Activists stand trial

Supporters of Kingston’s closed prison farms gathered in the Memorial Room of City Hall last night after the first day of the trial of protesters arrested in August 2010.
Supporters of Kingston’s closed prison farms gathered in the Memorial Room of City Hall last night after the first day of the trial of protesters arrested in August 2010.
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The trial for Kingston prison farm protesters began yesterday at the Frontenac County Court House.

Twenty-four people were arrested during a protest at Frontenac Institution on Aug. 8 and 9, 2010 that saw activists temporarily block trucks from removing the Frontenac Prison Farm’s cattle herd.

The demonstrations started in July 2010, protesting a decision to shut down Canadian’s six prison farms.

Of those arrested, 11 people were set to stand trial for mischief charges yesterday.

Charges were dropped for two of the accused yesterday. The nine remaining are expected to appear in court today.

Bob Lovelace, a professor in the global development studies department, addressed over 100 protesters last night in the Memorial Room of City Hall.

Lovelace was found in contempt of court for protesting uranium drilling on First Nations territory. He served three and a half months of a six-month sentence in 2008.

What goes on in prison is not a nice thing, Lovelace told Prison Farm supporters at last night’s rally.

“When I was being transferred to the Don [Toronto] Jail for my appeal hearing, the two guards who drove me left the sally [port jail security] door closed,” he said to an audience. “I was gassed with carbon monoxide for 45 minutes until I was crawling on my knees and unable to walk.”

Lovelace showed his gratitude to the nine arrestees and their supporters.

“I hope you know this battle is not over. You are in a winning position, you have your dignity, and with your dignity, you can be winners in this fight,” he said.

Bill Norman, a former inmate at Frontenac Institution, was part of the summer 2010 prison farm protests.

He said he was disappointed in the decision to close the prison farms.

“We enjoyed it, it gave us something to look forward to,” he said.

Norman said the prison farms were an important part of a lot of people’s experiences at Frontenac Institution.

“We’re the old school inmates, we knew how to do things, do our time,” he said. “These young guys now, they just lay back and smoke or something.”

Norman said Prison Farm supporters were banned from protesting outside a Stephen Harper campaign stop in Kingston during a May 2011 election.

“We haven’t had many representatives out for Kingston,” he said. “When we did the protest last summer, the Prime Minister came up for re-election and he wouldn’t even let us on the property with the signs.”

The effect of the farms shutting down hasn’t hit yet, Norman said. “It’s going to hit when they start tearing those buildings down ... there’s a lot of people who’ve lost their job,” he said.

Norman said even though the decision is final, the fight isn’t over.

“It’s ended now, but we’re going to continue to fight for it.”

Prison farms located in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have also been shut down.

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