An Artist, Environmentalist & Political Prisoner
Contribution by Jakub Markiewicz
Editor’s Note: May 1 2015 Vancouver-based artist Jakub Markiewicz was arrested to face three weeks of jail time resulting from charges he received protesting the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. He is currently released on bail, although the conditions of his release prevent him from participating in any form of environmental activism. The following text was contributed by Jakub speaking to the current social and political climate in Canada that criminalizes artists and others for speaking out against injustices.
Words + Photos by Jakub Markiewicz
I’ve been shackled, beaten, locked up, humiliated, harassed, and told that my actions are useless – to focus my energy & dedication elsewhere. This has been brought on by the police & contractors of Kinder Morgan; namely, RCMP, VPD, Lions Gate Risk Management, McElhanney, & Mcrae’s Environmental.
The fact that concrete & steel was my home for 3 weeks, forced upon me, was infuriating. Being perceived as guilty before innocent is now the default here in so-called Canada – it was the cops’ word against mine. Perhaps that is why the RCMP have seized my files & gear. Perhaps that is why they deem my photography an act of violence or a threat. But the words of cops are trusted even when video evidence proves otherwise.
Discussing topics of environmental activism, there are unfortunately people with academic degrees who spew false claims regarding pollution, human health impacts, consultation with indigenous peoples, and the proper use of police force – the strength of their credentials allows them to further seeds of doubt and division within our society. These false claims make us question the diversity of tactics instead of pursuing the larger picture of creating a fair and just world.
It is about money. It is about power. It always has been. Where there is a question of freedom, security, health, culture, or topics of entire races being oppressed or extinguished, there will always be resistance. If being falsely criminalized is the price to pay for clean water, air, and soil; for a healthy life for future generations, for the right to live within a social construct of suppressed culture then so be it, but don’t expect me to conform quietly – I can guarantee others won’t.
If this is what life is like now without Bill C-51, then prepare for it to get worse. The reality is that Bill C-51 will only legalize and publicly validate the surveillance has already been happening for a long time. However, I believe that citizens of this country will not, and do not, tolerate the climate of extended abuse of power and corruption that Bill C-51 brings.
In the past few weeks out of jail, I have felt bad. Bad because I couldn’t continue doing something that in reality, helps society. I wasn’t allowed to. I had to follow my bail conditions, otherwise I’d be facing a separate charge of ‘breach’ that could add up to 2 additional years to my sentence.
I’ve had to ask myself, is it worth it?
Is it worth going to jail to tell a cop off because he’s abusing his position? Is it worth going to jail to attempt to stop an entire system and organizations profiting off the destruction of the environment and exposing humans and animals to unnaturally occurring health risks? Is it worth going to jail to stand amongst a pissed off crowd of people, standing in solidarity for those being oppressed, killed, abducted, raped, belittled and poisoned?
Is it worth going to jail to make art?
Is it worth going to jail to hike? Is it worth going to jail to attend a parade such as pride? Is it worth going to jail for documenting corruption in a public space? A private space? Is it worth going to jail for having fun, especially when no one is a victim from my actions? Is it worth going to jail for BEING FREE? Is it worth going to jail to expose corruption? Is it worth being killed for speaking truth?
Because Bill C-51 got passed, providing a clearer distinction of ‘second class citizens’, everyone living in this country that was built upon genocide and ecocide will be subject to a set of conditions – where they are muzzled, where they are harassed, where every move is watched by agents of the state and private contractors, where actions justified by our constitution will be treated as illegal and as threats. The state lies about planning to introduce the conditions of Bill C-51 slowly because the conditions have already been implemented for a long time. They know what they’re doing.
As I type this, every scroll, edit, space and backspace is being monitored.
Those that are feeling C-51 the harshest are indigenous people, frontline resistance, immigrants, journalists, artists and filmmakers.
These #kmface photos are from the photobooth at the opening of a photo exhibit on June 7th documenting the resistance on Burnaby Mountain between September-December 2014. The gallery is located at 38 Blood Alley.
If people want to make a difference, a real one, then they better get creative. Life is about having fun, but at times we must stand up for what is right.
Create art that challenges the actions of these companies. Create art that inspires people. Create art that portrays the truth. But don’t only make art. You make art with experiences, otherwise it’s bullshit art.
Get out there, and make a difference; stop the companies from working, shut down their crews, render their equipment useless, immobilize their vehicles. If no human or animal gets hurt, injured or killed, then do that action however many times you can. But once the workers start attacking or injure you, defend yourself. Aren’t they killing us slowly anyway by building this pipeline? Sometimes it seems that only in so-called Canada people are afraid, shun and dismiss actions that actually succeed in effecting positive change.
Do something, anything. Just don’t sign a petition or march through the streets. There’s a time and place for everything. Petitions get shredded. Marches and rallies don’t stop them from working.
Do something, please.