwhelming support in Quebec. “We aren’t separatists,” say the Québécois, “We are socialists.” Tommy Douglas, that great Canadian, had something to say about socialism: “Friends,” he said,”The alternative is barbarism.”

From Quebec:

Open Letter to English Canada
Ten Points Everyone should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

The Rolling Stones Riot, Vancouver, 1972

There was a lot of excitement in Vancouver when the Rolling Stones announced that they would begin their 1972 North American tour in that city. Vancouver was still a small city, not yet “World Class”, and this was a major event. The mayor was Tom Campbell who favored a harsh law and order regime. The baby boom was twenty-five years old and there were lots of kids in the eighteen to twenty-four bracket which, at any given moment, is most given to criminal acts.

There were two large youth groups that accounted for a fair amount of crime; one consisted of young working class people who had grown up in the Lower Mainland, the other was composed of drop-outs, hippies, street people, rabble-rousers, and beatniks, as Campbell called them once or twice. Both youth segments were excitable and given to sporadic outbursts of anti-authoritarian behavior. From 1970 to ’72 Vancouver had many altercations that might be termed riots. There was the Sea Fest Riot of 1970 (the riots of 1978 and ’79 ended Sea Festival), the Hudson’s Bay demonstrations organized by the Vancouver Liberation Front, the cross-border raid by the Northern Lunatic Fringe of the Youth International Party, the All Seasons Park occupation, and a bunch of others. The mayor meant to bring these kids to heel. The police were supplied with three-foot long riot sticks and had a pretty good idea of how Campbell wanted them used.

In 1971, the police began Operation Dustpan intending to sweep the trash from the streets by aggessive enforcement of drug laws in Vancouver’s newest business district, Gastown, where hippydom flourished. This operation involved a great deal of harassment of people who looked like they might have a joint on them and a great deal of ill-will resulted. The young merchants of Gastown wanted to be friends and not alienate customers so they did not raise a fuss when activists for marijuana legalization decided to hold a smoke-in. So a bunch of kids gather to flout the law in front of cops wielding clubs. What could go wrong?

The Gastown Riot (Vancouver Sun)

Of course heads were clubbed and the good people of Vancouver were appalled. A city council member who had voted for the riot sticks was horrified:

“I’m shocked to see the use the police are making of the sticks… what they
are doing here is not at all like the demonstration we were given in
council when we approved the sticks.”

Opposition councillor Harry Rankin was disgusted: “Of course they hit people! Why else did you give them those sticks?” There were reports of mounted police charging up on the sidewalk and clobbering people who were trying to get away; a man whose leg was broken being ordered to get up and walk — he was beaten when he didn’t; the police swung their sticks with abandon (see video). Pretty much everybody thought that the police had caused most of the problems that night.

Rand Holmes in the Georgia Straight

Riots in the U.S. — from the urban affairs rooted in racism to the Chicago Democratic Convention — had created a public appreciation of how police, failing to quell a disorder, might contribute to it and make things worse. In Gastown, shopowners — middle-class businessmen — were attacked by police as they stood in the doorways of their own establishments. That was upsetting and the serious citizenry shook its collective head at seeing the police use force to accomplish whatever it was they were ordered to do. Mayor Campbell commended the police but he had few allies.

Part of the mural by Stan Douglas, "Abbott and Cordova, 1971". Grasstown becomes art. It is instructive to compare this with the two previous illustrations in this post.

So, in 1972, the police were alert to the fact that they might be judged harshly if they were caught beating the brains out of young people. Now enter the Rolling Stones.

Since this was a show aimed at young people and since youth was such a noticeable phenomenon and the topic of many many thoughtful opinion pieces, the concert organizers decided to pander to that demographic: They announced a Youthfest (I don’t recall what the thing was actually called) where young folks could show off the cool youth things they were doing and people with something to sell could make a few bucks. That’s how I came to witness the Rolling Stones Riot of 1972.

I was working as a Company of Young Canadians volunteer (actually we were paid, a little). My partner, who I will call A. since I don’t know if he wants to be a part of this memoir, and I were trying to work with debt-ridden folks, especially the low-income variety. Our Staff at the CYC wanted us to organize debtors into a huge payment strike against finance companies. A. and I thought that was lunacy and went for something a little less showy. We did debt counselling and wrote a book. We had an organization called the Consumer Action League. And, as representatives of the CAL we decided to have a table at Youthfest.

I do remember the name of the outfit that putting on Youthfest but I won’t use it because other, legitimate, people have called a later company by the same name. Anyway, A. and I went to the Outfit’s office to see if we could get a Youthfest table and, mirabile dictu!, they gave us a table AND two tickets to the Stones concert. So that was cool.

The concert was in the Pacific Coliseum on the PNE grounds. The Coliseum was where the Canucks played at the time. Boards were laid over the ice and a stage erected at one end — this was nothing like so slick as the way they do it now. There was room for 17000 people. It was really empty in the period before the concert when smaller groups were supposed to play there.

