The story “Cell Block H” is part of a comic more or less memoir/film script regarding the tragic destruction of BC’s southern interior Ancient RainForest ecosystem and a small loose neat group of West Kootenay Metis (3) and dozens of other great Folks that actually used their right to “peaceful lawful civil disobedience” and blockaded logging road at: Perry’s Ridge 1997, Westfall river drainage 1999, Westfall 2004 and 2005 in the Incomappleax to protect Mountain Caribou, Wolverine and many other species habitat in these vast primitive wilderness area.
Our commitment to live for months in these Ancient Forest and sometimes face violent assaults by BC Timber Sale contractors on our rights only harden our resolve to stop at least some of the destruction, We were rewarded partly with recent protection of the Incomappleax River drainage, There is much more to protect: Russel Creek Slocan, Rainbow valley creeks Revelstoke, West side Duncan Lake, Argenta Face the list goes on.
A few Good People can make the Story telling Sacred. We create more than we know sometimes with our blind Courage.
1997 BC Southern Interior “War in the Woods” Tommy Tree Hugger Speaks (based on shit that mostly happened)
Where to Start??? “Mens Rea….civil /criminal contempt of court”
Late summer 1997 high noon Nelson court Room:
Justice Mckwen presided over 2 tree huggers that had defied his court order. They had chained themselves to a tree to protect a consumptive domestic watershed from industrial logging on Perry’s Ridge just south of Slocan city. (See cbc Jack Ross Perry’s Ridge reporter Gloria Macarenko)
Chapter 5 or 7 or 2
“Who do you people think you are?” Justice Mckwen removed his reading glasses and leaned over the bench peering down on the 2 young Men, below him.
They looked at each other in silence. The cavernous courtroom was nearly empty. The 2 had chained themselves to a tree on a Ministry of Force (Forestry) logging road “right of way”.
“Well your honour…” Tommy started….
“Wait….. I am not really interested” the judge interrupted
“You asked your Honour,”
“And now I changed my mind which is the entire point here. This is My Court and it was my Court Order that you chained your ass too and brought my Authority into ridicule in a very public manner and made a fool of me, So here is the skinny….
He was pissed off that his “injunction” his “common law” that he had issued for the Ministry of Force (Forestry) and a yankee immigrant come BC NDP MLA and his timber industry financial supporter. 9 others had been arrested the week before when 500 locals had showed up to protest the logging and protect their Water.
Tommy could not help himself:
“Your Honour giving a “court order” to the BC NDP Ministry of Force and the immigrant yankee socialist MLAon unceded Sinixt territory is a conflict of interest, is it not.?.?/? As I understand the BC attorney general hires you, they are your boss. Right?”
“Ministry of Forestry young man not Ministry of force and the Sinixt First Nation is officially extinct in Canada, they hold status no in BC or anywhere in Canada. I can give a “court order” to whomever I please, young man.
“That is right your Honour in 1956 bean counters from Canada’s notorious “Indian Act Agency” declared the Lakes People or Sinixt extinct, so if they had the power then to extinct the Sinixt, they have the power now to exist this Interior Salish Nation. That many archaeologist believe are the Mother Tribe of Canada’s Interior Salish Peoples.”
McKwen nearly rose to his feet, he was so angry with these young men that had blatantly defied his “common law” his court authority. He wanted to make an example of them to put an end to the growing public opposition to the destruction of local domestic watersheds and old growth forests.
With an “injunction” in hand against the concerned citizens of the Slocan valley, the ministry of force and BC’s NDP government with their yankee immigrant MLA leading the charge gathered a 100 volunteer RCMP officers from across Canada (extra pay) for a show of BC NDP socialist force. A military camp was set up on Gary Burns property, a local timber baron, on the Slocan River, just south of Slocan City. The cops pretty near out numbered the resistance of the village
“These 2” Mckwen mused silently “had actually chained themselves to a tree. The first 9 had not been nearly so radical and had been easily hand cuffed arrested and most released after signing a “Promise to Appear’” 3 currently resided at KRCC, Kamloops Regional Correction Centre, a maximum security reman prison. They had not signed the P to A. They would appear at a set court date 2 months down the line or they could choose to sign and be released. (Not as easy as it sounds)
“Sept. 15 is the court date I have set for you anarchist to rant about old trees, drinking water and endangered species. Sign the Promise to Appear” and remember if you go any where near Perry’s Ridge or in way impede the hard working loggers or truckers you will be immediately arrested. Do you understand?” he was nearly standing now, clearly furious.
“I am not signing” Tommy’s heart was in his throat.
“What?” The judge was standing. “You will spent 2 months in KRCC maximum prison until the trial in Sept. Is that what you want young Man?”
