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by David Spaner
Early morning, Jan. 20, 1983, just outside Vancouver, a small army of police arrested five Vancouver people--including a former member of the defunct punk band the SUBHUMANS--and charged them with a series of guerilla-related activities. The five--Julie Belmas, Gerry Hannah, Ann Hansen, Doug Stewart, and Brent Taylor all face life sentences.
They are charged with bombing the plant that makes guidance systems for the deadly Cruise missile, dynamiting a destructive hydro-power station that's been opposed by environmentalists, and firebombing three video pornography shops in the Vancouver area that distribute material containing torture, mutilation and sexual violence against women. They also face several conspiracy and weapons charges.
Although the five have no criminal records, they've been denied bail, could be held in prison up to a year awaiting the outcome of their trials, and the prosecution has handed them a direct indictment, bypassing the usual process of allowing the defence a preliminary hearing of the evidence. Canadian newspapers and other media have conducted a sensationalist trial-by-media, convicting them as "terrorists" before any evidence was presented in court.
Gerry Hannah, along with several close friends, was instrumental in forming the Vancouver punk scene in 1977. Both the SUBHUMANS and DOA were composed largely of people in this close-knit group from the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. With Gerry (as "Gerry Useless") on bass, the SUBHUMANS played the punk circuit throughout North America and released several records. They also played political concerts, including Rock Against Reagan, and benefits for native people and El Salvador guerrillas.
To Gerry, punk was more than getting drunk and not caring about anything. He believed punk could shake people out of their apathy and that people could change and take action.
Gerry wrote such SUBHUMANS songs as the anti-sexist "Slave to My Dick" (included on the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation), and he initiated Rock Against Radiation, a large outdoor concert at which the SUBHUMANS, DOA, and other popular Vancouver bands shared the stage to protest nuclear power and weapons.
The other four have been politically active for years, ranging from anti-nuclear organizing to tossing pies at politicians. As well, they have been involved in the music scene, working on concerts and fanzines.
One of the things that attracted Gerry to punk rock was its assertion that ordinary people--without years of musical training--can make music for each other. The five recognize that social change--like rebel music--is not made by professionals or experts; it's made by ordinary people taking control of their lives, and acting against racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, authority, and the other terrors of every day life.
Since the arrests, support has come from many diverse communities, including environmentalists, feminists and anarchists. As well, many in the punk scene have stepped forward to offer support to the five. DEAD KENNEDYS played a benefit concert in Victoria, BC, and DOA has rerecorded "Fuck You" (written by Gerry Hannah, it was originally recorded by the SUBHUMANS in 1979) as a benefit release to raise funds for the five's defence.
Legal expenses are expected to be at least $100,000. If you'd like to help out in your area (benefit concerts, distributing information...) contact the Vancouver Five Defence Group (POB 4826, Bentall Sta. Vancouver, BC V7X 1A1 CANADA). To contact any of the five directly, write Julie Belmas, Gerry Hannah, Ann Hansen, Doug Stewart, or Brent Taylor at Oakalla Prison, Drawer "0", Burnaby, BC V5H 3N1 CANADA.
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