MRA hunger strike
I’m middle aged and am a men’s rights activist. I have been active since early in 2009.
I was asked to write about a series of events that happened to me which was part of my activism. It is also part of the reason why I have been diagnosed with what is today called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. In other wars now gone it was called “Shell Shock”. It’s the same thing but this war is protracted and is older than me.
I refer to the Barton street jail as the “Barton Bellagio”  to help diffuse my anger at a corrupt and feminist dictated “justice” system. What follows is my account of my fourteen day hunger strike in response to the “care” I was given by the Ontario justice system.
Please note, my incarceration was due to the allegation of a verbal threat. On August 24, 2010 I was at a neighbour’s when I got a call that the police were coming to take me into custody. It really was quite a spectacle to see; five or six police officers with tazers drawn and ready to use them on me. I left my friend’s residence and was only fifty feet from my home. There was a smoke behind my ear.
The police ran across the street (one so pumped he tripped and fell) and with tazers still drawn I gave no struggle. The officer who was to transport me to the Hamilton Central police station for processing let me have that smoke before we left. He was decent.
On the journey he asked me what all this was about and why there were so many officers instructed to respond. I said, “everything I am about to tell you is hypothetical,” thereby removing any ability of what I said to be used in court against me.
He was still left questioning why so many officers were called to take me into custody. I said to him, “It is because I have been in a war for equality with the ‘justice’ system for about a year now and I was kicking ass, taking badge numbers and filing complaints.”
There are definitely good officers on the force, and there are also some very nefarious individuals. This officer was a good one. The bad ones really shook my mental health.
At the Hamilton Central police station they processed me and I informed them right away that I was now on a hunger strike.
I told them “Don’t even bother bringing me a sandwich.” They did anyway. It made for a decent pillow and I left it behind when I was taken to court the next morning for my first appearance, a bail hearing, which I did not get.
Apparently, living here in the Ontario community all your life with your family in the same city makes you a flight risk, even if you have no criminal record. So no bail for me as I was deemed a ‘bounder.’ I was taken from the court room to a holding cell for transportation to the Barton Street Bellagio.
At the jail I was processed further. I was fingerprinted and my medical information was recorded. I was given a shot to test for tuberculosis and given papers explaining what is expected of me and what I was entitled to when incarcerated. They took my picture.
I told the intake person I wanted a few 8×10′s of that picture. “I prefer matte finish and can you please throw in a few wallet-sized, too?” Again I like to use humour to diffuse a situation. I was placed in segregation under medical watch because the hunger strike had begun for real.
I was sent to Segregation, and this is standard operating procedure when a person makes it known they are on a hunger strike. “Segregation” is a place inside incarceration. Criminals who would most likely be injured or killed by other inmates go there. Prisoners who are to be punished go to segregation.
My first few days in Segregation I was denied the general things that prisoners have. Things like two books, one of them for fun and one for spiritual reasons. I had no writing instruments.
After about a day I stopped my intake of liquids. Here’s why: I was moved to a range on the third floor but was still kept locked up in a form of segregation. My whole time there this was how it was and I knew this was wrong.
On the first night when the evening nurse stopped by my cell I accepted a couple of Advils from her. I took nothing else.
On the second night another nurse discovered I had had no water in 24 hours. She rushed me to the medical office and we struck a deal. I would start to ingest water that night but no food. She had me back in segregation but now under 24 hour CC-TV surveillance. That was on Friday.
One of the correction officers, a good guy, was a former marine. I recognized his ring and asked him if he was a Semper Fi guy. “Semper fi” is short for Semper Fidelis  it is the official motto of the United States Marine Corps.
He said that he was and “how did I know that?” I said I had friends in the military on both sides of the border. He then did something decent. He asked “Why are you on a hunger strike?” I told him some facts and statistics and said, “I am not in the military but as a citizen it is up to me to protect the rights of those who are serving.” He instantly got it because he was committed to fighting for his country’s constitution. I was doing the same but on a different front. That front was the seedy underbelly of proxy violence men go through every day in the courts.