“You are environmental extremists, anarchists, trouble makers and causing chaos in BC.” Justice McKwen was beside myself. He could not believe we had chained ourselves to a tree in the middle of BC’s NDP MLA Corky Evan’s new logging road on Perry’s Ridge.
We had defied a court order (injunction) McKwen had given Corky and his buddies at BC Ministry of Force and their timber baron overlords.
Small communities all across BC’s southern interior were concerned about massive industrial clear cut logging in their consumptive watersheds. There was absolutely no liability or responsibility for industry or any level of government should their source of water be destroyed or damaged.
Citizens groups all over BC pleaded with their elected pundits to work with them to protect their water. Making the province and industry responsible for any damage that they could easily inflict to their Water.
The BC NDP or Liberals would have none of it. It was open season on Sanity. Good Water is Life. Canada politician only care to destroy Good Water or give it to Nestles to bottle. They want us to be drink bottle water.
Later that afternoon the two young Men stood again before the angry judge. They had been locked up in the courthouse cell. A tiny cell below the judges chamber.
“What do you have to say for yourselves, tens of thousands of dollars have been spend to deploy RCMP task force to stop your crusade. Who do you think you are defying my court order?
It was a quiet full Nelson court house?
Who did I think I was?
There was no time to think about who I thought I was. It had never really dawned on me.
“Your Honour I did the crime I’ll do the time.” blurted between my lips.
The courtroom laughed.
Mckwen smiled: “that is refreshing.”
Two weeks in prison.
It was “cruel and unusual punishment” according one BC Supreme Justice on Appeal.
Particularly because we did that Time in the Nelson lock up or drunk tank rather than an actual prison. We where in “hole time” for 2 weeks. Believe it or not that is a long time. We missed the bus to KRCC. (Kamloops Regional Correction Centre maximum security prison).
It is hard to know if McKwen instructed that we do Hard Time in the “hole” or was it our MLA that was real tight with local timber barons or RCMP and Nelson’s police
big wigs and the BC Attorney General. In hind sight it was likely all of the above.
We did not know it then but our “rag tag” troop of dreamers scared the bee Jesus out of BC’s over paid hapter 7 or 8 maybe 2
1st night Nelson lockup (drunk tank)
High Noon Cell block H…. Tommy Tree Hugger checking into Kamloops Maximum Security Prison
First night in the Nelson Police Department (NPD) lock up. It was full house. A crazy night of pissed off drug addicts.
In the morning they loaded up the prisoners bus for the KRCC tour. First stop Castlegar RCMP station. A sickly heron addict was dragged into the tour bus and handcuffed to Tommy. About 10 ks west the heron addict went to the floor and puked on Tommy’s sneakers.
“Fuck you prick!!!” The addict smiled from floor of the bus.
The bus pulled into the Grand Forks court house. The chubby sheriff lead the prisoners into some cells as they waited for more tourist when court finished.
What a relief I was unshackled from Mr Puke, he had a date with the judge. I was put in a cell alone. This was the 2nd day of fasting. I was emotional and started tearing up. I just sat there while my eyes rained.
It was not long before the steal door at the end of hall was unlocked and a massive bearded Man was escorted in with 2 miniature sheriff on either side. They stopped in front of my cell.
“We brought you some company!!” one jiggled as they took off his handcuffs and leg irons.
The dude leaned over to get through the cell door.
Klang!!! freedom was slammed out.
He immediately starts punching the cell hall.
I was sitting on the steal mattress in a lotus mediation position with tears streaming down my eyes.
In a quick Boxer like turn he is looking down on me with the fury of a hurricane.
“Are you a fucking fag?”
“Good I’m here because of fags. What’s your story?”
“ I am a Tree Hugger, I was chained to a Tree on a logging road “right of way”. BC Forestry Ministry had “injunction” we pissed off a judge I guess>” I stumbled for words as the big Man sat down and looked me square in the eye.
“You got a smoke? I sure could use a cigarette and good for you standing tall for Water. It was a thick Russian like accent. A big Rasputin came to mind.
“No tobacco or Fire. If you don’t mind me asking what’s your Story?”
He looked around the little cell, his thick dark beard brushed his wide chest. He stood up and walked over and shook the cell door. It rattled and the wall shook. His massive back blocked out lots of space.
He spoke facing the hall
“ My kids brought home a gay family book from school. I went to the school and threw the book at the teachers feet and kicked around a few tables and told them never to give my kids those books again and left. The next day RCMP came to my off grid farm went to my pot patch. I was ratted out by my wife’s dike sister. I am on my way for 2 weeks observation in Vancouver syq ward
next night Penticton lock up and now the front desk of the “Big House.” Tommy was repeating the first paragraph of the Lords Prayer: “Yea thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear to no evil….that was all he could remember. He cursed under his breath for skipping Sunday school bible studies.
