Meeting hears of direct nonviolence action
© Brian McInnis
Wilma van der Veen, a sociologist at Saint Mary's University in Halifax sits with organizer Tony Reddin, at a meeting held to discuss non-violent citizen action regarding the Plan B highway project.
There is a sense that Plan B protesting is about to ramp up to a fight the likes of which hasn't been seen much on P.E.I.
A meeting in Cornwall Wednesday drew close to 100 people who heard powerful words and phrases like courage, infiltration, wire-taps, solidarity, training in consensus decisions and even "what's the use."
Wilma van der Veen from St. Mary's University in Halifax was guest speaker for the meeting that bore the title Direct Non-violent Citizen Action- Keeping within the Law.
She said non-violence can range from attending a rally concerning one issue, to a life-governing philosophy. To be effective it must be approached with care, she said.
"People can get hurt, people can die," she said at one point in her presentation.
She stressed the need for each person to look inward and ask questions like how far are you willing to go or how long are you willing to fight.
"Even thinking about your own life, about how you want to engage with other people," said van der Veen. "What role do you want to play? You don't have to put yourself in harm's way."
High risk protesters need lots of people supporting them, helping out, she said.
Be careful warned James Rodd, former head of the National Farmers Union on P.E.I. He drew attention to the 1971 farmer's protest that saw a blockade of Island highways by farm tractors.
"The RCMP and others infiltrated the group and wire-tapped, and so on and so forth," he said. "Our next meetings, I would like to see everyone sign in and the one that is seated beside you, on both sides, that you know them or if you don't know them, you find out because it's that kind of a protest we are up against, I believe."
That prompted van der Veen to acknowledge too, the possibility of agent provocateurs planted to turn an action violent or illegal so that public opinion turns against the cause.
Tony Reddin was master of ceremonies for the meeting. He suggested that smaller groups start to form and meet this weekend to plan their actions.
Van der Veen stressed the need for planning, setting goals, developing a strategy and training. Consensus decisions, for example, require technique to achieve.
"It's a process that people need to be trained in," said van der Veen. "It's not about let's all come to a consensus and we all agree on one thing. That would be really easy.
"You can do workshops on nonviolent communication so I highly recommend that," said van der Veen.
Why bother, asked Brendon McGinn.
"It would seem to me that we have been protesting through the media of one type or another for over a year on a continuous basis," said McGinn. "Nothing happens. They don't listen."
"I think a lot of what we have been doing is building up to showing that we followed every normal process . . . and are not being listened to, and that justifies and I think it really shows that there is good reason to both mount a legal case and to mount some sort of direct action to really get the ears of those that are making decisions," said Reddin.
"So far we have had good success in making sure things are well organized and sometimes it seems like we have angels that are helping us," he said.