Direct Action: Left Wing Activism in the 1970s and 1980′s

Dr. Eryk Martin – A member of the history department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, gives an interesting, almost-contemporary lecture about the radical left to a meeting of about 65 people at the MoV Oct 27, 2016 . He focuses in the first part on the Squamish Five, whose bombings of BC Hydro facilities in 1982 brought them instant notoriety, and described the process of radicalization (in San Francisco and Paris) of two of the members. He then described the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, radicalized by the tidal wave of violent porn in the 1970s, who struck back with bombings of Red Hot Video outlets in 1982. The issue of « Direct Action » – of individuals taking the law into their own hands after seeing an unsatisfactory (in their eyes) response from authorities – animated the entire presentation. One particularly interesting part was the unwillingness of these BC radicals to attempt any assassinations, unlike their German and Italian counterparts of the time; sabotage of property was their goal. Dr. Martin ends with the rhetorical question of whether these direct actions had had any lasting effect.

In the context of the 30th anniversary (2012) : Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade in the history of anarchism in so-called  »British Columbia »/Interview with Gord Hill (

In the context of the 30th anniversary : Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade in the history of anarchism in so-called  »British Columbia »/Interview with Gord Hill (

I Have Not Signed A Treaty With Any Government: A Brief Look At “Direct Action” and “The Wimmin’s Fire Brigade »



In 1982, five Canadian anti-authoritarian activists, variously known as Direct Action, the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, and the Vancouver Five, conducted a highly visible series of guerrilla actions against patriarchal, industrial civilization. When the five anarchists — two wimmin and three men — who comprised these cells were finally captured by the Canadian state in 1983, they were charged with a host of clandestine attacks on industries that represented some of the most notorious war criminals, environmental despoilers, and exploiters of wimmin and children.

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R, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, about Red Hot Video and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade

in Frontline Knowledge, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Objectification of Women

Friday, January 1, 1982 – Saturday, January 1, 1983

A brief evaluation of some feminist activity against ‘Red Hot Video’ stores: An Unfinished Business

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Jim Campbell and the Vancouver Five (Direct Action)

Ann Hansen and Bob Sarti on Stark Raven about Jim Campbell : Tribute to Jim Campbell

about Jim Campbell

The Vancouver Five: armed struggle in Canada by Jim Campbell

Being Direct – An Interview With Ann Hansen by Deanna Radford (published first in Herizons magazine)

Ann Hansen was a member of the militant group Direct Action, also known as The Squamish Five. Formed in the early 1980s during an era of punk rock, radical counter-cultural politics and an active anarchist community. Direct Action was made up of Hansen, Julie Belmas, Brent Taylor, Doug Stewart and Gerry Hannah. They lived and worked as an underground cell.


Belonging to a radical group, Direct Action’s members were united in their desire to draw attention to the environmental impact of hydro development, and to Canada’s contribution to the arms race. Some Direct Action members stole dynamite and built a bomb that destroyed the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir Hydro substation in rural BC. Later, members built a bomb that exploded outside of the Litton Industries plant in Toronto, where guidance system components for cruise missiles were manufactured. The blast caused millions of dollars in property damage. While no one was killed, there were several injuries. Ann Hansen was also part of the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, which claimed responsibility for firebombing three locations of Red Hot Video in Vancouver and won the tacit approval of many women’s organizations.Sentenced to life in prison, Hansen was released in 1991 after serving seven years at the Prison for Women in Kingston. In 2001, she wrote Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerilla. Based on her recollections, on newspaper articles and on court documents, it is a story that is impossibly true and unbelievable, simultaneously passionate and enthralling. A must-read for modern activists, Direct Actionrepresents a glimpse into a controversial chapter in Canadian protest history. Lire la suite

We Don’t Care What You Say by Grant Shilling

20 years after, Grant Shilling ponders the legacy of the « Squamish Five » and the future of punk activism in a post-9/11 world.

Well, come on, man you better jump right in
This is one game that everybody’s in
Don’t care where you’ve been, don’t care how you look
It’s hell fire, man, you’re in, you gotta cook
We don’t care what you say – fuck you!

– » Fuck You » by Gerry « Useless » Hannah, Subhumans

It’s November 2001 and Joey « Shithead » Keithley of DOA, the legendary Vancouver punk group, is firing up a Cumberland, British Columbia crowd with a chorus of cathartic FUCK YOUs. The put-downs are for the province’s Liberal government and their bone-headed decision to remove the « Ginger Goodwin Way » signs that dot the new Vancouver Island Autobahn. The signs were designated in 1996 by the NDP provincial government in memory of the labour martyr, who was shot in the back by the RCMP in 1918 in the woods just outside of Cumberland. Keithley, who has written a song about Goodwin, was invited by local labour leaders to take part in the Cumberland rally. Ginger Goodwin was a worker’s friend who fought for a 40-hour work week. Many consider Goodwin the Che Guevara of the region. Others consider him a coward for taking a pacifist’s stand during World War I.