He dragged his leg irons up to the front desk when his number was called. The hand cuffs were chaffing his wrist. He looked up at the 2 bulls that towered over him.
“Can I be in Jack Roses cell block?” he blurted out.
The 2 bulls looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“What to fuck. Where do you think you are buddy the “Hotel California” what about pool side?
What hell did you do anyways? They were perched above the tree hugger behind thick ply-icy glass speaking through inter column
“ I was chained to a tree in the Slocan valley trying to protect a Watershed from clear cut logging.
“Watershed what that a building with water in it?”
Tommy was confused. Was the Bull serious or joking. Was it a trick question or was he ignorant.
“No…. Joe that is a creek, people take water from.” The other Bull smiled at the confused prisoner.
“Ok that way Tree Hugger.” He nodded down the long corridor to the tree hugger’s left. It seemed to stretch to hell and not back.
“They will take your jewellry and you can get your swim trucks and towel for cell block “H”” the 2 Bulls chuckled.
KRCC was a relatively modern prison.
After processing away his freedom the prisoner was sent out in the corridor with instruction to find cell block “H”. Tommy got lost and wondered for 20 minutes up and down long wide corridors. Cameras followed his movement and seemed to be laughing.
Tommy was retracing his steps nervously whistling when he found himself back where he started, in front of the bullet proof glass room full of Bulls. As he stood there a prisoner with a mop shuffled up.
“Yeap, looking for block “H”.
“Too bad. Ok this must be your first tour of the resort. I would like to give a bit advice to make you stay a little less dramatic. ” the old con had 2 front teeth missing.
“Huh Ok what’s that?” Tommy was floating light headed from the fasting.
“Can you imagine a prison with a thousand cons walking around nervously whistling, we’d all be nuts pretty quick aye”
“Good point I never thought of that. So what is wrong with cell block “H”
“H stands for hell Buddy, when they drop you in that block as a newbee there is a reason. You’ll see. So you need to go north and hook hard west at the end of the corridor, go half way down and shazam cell block “H”. Watch your ps and qs in there kid.” The old man followed his mop down the wide grey corridor.
Tommy stood in front of the dark steal door mumbling what he could remember of a the Lords Prayer “ Yeah thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death. I shall fear no evil…” that was all he could remember. He stared into his blank mind searching desperately for more words of prayer.
Finally he pushed the inter column button.
It was a long minute before a distant voice zapped through the machine.
“Hold up your number.”
The massive steal door magically silently slid into the thick wall. Tommy stepped into the large room. He felt like he was centre stage at the Coliseum.
He floated across the floor toward a long counter. He was 3 days plus fasting now and very light headed.
Cell block “H” imprisoned 50 plus cons they were scattered here in there. Many sat around small kitchen tables playing cards. Some watched TV in a small room. There was a line of Indians on a second floor balcony rail. They all watched Tommy cross the prison floor to the Bulls sitting behind the counter.
All eyes followed him. You could taste the silence.
The Bull did not look up as he placed a bundle of blankets and a skinny pillow on the counter in front of him.
“Your suite is over there, Pool side. ” He snickered and nodded across the wide prison floor. Before Tommy could take up his gear, a loud voice filled the silent void.
“ Another fucking Tree Hugger…. I am from Prince George, I eat trees for breakfast. I am going to kill you, you fucking hippy shit tree hugging mother fucker.”
The Bull looked at the new con hard as Tommy glanced over his shoulder. A tall muscular white dude stood in the middle of the kitchen area with 2 small cons sitting at small card table. The entire population of cons watched in silent anticipation.
How did the big dude know I’m a mother fucking tree hugger? Tommy’s brain was starved and he wanted to cry, the fasting made him emotional. He knew instinctively this was no place for cry babies.
“Fucking tree hugger…. who do you think you are aye????? Screwing up hard working loggers lives. You should be tossed into the hole you hippy piece of shit!!! He got louder and more aggressive kicking at a plastic chair.
What posed him, God only knows.
Tommy turned slowly and faced the lower room of white guys and smiled at the big Indian on the upper balcony, he lifted his arm high and flashed a peace sign and waited. Timing is everything, for music, slap shots and hail house humour.
“Ya that’s right I’m Tommy Tree Hugger….pause….. I’m here for a GOOD TIME….pause… NOT A FUCKING LONG TIME!!!!”
The entire jail house rocked into laughter. The jail house was a rocking.
The big tree eater was stunt. He stood in silent rage, his chest was heaving violently as he tried to contain his humiliation.
“Tommy Tree Hugger, Tommy Tree Hugger huhah huh. He could hear the big Indian chuckling his name. Tommy Tree Hugger. Gotta loves them fucking Hippies.
His next steps seemed to be in slow motion as he walked slowly across the wide common space toward his new digs and roommate that stood arms folded across his chest scowling at the door.