I thought of the movie “Papillion” . I thought of that little door opening and how food is passed through it. In my case the food just sat there in that little doorway in front of me. I had black tea and coffee. I refused the sugar.
I was moved to the cell right across from the guard’s office in the segregation unit. God bless that nurse she was doing her job and making sure I was being checked in on fairly regularly and I was finally given a pencil and some paper. I put that pencil to good use.
The first thing I did with that pencil was to write quotes from some of history’s greatest thinkers up on the walls that surrounded me. “They can because they think they can”, and “We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights “ now looked back at me as silent friends. I thanked John Diefenbaker and Virgil for those words.
That first weekend was not quite over, and the Ontario Ombudsman received a call from me. I told him about the hunger strike and the cruel and unusual punishment being inflicted on me. He learned from me in that call I was denied reading materials and “yard” time.
On Monday I had visitors. First a shrink.
“No I don’t hear voices. I have no imaginary friends. I am not thinking of killing anybody or myself.”
Then, he heard me say this, “I sure am angry about how men are being treated in the ‘justice’ system today.” Before he left I said, “I am using the only tool I have at my disposal.”
Next up was the warden, the captain and the lieutenant. I think a doctor was with them.
When they walked into my cell they looked around. They saw the fifteen or so quotations on the wall. They saw the chess board I had scribbled on my concrete bed with the paper chess pieces I made, and they saw the calendar I marked up on the wall. The look on their faces was not one of fear but more like an “oh shit.” The look on their faces is burned into my brain.
I could almost see the shared thought bubble over their heads, “This guy has no reference books so how did he get the quotes?” There was trepidation in that room and it was not from me.
The conversation consisted of me explaining and invoking my right not to be treated cruel and in an unusual manner while in medical segregation for a hunger strike. I was not there to be punished for some act committed in the jail. I was in there because a protected chartered right, the freedom of expression. I also invoked my right to my two books and my right to get some time in outside. I informed them that as I was representing myself I would need to have access to legal books.
I told them facts on how men are being heinously treated by the “justice” system today.
They promptly gave me a crappy-ass romance novel and a bible making my access to legal books a non-event. I never saw a book on legal matters because they made sure I never did.
I then settled into a routine, I’d wake up have my black coffee and read the bible before meditating for half hour or longer. After this I would read the crappy-ass book and then lunch would come. I would drink the back tea, do some more reading of my crappy-ass book and then grab an afternoon nap. A shower in the afternoon, then a dinner of black tea, more reading of the bible followed by the crappy-ass book. Sometimes ‘lights-out’ would happen and I wasn’t sleepy. Those nights I would drag my mattress to the door to grab the slice of light coming from the space near the hinges. That way I could read until I was tired.
There were quite a few days where I had to appear at court for bail hearings and they didn’t make life easier for me. I was put in the basement of the court house and I swear I could almost see my breath down there.
My matter would be called up I would appear before a justice of the peace or judge bail and it would be denied and so around and around we’d go, however, there were a couple of things of note regarding my court appearances for bail.
One time, standing before the justice of the peace, I started reciting about how the charter guarantees me bail unless there is just cause. (section 11 e) The lawyers in that room, and the other players in the criminal court system knew about my hunger strike and then the justice of the peace said something absolutely incredible.
“I don’t give a damn what the charter says”
That was incredible in itself, but then something truly astounding happened. The lawyers (who are considered the officers of the court and are obligated to report when a judiciary acts improperly) stood up en masse and left the court room.
I responded by addressing the justice of the peace with the illegality of my treatment and he barked to the special constables.
“Remove this man from my court immediately.”
He had just fucked up and he knew it. He also knew my ability to prove it was zero because of the lawyers and their ‘land-rush’ to the exit. Accountability dies when ears are absent, and with its death stronger men need brothers. Perhaps it was at that moment I realised that a hunger strike is pain and pain makes you alone. Very alone.
