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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