As an RCMP raid on Indigenous sites in northern British Columbia drags into a fifth day of arrests, another 43 people have been arrested in Vancouver for blocking port traffic in solidarity.
The Wet’suwet’en Nation has faced increasing police presence on their territory since early January, when hereditary chiefs evicted pipeline workers and police from their land. On Thursday, RCMP began removing Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters from camps along a snow-covered logging road to make way for the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The police say they are enforcing an injunction issued by B.C.’s Supreme Court in December, while Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders say they are upholding Wet’suwet’en laws on their own land, where they still hold title rights.
On Monday, Vancouver police announced they were enforcing another court-ordered removal at the request of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. Over the weekend, protesters who oppose the police raid on Wet’suwet’en camps began blocking port access at a major intersection.
Vancouver Police Sergeant Aaron Roed said that the Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters were served an injunction and told to leave voluntarily or face arrest Sunday evening. “Protesters received several requests from police to clear the intersection and then warnings prior to being detained,” Roed said.
At first Vancouver police said 33 people were arrested, but clarified the total was actually 43 Monday afternoon. All 43 protesters were released under the condition they would not return to the port to cause more disruptions.
The port blockade is one of dozens of disruptions still happening across Canada. By the afternoon, protesters moved to block the intersection of Main and Hastings Streets in Vancouver.
Raids on Wet'suwet'en land defender camps began Thursday before the crack of dawn. Backed by tactical officers, dog teams, and drones with infrared sensors, dozens of cops stormed a watch camp on the road to other Wet'suwet'en cultural sites, and threatened a VICE reporter with arrest.
Arrests continued at different sites along the Morice West Forest Service Road over the weekend. According to B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Harsha Walia, 14 arrestees from Friday and Saturday have been released with conditions.
As of Monday morning local time, land defenders announced RCMP are now reaching a third Wet’suwet’en camp, where a healing lodge and elders are standing ground.
“This is the RCMP,” police announced over a megaphone, according to a tweet by Unist’ot’en Camp. “This airspace is now restricted. Do not operate any drone in this area.”
“This is not Canada! You are invaders!” Wet’suwet’en Dark House clan spokesperson Freda Huson replied, according to the tweet.
A grainy livestream video posted to the Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page shows police approaching a group of women who are singing and drumming by a large ceremonial fire. Police have removed at least seven people from the site, according to social media posts by Unist’ot’en supporters.
In photos posted to the Unist'ot'en Camp Twitter feed, police in yellow work vests are seen cutting through a wood gate with the word "Reconciliation" plastered across it.
Huson was arrested just a few minutes before 11 a.m. local time, Unist’ot’en Camp tweeted. Shortly after Huson's arrest, Unist'ot'en released a statement calling attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women in the region.
"Our matriarchs were arrested while holding a ceremony to call on our ancestors and to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls," reads part of the statement.
"We, the Unist’ot’en, know that violence on our lands and violence on our women are connected. During ceremony, we hung red dresses to remember the spirits of the murdered women, girls and two spirit people taken from us."
RCMP confirmed seven arrests in an afternoon press release that announced "major enforcement operations" on Wet'suwet'en land are wrapping up.
"I am very satisfied that this operation was conducted safely and there were no injuries sustained by anyone," Senior Commander Chief Superintendent David Attfield said in the release. "This was a very challenging situation, and I am proud of the professionalism displayed by our members."
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