Anti-Native Rights Activist Gary McHale Charged with Assault
A public statement by Tom Keefer
March 17th, 2011
Longtime anti-native rights activist Gary McHale has been charged with assault today after he used physical force to repeatedly push Six Nations solidarity activist Tom Keefer at a so-called “truth and reconciliation” rally in Caledonia on February 27, 2011. The incident occurred in the context of an attempt by Gary McHale to provoke members of the Six Nations community by placing a 5 foot high wooden monument at the entrance of the Douglas Creek Estates (known by the people of Six Nations as Kanonstaton “the protected place”) as part of his so-called “truth and reconciliation” rally.
On February 27, the Six Nations Solidarity network, an organization which has come together to build support for Six Nations land rights in non-native communities, mobilized over 120 people to come to Caledonia to stand in support of real truth and reconciliation. The network has long held that any meaningful process of truth and reconciliation must involve redress of the continuing dynamics of colonialism imposed upon indigenous people by Canadian society, and must respect and honor the treaties that have been made between Six Nations and the Canadian state/British Crown.
As members of the Six Nations Solidarity Network peacefully gathered at the site of the public “truth and reconciliation” rally, Gary McHale became incensed with their presence and claimed that Keefer and other members of the network were “trespassing” on the rally site.
According to Keefer, “McHale refused to tell us who the owner of the land was, and believing that the land was owned by the province, we chose to stay, and encouraged McHale to go ahead and have his rally.” However, when Keefer turned his back to McHale to answer his phone, McHale gave him a vigorous push, swiftly followed by another as he shouted at Keefer and others. According to Keefer “McHale was absolutely enraged, and I feared for my safety. His assault almost knocked me over, and was most certainly an attempt at physical intimidation.” McHale’s attack was witnessed by over a dozen bystanders, including media reporters. Video from two different cameras captured McHale’s assault on Keefer.
Here’s one view of the incident in real-time.
And here it is in slow motion.
Recognizing that McHale was a physical threat to his safety, Keefer kept his distance from McHale, while he and other members of the Network remained on the rally site, awaiting clarification as to the actual status of the land. As Keefer stated, “we believe that the land itself is Six Nations land, but the official owner of the land according to the Ontario land registry system never asked us to leave or gave Gary McHale any authority to order us off his land. He allowed people to be on his land for a rally, and we were there for the rally. From what I understand, the owner did not authorize McHale or anyone else to use physical force to remove anyone from the land.”
Non-native solidarity activists have attended previous public open-air rallies held by McHale, and interactions between members of the group with McHale’s supporters and local Caledonia residents have always been peaceful and respectful. McHale on the other hand has always been very upset to see large numbers of non-native people opposing his attacks on the people of Six Nations, and he has repeatedly demanded that the OPP intercede to remove completely peaceful individuals from public open air rallies on the basis of whether or not they agree with his viewpoints. The Six Nations Solidarity Network has respected McHale’s right to free speech, while also bringing forward its own perspectives on the Caledonia conflict. At McHale’s rally on March 28th 2010 — attended by over 50 supporters of the network — anti-racist activists listened peacefully as Merlin Kinrade and Doug Fleming gave their speeches. For video evidence of the peaceful nature of these interactions, please see the footage of McHale’s own videographer, Jeff Parkinson at .
You can also see the write up and video on the Six Nations Solidarity blog at https://6nsolidarity.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/anti-racists-2-gary-mchale-canace-0/.
McHale’s claims that non-native anti-racist activists are a physical danger to him are absurd given the peaceful conduct of anti-racist activists. These claims are also deeply ironic given McHale’s failure to oppose the presence of neo-nazis tied to hate crimes at his anti-native rallies in 2006-2007. When he was asked at his so called “March for Freedom” on October 15th 2006 what his position was on the presence of Neo-nazis who had come to his rally supporting his message and openly calling for violence against native people, McHale replied “…there’s always people in any crowd that are going to be looking for trouble. I can’t control that…. There’s always people that are going to want trouble. I can only control my message… I can’t help it on either side whether there’s other people trying to change the message to something else.” Needless to say, it appears that McHale has a “two tiered” perspective on “controlling other people’s messages” when it comes to anti-racist activists attending his rallies.
[See http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=3289390888577264987&hl=en-CA# for the video from October 15th where McHale makes these statements, (begin at the 5 minute mark) and also see http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=6333819608425231319&hl=en-CA# for video of neo-nazi Tomas Szymanski speaking about the need to “for armed revolution” against native people at McHale’s October 15th “March for Freedom”. For video of neo-nazi leader Dave Ruud being interviewed by media at this same rally please see http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=-4360286071716235637&hl=en-CA#. For more details about how prominent holocaust denier Paul Fromm and numerous other neo-nazi’s have supported McHale’s anti-native efforts and attended his protests, please see https://6nsolidarity.wordpress.com/the-far-right/.]
It is both deeply disturbing and deeply ironic that when genuine anti-racist activists show up to participate in McHale’s rallies in order to bring their message that real “truth and reconciliation” begins with honouring treaties and treating indigenous people with respect, McHale demands that the OPP act as his own personal political police, to ensure that no one who disagrees with his right wing anti-native populism be allowed anywhere near the public open-air event. It is one thing for McHale to host his rallies at a private indoor event, where he would be within his legal rights to refuse entry to those he did not wish to have present. However, when McHale organizes open-air public demonstrations around the reclamation site to provoke people in Six Nations, and these then lead to him physically assaulting a peaceful anti-racist activist, he needs to be held accountable for his violent actions.
True peace, justice and reconciliation can only come through recognizing and overcoming Canada’s colonial legacy and by building real relationships with indigenous people based on compassion, truth and mutual respect.
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