Dominion Day in Jail/Yankee Go Home campaign/hate laws
I spent last Dominion Day in jail
in a cold cell
on a steel bench -
cold, sleepless, angry and proud
tho almost wanting to feel foolish.
Fed a cheeseburger and a coffee in 24 hours
stripped of my shirt
frogmarched - mugshot
All this for the patriotic crime
of daring to say YANKEE GO HOME!
to the Yankee Shriners
parading thru downtown Toronto.
They thought it was the 4th of July
Cold, sleepless, hungry, angry
that I was cold, sleepless, hungry, angry
and not enjoying the July sun
lounging on the green grass in Queen's Park
or lining the parade route for the Shriners.
This growing pride made my solitary jail cell
a celebration of Dominion Day.
some publication history and notes:
This poem tells the true story of my arrest in 1975 for the heinous crime of wearing a bright yellow teeshirt emblazoned with YANKEE GO HOME as part of a protest against the Americanization of Canada. Our pro-nationalist group, The Canadian Liberation Movement, had recently adopted this slogan.
I was charged under the new Ontario "hate crime" laws, an example of the police misinterpreting a new law to suit a political agenda. Several other CLM members were also arrested as part of this somewhat misguided campaign - the Canadian people were definitely not of a mind to rise up and bear witness against the ongoing assimilation of our country into the United States.
We fought the charges all the way to the Supreme Court of Ontario, a process which took well over a year. I was acquitted by the Supreme Court, and the judge admonished a testifying officer for his lack of credibility.
In 1978 I started the literary press, Unfinished Monument Press, with intentions to publish more radical poetry than was generally published in Canada at the time (with some notable exceptions, including Milton Acorn and bill bissett).
The first collection I produced was my chapbook, Dominion Day in Jail. The poem was subsequently included in further collections of my poetry as well as in the Steel Rail Publishing poetry anthology Poems for Sale in the Street, edited by Tom Clement and Ted Plantos, 1979. The idea and title for the anthology were mine, suggested to Tom, who was boarding in the house I rented at 2128 Gerrard Street East in Toronto. A new generation of poets made appearances in this collection, including Jim Brown, Rosalind Eve Conway, Mary di Michele, Len Gasparini, Greg Gatenby, Gordon Gilhuly, Gwen Hauser, Jane Jordan, Julie McNeill, Robert Priest, Alfred Rushton, Sara Spracklin, and Kris Sri Bhaggihadatta. Steel Rail Publishing was founded by former members of the CLM house press after the CLM splintered and dissolved over issues of sectarianism and social fascism shortly after the ill-fated Yankee Go Home campaign.
This is the second posting on my participation and writings on political protests. The first was the previous post, Street Fightin' Man, 1969. The concluding post will be my piece on the Human Summit, a group meditation at Woodbine Park, held during last summer's G20 protests.