Another appearance for bail was before a judge and once again I recited the charter and its guarantee of bail unless there is just cause. The crown launched their argument and the judge ruled:
“I am not going to deal with this”
I guess she knew the illegalities of what was happening and wanted no part of it.
I was moved around again and given a cell where the sink was plugged up and had what looked like fecal matter floating around in it. I called the ombudsman about this and was then taken back to segregation. Before I was moved I was threatened by an overly “nice” female guard. When she threatened me I went right over to the wall and wrote her words and signed it with the date. I did it right there in front of her so she could see I didn’t care about her threats.
Yeah, I get a little pissed about this shit, but hey, I’m male it don’t matter right? And I ain’t afraid to let those who pissed me off know it right to their face if I can. Actually no, I am afraid but I will do it anyway. This was my anger in action.
When I started getting yard-time I noticed something curious. A guard was appointed to sit with me and he listened very carefully as I spoke of my situation. I spoke about how men are being treated lower than animals and he sat there writing it all down.
At that time my knowledge about men’s issues was limited to the criminal side of things. The guard was not doing this for his own pleasure. He was appointed by the crown to gather evidence to strengthen their case in court. I played along and let him write away on statistics, recent court cases and news articles.
The thing is, guards are compellable witnesses for cases and their notes are admissible in court. This one was on a mission. He was their gleaming white knight, and was by his own volition (boot licking for a promotion?) a self-appointed funnel through which reams of data flowed in for the courts to dissect. (Because of this funnel, the courts now knew exactly my position on the DV industry and its corruption via lies and fear mongering.) No other guards took notes, just him, and he was quite fastidious.
One day I received an over-sized set of coveralls and a nefarious guard said “I heard you’ll be putting on weight today.” I told him I was 140 pounds yesterday and my bet is that by day’s end I would weigh 138 and a half. He had a half ass “fuck you” smile on his face and bet my weight would be 141.
So here I was, incarcerated for an utterance not meant and fighting back with a hunger strike and making bets about my weight with a flesh-robot.
On day six the captain spoke to me in his office and he was confused. “Why are you doing this?”
I explain how my eyes have been opened now for over a year about the quiet war on our sex. I explain many things to him right there and it pours out easily and without remitting. I tell him of the numerous complaint letters I have written to many government officials and of reading their replies of no accountability. I let him know of how the family courts rely on many players to reinforce their bond with each other with a quick nod off the radar. I explain how the police, judiciaries, lawyers, bailiffs and judges each grease their appointed wheel and the furnace that powers the big engine is stoked with men. Yes captain, there really is a war going on, and the primary victims are men and boys. He listens to me, he is sympathetic and he understands me clearly.
“My choice is easy and it was simple. Not one more inch will I retreat. I will not leave this mess for the next guy to clean up.”
The application for bail and its subsequent refusal every time was taxing me physically and emotionally while my resolve was gaining strength. Nobody could take that from me. That was mine for keeps.
Every time I was transported down for a bail hearing I would talk to the guys in the transport. I would tell them about the quiet war against men and boys and how vast and deeply rooted the corruption was. I even gave advice about how to spot shifty lawyers and their well-worn tactic of wrangling the law in such a twisted way that nobody of relevance could know what was going on.
One day I came back from court and my cell was being searched and I wondered why they would do this as I was under twenty four hour surveillance anyway.
Another time my lieutenant “buddy” smuggled in an ice cream bar.
“Come on, don’t you want the ice cream?”
I smiled and remembered a story from a few years back. I said “Hey Louie you remember a guard a few years back named Laslo X?” (Laslo had been caught smuggling drugs into the jail some years earlier)
He replied “Yah I remember him.”
I said “I heard he was asking about you, something about a business proposition.”
Stupid asshole, I thought to myself. Do anything for the system and screw anybody who stands up for what’s right. He was pissed and his voice was raised as he walked to the guard’s station.
“They are afraid he is going to turn this into a Bobby Sands situation.”
