The anarchist group Direct Action in Vancouver wanted to attack the symbols of corporate greed in order to wake the masses up to the atrocities that feed capitalism and to show that it is possible to fight the system. After vandalizing targets such as the headquarters of mining company Amax, the group decided to step up tactics. In the spring of 1982, a bomb made up of an estimated 200 sticks of dynamite destroyed the Cheekye-Dunsmuir Hydro substation, which was nearly completed and was widely opposed by the surrounding community because it would pave the way the development of a nearby nuclear power plant.
In October of 1982, Litton Industries was bombed because it was building cruise missiles at a time in the Cold war when it did some out of the question for the West to resort to nuclear war to protect capitalist interests. The security desk was called and given clear instructions to evacuate immediately, but security personnel believed the call was a hoax and only evacuated staff minutes before the bomb exploded. Seven workers were injured. Although many activists disagreed with the bombing, in some ways it also galvanized the movement —the largest demonstration ever to occur against Litton happened less than a month after the bombing.
In November of 1983, after women’s groups had been campaigning with little success for the closure of pornography stores that were selling snuff films, which showed women being raped, beaten and tortured, five members of Direct Action, also known as Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, bombed three of the “Red Hot Video” American-owned chain stores. No one was injured but two of the vile stores were extensively damaged.
Two months later, members of the group were arrested on their way back from target practice. The sentences of the five members, Doug Stewart, Gerry Hannah, Julie Belmas, Brent Taylor and Ann Hansen ranged from six years to life, however even Taylor and Hansen, who received the heaviest sentences of 22 years and life, respectively, were released on parole in under eight years.
In her final statement before her sentencing, Hansen said: “Businesses such as Litton, BC Hydro and Red Hot Video are the real terrorists. They are guilty of crimes against humanity and the earth, yet they are free to carry on their illegal activities while those who resist and those who are their victims remain in prison. How do we, who have no armies, weapons, power or money, stop these criminals before they destroy the earth? I believe if there is any hope for the future, it lies in our struggle.”
Direct Action, a book from Ann Hansen, is available at the Maison Norman Bethune bookstore.