(aka Direct Action) One of my more vivid childhood memories was a car trip somewhere or another when the news came on the radio that a Litton Industries factory where a component for the U.S.’s new Cruise missile was being made had been blown up by a group calling itself “Direct Action”. We all cheered.
In 1981 and 1982 several other attacks (against a hydro sub-station and three pornographic video stores) were carried out in Canada under the banner of Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade.
In early 1983 five members of the Vancouver anarchist scene were arrested for these attacks. Ann Hansen, Doug Stewart, Julie Belmas, Gerry Hannah and Brent Taylor quickly became known as the Vancouver Five.
The actions of these five individuals had a lasting impact on the Canadian anarchist movement, showing a new generation that one did not need to be confined to the terrain of non-violent action and symbolic protest. There was something more radical than civil disobedience, and although no subsequent guerilla groups would emerge, this knowledge alone injected militancy and pushed activists to take their politics more seriously.
This page intends to serve as a central place for documents and links regarding the Five. If you have any materials to add please email me.
Material On Site
Ann Hansen in conversation with Peter Steven of Between the Lines Press, 2001.
The Vancouver Five: armed struggle in Canada, by Jim Campbell.
Available from Leftwingbooks.net
Direct Action CD, by Ann Hansen. Recorded in October 2002, Ann Hansen reflects on the successes and failures of the bombings she participated in in the 1980s, and dispels some of the common myths surrounding not only her actions, but armed struggle in general. She also explores the differences between direct action and terrorism as means of affecting social change; laying the groundwork for defining what direct action means, what its guiding principles are, and how it can be applied successfully and meaningfully in today’s political climate.
Direct Action, by Ann Hansen. This is an autobiographical account of Direct Action, or the Vancouver Five: five members of the West Coast Canadian anarchist scene who went underground in the 1980s to carry out armed actions against an arms manufacturer, a sex shop that specialized in hardcore pornography, and a hydro substation. Hansen spent seven years in prison after her capture by the State.
The Vancouver five; armed struggle in Canada. By Jim Campbell, who was involved ion the Free the Five campaign in Toronto. This is an account of the politics and practice, successes and errors of the Five and their supporters.
There was a connection between the political edge of punk and Direct Action – amongst other things Direct Action member Gerry Hannah was the bassist of the West Coast band the Subhumans – and following their arrests in 1983 various punks felt a need to stake out positions on their actions.
In this vein, be sure to check out Dementlieu’s page devoted to “the punk aspect” of the Five.