Recollections of the Blain Invasion, May 1970

Recollections of the Blain Invasion, May 1970 by  Usor O’Toole

Being the first Canadian invasion of the United States since 1814 when Tecumseh’s warriors allied with Canadian Quebecois and United Empire Loyalist troops, with the help of the British navy, burned Washington DC to the ground. This was in retaliation for the Americans having burned and looted Toronto on the same day in 1813, inspiring some to suggest it should be declared a holiday on both sides of the border. (July 6th, I believe)

In 1970, at the height of the hippy-yippie revival, some hippy draft-dodger with a yen to see a demo at the Peace Arch on the day Canadians and Americans celebrated their 4000-mile undefended border, picked up a couple of Vancouver yippies hitching down Hastings Street in Vancouver BC. They invited him to a meeting at an old house in the East End. Several long-haired activists were sitting in a circle, discussing how to end war. The Viet Nam one, in particular.

The hippy drank his tea and suggested his idea. Invade the fuckers on Canada-US lovey-dovy day. Someone else asked when that would occur. He said it had just happened a couple months before. The activists looked at each other rather briefly, then one went to a phone and dialed the Seattle Liberation Front HQ, a similar house outside Seattle. Whoever got on the line agreed that another 10 months is too long to wait. They’d spread the word for the invasion to go the next week-end.

Word traveled quickly through the activist peace community. Nixon had just expanded the Viet Nam war into Cambodia to take the Ho Chi Minh trail that was supplying the Viet Cong. He knew he had to get his troops out, because the Democrats of that day had gained control of the US Congress, and had refused him funds to continue. And they didn’t ask him for a timetable to end the war. They gave him a timetable. (At the risk of offending Hillary, that Congress had balls).

The invading force that descended on the Peace Arch included at least 300 anarchists, yippies, war veterans, draft dodgers, religious activists, Canadian and American patriots, pacifists, Quakers, communists and socialists of every description and some of the most beautiful liberated women in the known universe. On marching into the town of Blain, they spotted a flag flying in front of the post office, climbed the pole and cut it down. This caused some American patriots to take note, especially a bunch of US Navy personnel on leave hanging out at the local pool hall.

After the capture of the flag, some of the invaders declared the invasion a victory and recommended the group head back to Canada. A bunch of guys from Portland and points south who were facing the US draft showed up, and also suggested a strategic retreat, which they joined. Quite a few American visitors decided to cross into Canada that day. Some are still here.

People streamed back across the border, with a Blain city policeman and a bunch of sailors and assorted town toughguys coming along behind the stragglers who, on looking back, began to hop to it.

Someone got the idea to close the gate at the peace arch. (It has little metal gates on the inside that are wired open). Some other people thought that would send a negative message. There was some argument between longhairs, as the more active disassembled the wires holding the gates  to the walls of the arch. The Yank poolhall patriots saw the commotion and decided to intervene against both factions. One husky Canadian truck-driver with a guitar saw a fist coming in the direction of one of his friends, spun the guitar into the oncoming fist so hard the back popped right out with a crash like heavy-metal punk-rock. In the ensuing melee he managed to distribute several pieces of it among the yankees. But mostly it was raw knuckles against noses and eye-brows.

And someone did indeed say, “I didn’t know hippies could fight.”

The Blain cop waded into the melee when he saw some of his guys in trouble. And a crowd of maybe 200 longhairs was suddenly surrounding him. He got scared and pulled his club as he unsnapped the holster of his 357
magnum.

A yippie standing next to the cop threw his arms in the air and backed away into the crowd, which dutifully made a path for his mop of curly hair, leaving a straight corridor between himself and the cop of perhaps 6 or 8 metres. He yelled “Baseball!”, wound up and threw an imaginary ball at the cop. The cop smiled an evil grin and swatted the air with his billyclub.

The yippie reached in his hip pocket and yanked out a paper, (you wouldn’t want to do that today), waved it in the air and announced he’d just got a message from the Mayor of Blain, USA, thanking us for coming and inviting us to visit again “for a shit and a shower.” I think he was embellishing a tourist brochure he’d grabbed at the Blain post office. The cop looked uncertain. The mayor was his boss.

The hippy pulled another paper from his pocket, announced, “I just got this telegram direct from the White House, from Richard Nixon in Washington DC. It says “Oink, oink, oink, oink, oink…”

About which time the highway patrol cruised onto the hill, using the incoming lane to park their cars in a row beside the US border station. About 20 strong, they formed a skirmish line, white helmets gleaming, thumping their big night-sticks into their gloves. They watched for a few minutes as the city cop rounded up his hooligans and suggested they might want to go home and leave it to the big guys.

As some ten or twenty guys on both sides settled down to nursing their bruises the patrolmen suddenly marched toward us about ten steps. They were still a good 40 metres away, but it was definitely time for another strategic retreat. As the yankees limped off the field back toward Blain, the invaders began to spread out across the Canadian side of the park. And the tight group of patrolmen suddenly didn’t have a target, as they had when we’d been bunched up by the arch.

As they pondered their next move, a train came around the curve on the ocean side of the park. The first cars were flat-decks with auto-carrier transport trailers on them, and a load of maybe 60 or 80 of Detroit’s finest cars, fresh off the assembly line. Economic imperialism and gas-hog commercialism all tied in with the war-profits industry.

Somebody yelled “Get the cars.” But there were already people picking up the nice smooth beach rocks lining the rail bed and hurling them. One guy with a heavy-duty sling shot was firing fist-sized rocks at the rate of one every five or ten seconds from so close to the tracks that ricochet’s from some of the other rockers were whistling past his head.

The train proceeded around the bend into Canada at a leisurely pace. And we prepared to retreat again. We were safe on the Canadian side of the park, and the Highway Patrol had apparently decided not to invade Canada. Now we were a problem for the Mounties, who were represented by two officers parked on a hillside above the flower garden, filming us with a long-lensed video camera. I often wonder where that film is today.

Then suddenly and inexplicably, the train lurched to a halt. Perhaps some American had got on a radio to the engineer and told him a band of anarchists were destroying his load. Better get back to the safety of the USA. He dutifully brought the whole load back through for a second round of rocks. And there were rockers on both sides of the track now.

I suspect the physical damage was some bigger than $50,000, even in 1969 dollars. But the damage to the American war effort in Viet Nam was severe. As we’ve learned from 9/11, Americans take actions against their home ground very seriously. The vast majority of Americans wouldn’t be allowed inside either the World Trade Centre or the Pentagon, yet they get all bent out of shape when either is attacked.

Fortunately, the government there has been given over to incompetent religious and greedy reactionaries who have managed to bungle even the actions of their very professional military. It doesn’t take long for a system based on exploitation to begin eating itself.

Experience from China, India, Persia, Egypt, Rome, Aztlan, Peru, among others, indicate the barbarians from the north always fulfill their historical duty to clean up the rotten decadent civilizations people create and become dependent upon. The Blain invasion will stand as an early important skirmish in that historical process.

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