BELLEVILLE, Ont. – There were clashes between police and protesters as dozens of officers moved in on an eastern Ontario rail blockade Monday morning to clear the tracks.
Passenger and freight traffic has been halted for more than two weeks due to the demonstrations in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C. who oppose a natural gas pipeline through their territory.
A video posted to Facebook by the group Real People’s Media shows officers forming a line in front of the blockade on the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory and moving in, tackling several protesters to the ground, some of whom fought back, throwing punches at officers. The arrested protesters had their hands bound with zip ties and were put into a police van before being hauled away.
One person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, the Ontario Provincial Police confirmed with CityNews.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=news1130&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1231981204875993095&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.citynews1130.com%2F2020%2F02%2F24%2Fpolice-protesters-rail-blockade-ontario-taken-down%2F&siteScreenName=news1130&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px
According to the OPP, its liaison team has tried to negotiate peacefully with protesters over the past few weeks, but decided to take action to uphold an injunction to clear the railway.
“We have remained respectful of the ongoing dialogue, including issues of sovereignty between our Indigenous communities and various federal ministers, and have hoped for productive communication leading to a peaceful resolution,” said spokesman Bill Dickson.
Demonstrators on the rail line were given a midnight deadline to clear out, but the Mohawks vowed to stay until the RCMP left Wet’suwet’en land.
This came as the prime minister held another emergency meeting of his Incident Response Group. Following the meeting, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair stood by the government’s call for these blockades to end.
“They’re having a very serious effect on innocent Canadians right across the country,” Blair said. “They are putting people’s health and safety at risk, and therefore it’s absolutely essential that those barricades be removed.”
Outside of Parliament, Indigenous youth held a rally and marched through the streets of Ottawa, blocking roads and intersections.
It had some, like Sophia, worried the situation could turn into another Oka Crisis.
“Can’t even explain the words of how sad this makes me feel,” she said.
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Monday he doesn’t think enough has been done to de-escalate the situation.
“And then now we’re seeing a situation that’s really worrisome for lots of people,” Singh said.
Justin Trudeau is expected to address the matter on Monday in Question Period.