March 11-18, 1992

Mohawk Warriors Sentenced
By Paul DeRienzo

The case of three Mohawk warriors on trial in Quebec ended with a mixed verdict on Jan. 22nd. The three men were the first of 40 Mohawk women and men and one of their non-Mohawk lawyers tried in connection with the 77-day armed stand-off at the Mohawk territory of Kanesatake near the town of Oka about 20 miles west of Montreal.

Named after the drug rehabilitation center where the Mohawks field out against 1,000 Canadian army troops, the Treatment Center 41, or TC 41, collectively face several hundred charges stemming from the conflict. Three members of the group were singled out for the most severe charges.

Ronald Cross, who was known during the confrontation by the nom de guerre of Lasagna, was convicted of six charges of weapons possession and 15 counts of assault and was acquitted of 29 counts, including threats against soldiers. On Feb. 19tli, Quebec Superior Court judge Benjamin Greenberg sentenced Lasagna to four years and four months. Cross had faced a possible maximum of 14 years in prison.

Gordon Lazore, who used the name Noriega, was convicted on nine assault charges and acquitted on another 40 charges. He was sentenced to 23 months of a possible four-year prison sentence. Ronald Lazore, called 2020 was acquitted on all charges.

A report in the Montreal Gazette quoted judge Greenberg as saying that lie tempered the sentences because he "understood the pressures the men were under."

\Most of the charges against the three were the result of a fight with Francis Jacobs, a Mohawk from Kanesatake who is connected to the elected Band Council. According to some Mohawks, during the armed standoff Jacobs formed a "community police patrol." Some Mohawks accused Jacobs of being an informant for Canadian authorities. Jacobs was the government’s central witness at the trial where he testified that he was beaten by Noriega, Lasagna and 2020.

Police Showdown Backfires

The conflict began in March 1996 when a group of investors tried to expand a private golf course onto land belonging to the Mohawk community of Kanesatake. Relying on the decisions of the traditional Longhouse government, where the Clan Mothers appoint Chiefs local Mohawks set up barricades on the main road to Kanesatake

The tense showdown between the Mohawks and the Quebec Provincial police also known as the Suerte de Quebec, or SQ, continued into the summer. Then, without warning, oil July 11th, about 100 SQ, officers armed with assault weapons challenged the Mohawk barricades. Mohawk spokespeople say they attempted to negotiate, but the SQ attacked behind a barrage of teargas while firing in the direction of Mohawk women and children. Mohawk fighters also armed with automatic weapons returned fire.

Journalists at the scene say an unexpected change in wind direction blew the gas back toward the advancing line of police. As the gas cleared and the shooting stopped an SQ corporal was found shot to c1eath, Mohawks claimed the fatal bullet carne from a police weapon, a charge denied by the SQ. however no charges were ever brought in the officer’s death.

Later that same day, another group of Mohawks from the community of Kahnawake (just across the St. Lawrence river from Montreal), closed down the Mercier Bridge in support of the Kanesatake Mohawks. The seizure of the bridge, which carries 70,000 commuters a day, sparked a backlash by some white French-Canadians in the suburban town of Chateauguay. Enraged at being forced to take a two-hour detour to get to work in Montreal, local racists, (stirred up in part by KKK from over the border in the U.S.) held demonstrations at the Southern ramp of the bridge, where they burned an image of a Mohawk in effigy. On Sept. 2, a 7 1-year old Mohawk named Joe Armstrong died of a heart attack after being struck by a stone.

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