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Squamish Five

The Squamish Five (sometimes referred to as the Vancouver Five) were a group of self-styled "urban guerillas" active in Canada during the early 1980s. Their chosen name was "Direct Action".

The five were Ann Hansen[?], Brent Taylor[?], Julie Belmas[?], Gerry Hannah and Doug Stewart[?]. Unlike the Red Brigades, Red Army Faction, and other groups, they were not motivated by a political ideology which placed them at the vanguard of a Marxist revolution. Rather, they were activists who had become disenchanted and frustrated with traditional methods of activism. They believed that by engaging in semi-symbolic propaganda by the deed[?], they could jolt people into action themselves.

Early Actions The first actions associated with the group were not particularly militant. They vandalized the headquarters of Amax, a British Columbia (BC) mining company which had been granted a special exemption from environmental laws, and the British Colombia Department of the Environment.

After these actions the group began to become more militant and began training with stolen weapons in a deserted area north of Vancouver. By pure chance they came upon large caches of dynamite used for construction work, which they looted for their own use. They dropped out of normal life, obtained a roster of fake IDs, and began supporting themselves through various forms of fraud and theft.

On 30 May 1982, Hansen, Taylor, and Belmas drove to Vancouver Island and set a large bomb at an electricity transmission project. Four transformers were wrecked beyond repair, but no one was injured. The electrical substation had been criticized for being environmentally unsound and serving to help destroy the remaining wilderness on the island.

The Litton Bomb

Following this action, Hansen, Taylor, and Stewart filled a van with 500 pounds of dynamite and drove cross-country to Toronto. Their target this time was Litton Systems, a company producing guidance components for the controversial American cruise missiles many feared would increase the risk of nuclear war. Hansen recalls driving the truck full of dynamite across the praries, "listening to the Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., the Doors and Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska".

The Litton bomb was supposed to cause property destruction only, with no injuries. The van was parked in full view of corporate security, and an elaborate "warning box" was duct-taped to the hood, displaying a message, a digital clock counting down, and a single stick of dynamite to show it was no joke. Belmas called the security desk and warned them of the explosion, giving instructions on exactly what to do and where the danger area was. But security did not respond the way they expected. The evacuation was just getting started when the bomb exploded minutes ahead of schedule. By sheer luck no one was killed, but several people were injured. A security guard was paralyzed for life.

Arrest

The bombers fled Toronto for Vancouver and ceased their activities for several months. But the high-profile crime had attracted major police attention and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was closing in. Hansen and Belmas would commit one more militant action, the firebombing of two stores selling violent pornographic films, before all five were captured on the road to their training area by an RCMP tactical unit disguised as a road crew. This was just outside the town of Squamish, BC, giving rise to the name.

The five all received rather minor sentences. Ann Hansen was sentenced to life but paroled after only eight years. All are now out of prison.

In 2001, Ann Hansen's Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerilla was published. While she acknowledges tactical mistakes and misconceptions, Hansen maintains that her actions were justified, and liberal, capitalist democracies should be overthrown by violent action.



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