(Image taken from video of Royal Bank firebombing in Ottawa on May 18, 2010. APTN/File)
APTN National News
An activist once linked to the firebombing of a bank branch in a trendy Ottawa neighbourhood has published a blog post suggesting arson is a legitimate tactic for direct action.
Matthew Morgan-Brown was one of three men charged in connection with the May 2010 firebombing of a Royal Bank of Canada outlet in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood. The bank attack was done partly in the name of Indigenous rights.
Morgan-Brown was the only one of the trio who escaped without a criminal record following the police investigation into the bank attack.
Charges against Morgan-Brown were stayed because the Crown did not have enough evidence to proceed in its case against him.
On May 18, the sixth anniversary of the firebombing, Morgan-Brown published a blog post linked through his Facebook page advocating for arson as a legitimate tool in activism.
“May 18 is an important day for me. On May 18 the FFFC firebombed a Royal Bank of Canada branch in a wealthy Ottawa neighbourhood,” posted Morgan-Brown on his blog, Stones and Sticks and Words. “Arson of property is not violence, as violence is only and exclusively directed towards living things…Arson is a non-violent option open to reasonable people.”
FFFC was the acronym name of the crew who firebombed the bank.
Morgan-Brown tagged several people on his Facebook page post including Roger Clement, a retired civil servant who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the firebombing.
Clement was released in March 2013 after serving about two years of his sentence. He was also visited by CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, while incarcerated.
The second man, Claude Haridge, a known local antiwar activist, was under surveillance following the firebombing. This led OPP investigators to find over a thousand rounds of ammunition buried by Haridge in a forested area.
Haridge was convicted of burying the ammunition and put on 12 months of probation in October 2011. OPP investigators found 1,600 rounds of 7.62 millimetre ammunition which is used for automatic and semi-automatic guns.
Clement and his (still officially unknown) accomplices used gasoline and a Molotov Cocktail to blow up a portion of the Glebe Royal Bank branch.
The group filmed the firebombing and posted it on an anarchist website along with a statement that made reference to Indigenous rights.
The statement claimed the Royal Bank was targeted because it was a sponsor of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The statement said the Olympics were held on “stolen Indigenous land” which “were never legally ceded to colonial British Columbia.” It also said RBC is “a major financier of Alberta’s tar sands.”
The statement concluded by saying it “passed the torch to all of those who would resist the trampling of Native rights.”
None of the three men initially linked to the firebombing are Indigenous.
Morgan-Brown, however, has been involved in Indigenous causes and was a member of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa, which was infiltrated by an undercover OPP agent named “Francois.”
In an interview Wednesday, Morgan-Brown said he felt the firebombing has been largely forgotten and wanted to again draw attention to the event.
“It has been six years and every anniversary, every time it comes up, I think about it,” he said. “It got a lot of attention at the time, it doesn’t get a lot of attention now. I wanted to bring it up again.”
When asked if he knew the names of the others involved in the firebombing, Morgan-Brown said he didn’t want to address the question.
“I have no interest in that question and I don’t want to speculate on who did it,” he said.
Morgan-Brown said he supported the action then and still supports it today. He disputes the firebombing was done in the name of Indigenous rights.
“Aboriginal people are mentioned one time, in the same sentence as poor people and the environment,” he said. “Saying it was done only in the name of Indigenous rights is just not accurate.”
The statement actually mentioned Indigenous people and rights three times.
Morgan-Brown said he believes in a more militant type of activism and posted his views on arson to reignite debate on the issue.
“I think it’s an example…a well-known example of direct action, and I think that social movements in Canada are far too pacified, they are way too comfortable with the ideology, with non-violence as an ideology, not as a tactic, but as the only possible way forward,” he said. “I think social movements need to become more militant and I wanted to highlight that, which I think the action does.”