 » Fuck You » is an old Subhuman’s song, which DOA initially covered in 1983 as part of a benefit single to provide support for Subhuman singer Gerry Hannah and the other members of the Squamish Five. « Fuck You » is the verbal equivalent of a bomb. It is a total rejection of structure, power or polite society. « Fuck You » is non-negotiable, nihilistic and knowing. It is the essence of punk and once uttered it often finds its agents. Hannah was one of those agents.
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Interview with Juliet Belmas, former member of Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, about the Missing and Murdered Women and the sham Oppal Commission

This Is Not A Love Story: Armed Struggle Against The Institutions Of Patriarchy by Ann Hansen and Juliet Belmas

Many feminist theorists and activists categorically condemn « violence »– be it offensive or defensive, physical or verbal–on the grounds that « violence » (an extremely ambiguous term in itself) has it’s roots in patriarchal culture and the patriarchal mindset, and is somehow the « invention » of men– as if violence doesn’t appear everywhere in the natural world in myriad forms, usually contributing in significant ways to the balance of local ecosystems. While certain feminist thinkers put forth an analysis of violence and hierarchical power relationships that is well worth considering, a wholesale condemnation of revolutionary violence aimed at the destruction of that which oppresses us is a gross oversimplification of an extremely complex situation: that is, the web of patriarchal tyranny that all of us, wimmin and men alike, find ourselves born into, where violence is used by our oppressors to enforce our political and social submission, and where we are all desperately looking for effective ways to reclaim our lives. Analyzing the role of armed resistance movements (and wimmins participation in them) in the larger liberation struggle against patriarchy and civilization from an entirely « essentialist » perspective — as Robin Morgan does in her often cited work The Demon Lover — is a misleading and deceptive form of Herstorical revisionism, as it completely discounts the lives of wimmin like Harriet Tubman, who led armed guerrilla raids into the southern united states (basically a slave-owning armed camp) to rescue fellow New Afrikans from captivity, as well as numerous other wimmin like Assata Shakur, Marilyn Buck, and Bernadhine Dhorn, who enthusiastically embraced armed struggle as a tactic and had no regrets about it. This article will not attempt to defend armed struggle (because in our opinion it requires no justification) but will instead focus on two very specific groups (of many) that engaged in violent rebellion against the institutions of patriarchy.

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Direct Action/Ann Hansen, in conversation with Peter Steven of Between the Lines Press, 2001



Peter Steven: Direct Action is a book about radical politics that might seem uncomfortably close to advocating violence. Given the events of September 11 in the U.S. what are your thoughts and feelings about what happened in New York and Washington?

Ann Hansen: My first reaction was deep sorrow for those who died and compassion for those who must endure the pain of living without those people. Sadly, those who died were the innocent victims of both the suicide-bombers and the U.S. legacy in the Middle East. Sadly, because those who died were no more responsible for U.S. foreign policy than the Afghan people are of the Taliban’s policies.

PS: During your days in the early 1980s as a member of « The Squamish Five » or « Direct Action » you committed robberies, firebombed stores, and toppled hydro towers, in British Columbia, and bombed the Litton plant in Toronto. Most people who pick up your book will want to know if you still believe in political violence. How do you respond?

AH: I am certainly not opposed to peaceful protest. Yet, I also believe that to make real social change people and movements must be prepared to go beyond. In some cases that means so-called political violence. We didn’t see ourselves as terrorists. I prefer the term sabotage because that implies a strategic action, with references to economic issues, and not simply a violent reaction or lashing out in frustration. I don’t agree with terrorism as a political tactic because it is morally wrong to punish the innocent for the crimes of their leaders. And it’s not politically effective because fear does not enlighten people, but instead will often drive them to support even more reactionary actions by their leaders.

Our goals were to expose Litton’s role in arms production and to stop the environmental destruction within B.C.

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This is the second half of a two-part interview : Militant Feminism/An Explosive Interview with an Urban Guerilla

Militant Feminism
An Explosive Interview with a KKKanadian Urban Guerilla
By Comrade Black

This is the second half of a two-part interview with Juliet Belmas, an activist with Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, two groups who used explosives or incendiary devices in the early 1980s to further anti-colonial, ecological and feminist struggles. Juliet was arrested in January 1983, at the age of 19, along with the other four members of the Vancouver 5. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Today, Juliet makes independent films and does work around issues faced by womyn in prison.

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