Outside the stage area, a wide concourse ran around the entire building. This is where, during hockey games, they sold T-shirts and hot dogs. That is where Youthfest set up its tables. We had a table covered with gestetnered material (including a comic that had been scratched into a gestetner stencil by hand) and were available to answer questions, if any one had one, which they mostly didn’t. In fact Youthfest didn’t draw much of a crowd. The people who stopped at our table were taking time off from manning their own tables. Over to our right and across was Hare Krishna — they used to hand you a book and when you said, “Thanks,” and started to walk away, they would demand you pay for it. Big bucks, too! I think eight dollars. Tickets to see the Stones were six. To our left and across was a vendor table operated by the Georgia Straight‘s comics division. The Straight was in league with Rip-Off Press and other underground comix distributors — this was part of that famous conspiracy to corrupt youth and bring down western civilization that Republicans are still trying to stop. I got a lot of great comics there including the brand-new tabloid size Harold Hedd which included Rand Holmes’ comics about the Gastown riot.

Youthfest ran for a couple of days before it culminated with the Stones concert. Other groups were supposed to play during this time. I recall a program listing Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen one afternoon. I went by the stage, but no Commander Cody. Perhaps the Commander had worked out that he was unlikely to get paid for this gig. I did see Humphrey and the Dump Trucks, a Saskatchewan group, but only part of their performance. Or maybe it was all they were willing to do for free.

I didn’t want to hang around for the concert. The Six Wives of Henry VIII was going to show the episode about poor Thomas Culpeper and Catherine Howard and I wanted to see my ancestor rogering the Queen. Or as much of that as might be shown on television. Anyway, I was tired of Youthfest and hanging out in the Coliseum; I wanted to go home. I gave my ticket to A. so that he could bring his girlfriend and, when Youthfest shut down and the concert was beginning, I tried to leave. I was told by a Coliseum employee not to go outside, that things were looking hairy. In a little while, he said, the cops would clear the rabble and I could go. So, for the remainder of the concert, I wandered the concourse around the performance area. The area behind the stage was blocked off but the rest of the concourse, everywhere there had been Youthfest, was open.

I watched most of Stevie Wonder’s opening act from the concourse opening directly opposite the stage, looking out across the audience. Behind me was the lobby and the glass doors that were smashed — that happened before I walked up that  way. Our table was back at the very end of the Youthfest area — you couldn’t go any farther because past the Hare Krishnas would take you to the closed backstage area, but I could look up directly at the stage and that is where I watched the Stones perform. Across the way, opposite the Georgia Straight tables was a first-aid station. That’s where they brought the injured cops.

Now, I wasn’t outside but from what I can piece together from newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts, a crowd began building early. Some people had bought tickets that were counterfeit. They were upset and wanted in. Other people were there because it was something happening and they were ready to enjoy it. Others, it was claimed later, were there to disrupt the evening.

Crowd vs. cops outside the Coliseum. From the Georgia Grape via

The police were lined up outside the Coliseum facing a raucous crowd. Somebody threw a bottle and a cop hit it with his stick. Other bottles started flying, the cops batted them away, then a whole shitload of bottles were hurled at the police. Inside the Coliseum, I saw cops bringing in others that were hurt. I recall one that seemed to have a broken ankle. I offered to help. The cops just smiled and thanked me and dragged their buddy back to the aid station. I realized as I watched them that they were enjoying this in a way: this time the cops were going to be the good guys. At no time did the police that I saw, many of them injured, look worried or upset. This was the kind of event that they could handle.

Injured cop being carried away. (Vancouver Sun via

Things were intense outside. A guy, stoned on something, was brought into the aid station. His head was bleeding. Police truncheon? I don’t know and maybe this guy didn’t either. He got his head bandaged and I saw him dancing around the concourse to the Stones music. Then he danced into the seated area. A little while later he was brought back to the aid station, bandage trailing down his back, blood running down his head. The aid team bound him back up and he went dancing off. The sight of that guy, dancing delirious in his bloody head dressing, stayed with me as an image of the People On Drugs section in my mental scrapbook.

It was getting late and the concert was going to end soon. Aside from bottles, the crowd was also hurling molotov cocktails by this time. The cops pulled the plug and called in the mounted riot police.  These guys ride big horses, not your common cowpony but crosses with big European draught animals. These are big horses and they are quite intimidating. It took the mounted police a not very long time to disperse the crowd.

Meanwhile, as the Stones were finishing their act, a line of crew members, all wearing Stones T-shirts, lined up across the concourse to keep anyone from getting into the back stage area. There was one guy running around organizing this and I heard him yelling about making sure the cops were going to protect the Stones motorcade as it left the Coliseum. [According to Allen Fotheringham, Hugh Pickett pressed for a motorcycle escort for the frightened Stones drivers from about 10:30 on.] Up on stage, Mick Jagger was going through the encore, “Street Fighting Man”, stamping his foot like a trained horse answering a math question.