“Hello….” Tommy smiled meekly at his roommate as he slipped by him into the cell.
“That’s your bunk.” He nodded with a tough guy huff. All the while watching the open cell door.
Tommy sat down on the empty punk. He was exhausted, he just wanted to sleep away reality. Wake up to a better world. The hunger was gone. Replaced by a light headed will to survive, he knew the tree eater was furious and that he would continue to press for a fight.
There was no option but to go face to face with the threat. He would “rope a dope” the big fool. Tommy picked up a “Readers Digest” and rolled it tight in his fist. His roommate was rambling on about his innocence. The grey prison walls waited patiently for more yelling and mayhem.
“Come out you chicken shit tree hugger, I am going to slap you silly.” The cell door was filled with a pissed off con. His milky blue eyes sparkled with rage from the embarrassment. He was shaking his fist inside the cell. Tommy’s roommate slipped out.
“I’ll be waiting out here you skinny piece of hippy shit, there’s no way outta here.” He stepped away from the door mumbling death threats.
There was silence as Tommy stepped out of his cell into the general population. He gripped the rolled magazine tight hidden under his folded arms. The fear was changing into a will, a want to fight.
He sat at the nearest table. All eyes watched and waited for the “show”.
An elderly man stood up from a game of cards with 3 other cons and walked over.
“Is this a private conversation, mind if I join you?” He smiled and sat down.
“ You might not know it but you made some friends in here. Don’t worry about that clown.” He nodded over at the “Tree Eater” “ he’ll get his med’s better quick.
The old man liked the cocky tree hugger and knew Tommy was frightened and wanted to help him find his place in the jail house mix.
“I asked the cops to put a call through to my old man and old lady. How will that come about?”
“Bulls not cops lad.”
“Right. Ya so they will place the call and you will receive it on the pay phone there.” He pointed at a black beat up pay phone on the wall beside the entrance.
“What’s your story?” Tommy blurted out nervously.
“Well Tree Hugger like a good percentage in here “domestic violence. My wife and I were pissed up arguing, when she pulled my shotgun on me.”
“Was it loaded?”
“Yeap pretty sure but lucky for me the phone rang and that distracted her and I got the jump on her and tied her up with the phone cord, gagged and put her in our van and started for the family cottage.
When we sobered up half way to Vancouver Island, she conned me into a bathroom stop at a highway restaurant and phoned the cops and told them I had kidnapped her. So here I am she’s coming to visit tomorrow and can’t wait for me to get out.”
One of the guards walked over to their table and informed Tommy his phone call was going through and that he would have an appointment with the prison’s nurse to evaluate his health because of his fasting.
The battered (black) pay phone hung loosely on the grey graffitti wall. It appeared to had suffered domestic abuse, the dial tone was scratchy and the receiver was sticky. He stood nervously waiting for the ring to be answered by his old man. The tree eater was shadow boxing 5 paces to his left, throwing punches. He started yelling aggressively at the general population of cons about a tee shirt he was missing.
“Somebody stole my tees shirt. I want my fucking shirt back now, right to fucking now or somebody’s head is going to roll. This is no joke.” He was gesturing wildly and started kicking plastic chairs in all directions. On of them slid into Tommy.
His father picked up the phone from his million dollar condo in downtown T.O.
Hey Pops hows it going?” The tree Hugger put on his happiest voice, he knew his old man was beside himself with worry for his oldest Son.
“It will be going better Son when you sign the “Promise to Appear” and get your ass out of that maximum security prison. Ok …. right, you have done your tree hugging part. Sign and get back to your pretty Thai wife that is waiting for you I was just talking to her and she confused Son ok right before some other man scoops up your new wife, she new in the country. OKK son…. What is all that yelling and crashing going on there.?”
Another plastic chair slid over against his leg. The Bulls started locking down behind their bullet prove plexy glass observation platform, getting ready to lock cell block “H”.
“Well Pops that is an upset tree eating con from Prince George that has threaten to kill me a couple times already. But do not worry, I had the whole of cell block H laughing within 2 minute of my arrival. Pretty sure I am in good with the Indians. He is screaming about a tee shirt somebody apparently stole. Looks like the Bulls are getting ready to lock us down here so we might have this call cut short. Oh shit Pops this going to be good, a near mute midget has just emerged from his cell with a tee shirt between his legs that he is vigorously rubbing against his crouch.”
“ What…. a mute midget?”
“Ya he has a big nasty scare across his throat, I guess he killed the dude that cut him and now he is tormenting the tree eater.” His old man started chuckling “Fuck Kid sign the P/A and get out of there, what happening now…..
“The Midget has just stuck the shitting tee shirt in the giants face and dropped the shirt at his feet and is walking away…..”
Chapter 3 or 9 or ? The Nurse