Dave's Arrest 1969

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There was a large anti-war demonstration on University Avenue in Toronto on October 26, 1968 on the occasion of the International Days of Protest Against the War in Vietnam. There were two separate actions. A coalition of Canadian communists led the first demonstration and a mixed group of Canadians and draft-dodgers led the second. The Union of American Exiles (UAE) sponsored the second demonstration. Both demonstrations were held on the sidewalk in front of the US Consulate. The first demonstration ended as the second began and there was an orderly changing of the picket lines. People from the Edmund Burke Society (the Canadian equivalent of the American John Birch Society) held a separate counter-demonstration at the same time and place. The right-wing group caused considerable confusion and friction between the anti-war protesters and the police despite the efforts of the UAE marshals to maintain order.

Since the second demonstration was sponsored by the Union of American Exiles, most of the residents of 224 McCaul Street who were at work attended that demonstration. The demonstrators spilled out onto the street and mounted police were called in to push the demonstrators back onto the sidewalk. Dave Woodward, one of the men living at 224 McCaul, was arrested for hitting a police man’s horse. Dave spent the night in jail and was released the next day. Michael Ormsby, another American, was arrested in the same demonstration. He was sentenced to 30-days in the Don Jail and threatened with deportation.

The violence at the demonstration and others that followed was the occasion for anti-draft dodger stories and editorials in the newspapers. The Mayor of Toronto called for the draft dodgers to be deported en masse. The exiles fully expected that Dave and Michael would be sentenced to jail and then deported. Instead Dave was fined. Michael Ormsby did serve time in jail but he was not deported.

By the time Dave’s case came before the court he was living at 418 Dundas Street. He regularly wrote to Carol Huebner in Beirut. The following is a copy of one of his letters in which he describes his court appearance.

A letter from Dave Woodward to Carol Huebner, January 21, 1969.


418 Dundas West

Toronto, Ontario

January 21, 1969

Tuesday night

Carol Huebner

24 University

Christian Center

Beirut, Lebanon


Well, the court here is over. It was over yesterday morning, but this is the first chance I’ve had to write. After months of anticipating a great court battle, I ended up pleading guilty, and got a fine of fifty dollars, with a month to raise the money. It was really weird. First, I went to see my lawyer before court Monday morning and he was all upset. He had discovered, through talking with other lawyers that the police were out to get us, that they were going to lie and say anything to get us convicted. Just what all of us defendants knew was going to happen a long time ago. He’d just discovered it and was really taken aback. So he said there was no chance of my getting off, and that the sentence might be heavy (maximum was $500 and six months), but that we would battle it out anyway. Well we got into court and the order which the judge and the lawyers worked out had my case coming up about sixth. The six cases before me all pleaded guilty and got sentences of fifty dollars or ten days, with a month to raise the money. Then he called my name. Oh yes, the lawyer for the first six defendants, who was different from mine, read a section of criminal code to the judge which said that a plea of guilty indicated “an attitude of contrition and remorse.” Well, when I got up there, I looked at my lawyer and said, in the words of Bobby Seale, “Uh uh, Baby.” It was shaping up like it would definitely be a good idea to plead guilty. So I did. I changed the whole thing right up there in front of the judge. Do you know what they finally got me for? Creating a disturbance by shouting and swearing. The prosecutor said I was shouting and swearing at “the top of my lungs” and furthermore that “there were women and children in the crowd at the time.” I was so scared my first thought was, “Jesus, what a filthy thing to do, swear when there were women and children around like that.” That shows how awe inspiring the place is. I quickly got over that, of course, and my second thought was what a stupid charge it was. According to the police records my lawyer saw, I was apparently shouting, “Why don’t you bastards leave us alone.” Which is, after all, just about how I felt about the whole thing, and which is a sort of capsule description of what went on that afternoon. After my lawyer had pointed out that there were also police on horses charging around in this crowd of women and children, and that I had a somewhat prestigious job in an art gallery, the judge gave me my sentence, exactly the same as he’d given the people before me. All things considered I’m sure it was the best idea. I felt bad for a while about giving up without a fight, and of course I believe we had the right not to get stomped by the police. But for the same reasons it would have been better not to get arrested in the first place. It was best to get hurt as little as possible by the pigs. I know I don’t have to explain that to you, since I’m sure you felt that way in the first place. So, my case is all over. I still have to appear in court for the next few days though as a witness in another case. I saw a man getting his arm twisted behind his back by the police. In fact, it’s the incident which led to me to my “swearing and shouting at the top of my lungs.” This guy’s wife is being charged with assault for accidentally hitting a cop while she was holding on to her husband. If I convince the judge that there was sufficient danger of his arm getting broken, then his wife was justified in getting somewhat agitated. Or something like that. It turns out that almost everything is settled in deals made between your lawyer and the prosecutor out of court anyway. I’d really like to go back to work. It’s really exhausting to me to have to watch this whole legal process all day.

On the nicer side, your Christmas presents got here yesterday. It was a good idea sending soft things, because that box was mashed beyond belief when it got here. Those things are really beautiful, both of them. The hat definitely looks “cute with my curly hair sticking out from under it.” That curly hair, by the way, is mighty long these days. You’ll see soon. Prints of the wedding pictures are being made now, and the little one inch square contacts look great. Try and get those “beautiful” pictures of you here soon too. That vest is really nice too, and I think it must have been a very fine old Turk who made it. It’s so much better to have something you can tell was made by human hand. Even the waitress in this restaurant last night was admiring them both. Everybody thinks the hat is a yamulka though. They’re pretty surprised that not only is it not Jewish, it’s Arab. Speaking of which, I guess I don’t have room here, but that incident with the soldiers and the cops worries me, and your attitude towards it. I can appreciate the absurdity of it too, but cops and soldiers can’t, and while for you to have gotten shot would certainly have been absurd you would have been no less shot. I mean I don’t know if that much of a chance is a good idea. Just be careful and don’t kid yourself.

More of all this later.


Use this link to return to the narrative, Baldwin Community, May 1969-July 1975

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