Ah, now who are “they”? Were they his immediate superiors or the Ontario attorney general perhaps? I didn’t know who exactly, but I knew the “Justice-Hydra” had three heads to choose from – the police, the Crown or judiciary. By this stage I was very well rehearsed with how each of those heads talk. Those three heads talk much of justice, and they always deliver their version of it depending on their motivation at the time.
On the second weekend I was told I was being moved to another floor. They explained that five suicide attempts had been made recently and my cell was needed. They were being unusually decent with me and it set my bullshit-beeper ringing.
I reminded myself to never let my defences down with anyone whose compliance to the law ensures a paycheck.
I was promptly moved up to the third floor and this means the powers at hand cranked “the game” up a notch. You see, the third floor is for those with mental illnesses. I was now in the midst of the drug afflicted and the confused and the very angry. In fact, everyone there was mentally disturbed, and the Alpha males vied for the driver seat.
An Alpha male saw I was not eating anything and he didn’t like that I gave my meals to a different person each time. He wanted them for himself, and my standing my ground caused an incident.
My bullshit-beeper started ringing when out of the blue a Beta male engaged me in a way designed to distract. He was very much “out of character” and his step now fell with mine as we walked. A guard followed closely behind us and in our path was the Alpha, and he was approaching with something cupped in his hand. I did not take my eyes from him as I walked, and at the last moment the “distractor” at my side figured I wasn’t buying it and the two of them immediately left the scene as I entered the safety of my cell.
I have no doubt that I narrowly missed coming to grief with that incident, but who was there to listen to me? Sure, I knew that speaking to a guard would get me labelled as a rat and so that avenue was strictly out, but what about the medical staff? The same medical staff who had falsified their reports about me for two days?
Apparently, I had been looked after very carefully. I had been weighed and all the usual things were done. My blood pressure was apparently taken and blood tests were apparently performed. I have no memory of it, and my “memory” came off second best to some writing on a medical chart.
The next day was the last day of Summer and I was locked in my cell. I was grateful to see (through a tiny window) the annual football match between the Hamilton Tigercats and the Toronto Argonauts before my transfer the next day. This time I was going straight to high security on the fourth floor. They had taken it up another notch.
The fourth floor held those who were violent. I was now mingling with murderers and men who had committed robbery with guns and other weapons and when I arrived they gathered around me and asked questions. I watched one man crafting a makeshift shiv from two pencils bound with paper. While he is doing this he calmly tells me that he heard from a guard that I am a rat.
I did the only thing I could do, and that was to tell them how my unpopular opinions have pissed off the wrong people. They begin to understand more when I explain that my hunger strike has caused those same people to dig deeper into their illegal bag of tricks in order to “win” this game. I could see by the look in their eyes that they were beginning to see me in a different light. They understood that I was not the usual type to be there. I sometimes wonder to this day if some of those that gathered about me still remember my “weird“ words about the war on men and boys. Did I ever nudge one onto a path where they now see the world differently? I’ll never know of course.
The next day was yet another bail hearing, and by this stage those that were simply annoyed by me were now quite angry. Their voices were much shriller this time, and their words heavier with new threats telling of dire consequences for me if I did not sign the bail agreement. I was not moved an inch by this new development and the Crown knew it.
They played one more card and it worked very well, they ripped into my mother while she was in the witness box. They had me in that court room watching an appointed lawyer tear right through her and they knew I would fold. They were right. I broke down and signed the bail agreement that day.
The bail agreement was that I had to live at my mother’s residence and I could not leave the property without her being in my presence.
I do not want it forgotten that the events of fourteen days told here were experienced by a person who did not have a criminal record and was representing themselves in court.
Some days I wish I never accepted the bail agreement and on other days I am thankful for signing it.
Sometimes I say I miss the Barton Bellagio. They were just getting my dry cleaning right. They got the right amount of starch in the collar and cuffs of my uniform, and there was a mint under my pillow with my covers turned down at night.