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the Vancouver Five

The Vancouver Five were a group of like-minded, politically active individuals who took their political discontent one step further than most. Rather than picket and protest, they called themselves "Direct Action" and used arson and explosives to attack the elements of society that they felt deserved attacking, such as arms plants, ecologically damaging projects and pornographic video stores.

That's interesting, but what made them different from any other 1970's politically oriented terrorists, right? Well, they were punk rockers--two of 'em anyway. Gerry Hannah was even the bassist for the classic Canadian band the Subhumans (not to be confused with the equally great UK band of the same name.). They were also rooted firmly in the 80's. Direct Action were one of the early militant environmental groups, and took issue with a hydroelectic project in British Columbia, so they blew it up.

When they took issue with the "Red Hot Video" chain, they burned down two of their stores, and attempted to do the same with a third.

When they took issue with Litton Industries, for manufacturing guidance systems for Cruise Missiles, they decided to bomb the plant (bomb the bomb plant--somehow appropriate), and on October 14, 1982, they did just that. No one was killed, but three policemen and two passing motorists were badly injured.

Three months later, five members of Direct Action were arrested and charged with the various crimes the group had committed. In the next issue of Maximum Rock N Roll, the largest Canadian scene report was devoted entirely to the issue of the "Vancouver Five," as they'd been dubbed in the media.

In succeeding issues of MRR, Gerry Hannah wrote numerous letters, keeping politically minded punks up-to-date with the situation. DOA helped make the VC5 a cause celebre by recording an old Subhumans tune for a benefit single.

For a while, the innocence or guilt of the VC5, as well as their methods and motives was a subject for vigorous debate within the punk community. The VC5 never outright declared their guilt to the punk community, but they certainly implied it in ther communiques to Maximum Rock N Roll--rather than attempt to fight the charges against them, they were going to attempt to turn the trials into a political showcase, trotting out the evils of nuclear power, pornography and cruise missiles for all to see.

Despite their intentions to fight it out until the end, the VC5 all plead guilty, and were given sentences ranging from 6 years to life imprisonment, with Gerry Hannah receiving ten years, and his girlfriend, Julie Belmas, 20. All five, however, were free within a decade.

The VC5 were controversial at the time, and are now an obscure footnote in punk history. Steve Blush's book gives the 5 a paragraph or two of space, but doesn't do much else. The aim of this webpage is to provide enough material on the VC5 to give a more rounded picture of them and the responses they provoked from the punk community.

2002/08/15: Whole page is new. As I fill in my collection of MRR, I'll add all the VC5 updates...Anyone with relevant content to contribute should contact me.



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