The lights came up and the audience began to leave. The side doors of the Coliseum were opened and people stumbled out into the evening. I still recall the way the expression on their faces changed as they walked outside, broken glass underfoot, a patch of asphalt still burning from a molotov cocktail, police horses stepping through the litter…

The next day or two I read the theories in the Sun, the Province, and of course, the Georgia Straight (and Georgia Grape, which was new). There were two main lines of thought. First, the riot had been caused by delinquents from Surrey. Now Surrey was often blamed for Vancouver’s problems; it’s very handy to have a nearby locality you can lay all the heavy stuff on. One news report talked about pickup trucks full of beer pulling into the Coliseum parking lot. Obviously those Surrey rednecks — no one in Vancouver drove a pickup truck!

People hurling rocks at the police. This kind of checkered shirt was a uniform for the Clark Park Gang. (Vancouver Sun)

The second theory had to do with the Clark Park Gang and there were two versions of it. Clark Park is one of a number of green spaces that were designed into Vancouver’s city plan. Some parks had swimming pools, tennis courts, a lake area, others were just a chunk of grass where, for instance, people might play boccie on Sunday afternoons, or the Italian Vancouverites meet the Portugese in a soccer match. And they were a place to go if, say, your dad was hammered and looking to try out his new belt or you wanted to hang out and sniff a little glue and meet your friends. Sometimes these groups of friends might get involved in a B&E or other such crime. That was the Gang. Clark Parkers had already been blamed for the Sea Fest Riot of 1970.  After they realized that they frightened people, the guys that hung out in the parks began mugging folks out for a walk. The police started patrolling the park and, shortly before the Stones concert, two cops were beaten in Clark Park. That meant war.

 The Clark Parkers and others like them were idolized by certain bolsheviks who thought revolution was imminent and that these skids would become shock troops. They were proletarian, they were tough, and they were cool. There were stories in the Straight quoting breathless young women saying that they knew a guy who packed a chunk — i.e., was armed. See, that was a big deal then and excited the revolutionary types no end. 

So one theory had it that the Clark Park Gang had instigated the Stones riot, just another example of wayward youth and alcohol. But a second theory had it that the Clark Park Gang was incited to cause a riot by the Youngbloods. The Youngbloods were one of a number of Vancouver’s self-proclaimed revolutionary groups. Supposedly, they were mentoring the Clark Park Gang, going to mold these lumpen kids into a shining revolutionary vanguard. This represented a certain vision held by the police, too, who hated both the commies and the local hoods. Superintendent Ted Oliver said that as many as five different groups were involved in the riot: “They had smoke bombs and they had stink bombs and they had molotov cocktails.” Some of the Clark Parkers were (and are) ready to take credit for the riot.  The Youngbloods, of course, accepted all the credit that they thought they were due which was all of it.

About thirty police officers were hurt, one with a broken sternum. Some say that injury came from a railroad spike launched from an air cannon wielded by a Clark Parker. Others that it was a hurled bottle. More than twenty arrests were made. The addresses of those arrested were from all over the Lower Mainland, not concentrated in Surrey or around Clark Park. Some of those arrested claimed innocence but, as others have pointed out, if a riot is building up, then you get out or you’re part of it.

One column I read in the Sun claimed that, as the crowd gathered outside the Coliseum, organizers tried to get the Stones to agree to having a live video feed of their act shown in the Agrodome which was set up for that. The idea was to placate the folks with counterfeit tickets and generally calm things down. The band refused.

The police came through as heroes. They made up for the Gastown incident and showed themselves to be the benevolent face of community order after all. Shortly afterward, the police decided that it was time to destroy the Clark Park Gang. A special unit called the H squad was set up to that end. H stood for Heavy. Usually the H squad worked in groups of three.

The Clark Park Gang, the Riley Park Gang, and the rest all disappeared over the next decade or so. They were destroyed not so much by the police as by changing demographics as Vancouver became a Big(ger) City. The word “gang” has a whole different meaning today.

Later that summer, the Youngbloods had a run-in with another revolutionary group, the Partisans. The Youngbloods ripped off the Partisans’ gestetner machine. They and the Partisans then held a self-criticism session overseen by the staff collective of the Georgia Grape. The Youngbloods admitted to adventurist tactics. The Partisans agreed to share. Not long after, the Youngbloods disintegrated as its members got real lives.

Council was frightened by the entire episode. This was a demonstration by maybe 2000 people at the outside. The police were well able to handle it. Even so, Council shortly afterward refused to allow Led Zeppelin a license to perform.  That was small city Vancouver back then.

The Outfit that organized Youthfest didn’t pay its bills and bankrupted.

Tom Campbell left politics in 1972.

The Rolling Stones continued their tour. They romanced Margaret Trudeau and Keith Richards OD’d in Ontario (according to Margaret’s account). In Montreal there were separatist bomb scares, one of them forcing the frightened Stones to cut short a concert. Street fighting man, my aunt fanny! Bunch of jet set jerkoffs. They couldn’t even handle a tour of the Peaceable Kingdom of Canada. It was a long time before I could listen to a Stones song at all and even now the memory of that guy calling for police protection gets in between me and the music.


Past Tense has a good post on the Rolling Stones Riot and another on Vancouver gangs of the day.