Category Archives: Protests and Resistance

Activism, Civil Disobedience and Direct Action

South Dakota Governor Caves on Attempted Efforts to Silence Pipeline Protesters

Photo: Rob Wilson

South Dakota’s governor and attorney general today backed down from their unconstitutional attempts to silence pipeline protestors. In response to a lawsuit we filed alongside the ACLU of South Dakota and the Robins Kaplan law firm, the state has agreed to never enforce the unconstitutional provisions of several state laws that threatened activists who encourage or organize protests, particularly protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, with fines and criminal penalties of up to 25 years in prison.

The settlement agreement reached today and now headed to the court for approval is an important victory for the right to protest. It comes soon after a federal court temporarily blocked enforcement of the pieces of the laws that infringed on First Amendment protected speech, and makes the court’s temporary block a permanent one.

The laws include the “Riot Boosting” Act, which gave the state the authority to sue individuals and organizations for “riot boosting,” a novel and confusing term. The court warned against the laws’ broad reach, noting that the laws could have prohibited:

  • Sending a supporting email or a letter to the editor in support of a protest
  • Giving a cup of coffee or thumbs up or $10 to protesters
  • Holding up a sign in protest on a street corner
  • Asking someone to protest
  • Under the First Amendment, that is impermissible.

The court rightly recognized the stakes of this case. And it put these anti-protest efforts in perspective, asking “if these riot boosting statutes were applied to the protests that took place in Birmingham, Alabama, what might be the result?” The answer: “Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference could have been liable under an identical riot boosting law[.]”

Indeed, South Dakota’s unconstitutional anti-protest efforts echoed the suppression of past social movements. From the start, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem called on “shut[ting] down” “out-of-state people” who come into South Dakota to “slow and stop construction” of the pipeline. Her harmful calls were reminiscent of government attempts throughout our history to delegitimize and minimize significant social movements as the work of “outside agitators,” including Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

South Dakota’s quick and costly retreat (they’ll have to compensate plaintiffs for attorney’s fees under the settlement agreement) should serve as a lesson for other legislatures considering similar efforts to silence dissent.

In the last few years, we have witnessed a legislative trend of states seeking to criminalize protest, deter political participation, and curtail freedom of association. These bills appear to be a direct reaction from politicians and corporations to some of the most effective tactics of those speaking out today, including water protectors challenging pipeline construction, Black Lives Matter, and those calling for boycotts of Israel. These legislative moves are aimed at suppressing dissent and undercutting marginalized and over-policed groups voicing concerns that disrupt current power dynamics.

But the First Amendment guarantees people the right to voice their opposition. This includes our clients — four organizations (the Sierra Club, NDN Collective, Dakota Rural Action, and the Indigenous Environmental Network) and two individuals (Nick Tilsen with NDN Collective and Dallas Goldtooth with Indigenous Environmental Network) — all of whom are protesting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and encouraging others to do the same.

Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline may be imminent. Pre-construction activities resumed this month, and a hearing on the new Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline, which will serve as the basis for approval of any future permits, is coming up next Monday.

With the laws we challenged proclaimed unenforceable, protesters and protectors no longer have to worry about incarceration or fines as they protest against the construction. That is, at a minimum, how democracy should work.

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Photo credit: Rob Wilson

Alton Gas foes get small designated zone for ‘peaceful protest’

An unidentified man stands at a Mi’kmaq camp at the entrance to an Alton Gas work site along the Shubenacadie River, in Fort Ellis, N.S. on Monday, March 18, 2019. (CP/Andrew Vaughan)

HALIFAX — A court order has laid out a small patch of fenced land where Aboriginal and other protesters will be required to remain as they oppose a plan to store natural gas in underground caverns north of Halifax.

The designated area of grassy field, about 22 metres by 38 metres, is part of a Nova Scotia Supreme Court order that details how a temporary injunction against protesters on the Alton Gas property will be applied.

But opponents dismissed the official “protest site” as a “play pen” in comments on the “Stop Alton Gas” Facebook site.

Michelle Paul posted on Twitter, “There is no cage big enough to contain our treaty spirit.”

A spokeswoman for Alton confirmed that fencing was being erected at the Fort Ellis, N.S., site, and that signs were being posted.

The court document released by the company Monday — which includes an aerial view of the protest site — comes in the wake of the injunction ordered on March 18 by Justice Gerald Moir of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

The court order dated March 27 says the RCMP may arrest any person who violates the order.

It also says the protesters must conduct their protest peacefully, only during daylight hours and that they not set up “any inhabitation” at the site.

It prohibits people from interfering by force, threats or coercion with Alton Gas and utility workers seeking entrance to the site at 625 Riverside Road for the “purpose of investigating a recent power outage, and assessing and repairing property damage arising therefrom, and for all other operational and security purposes.”

For the past 12 years, Alton Gas has been planning to pump water from the Shubenacadie River to an underground site 12 kilometres away, where it will be used to flush out salt deposits, and create up to 15 caverns.

The leftover brine solution would then be pumped back into the river over a two- to three-year period.

Protesters have gathered at the site for several years, arguing that the plan poses dangers to the traditional fisheries of the Mi’kmaq and risks harming the river used by Aboriginal populations for thousands of years.

The protest had included a makeshift structure that blocked the main access road to the company’s pumphouse and control centre near the Shubenacadie River.

When Moir granted the temporary injunction to end the actions by Dale Poulette, Rachael Greenland-Smith and others, he said the company must set up another area where “protesters” could gather and be seen by the public.

The new site is an area visible from the main road, but is about 25 to 30 metres from the entrance to the Alton work site where the current protest camp is located.

“The decision by the court means people trespassing, including those named in the injunction and others having notice of the order, must leave or go to the protest area. Moving forward, access to the work site is open only to approved Alton staff and contractors,” says an Alton Gas news release.

“We are setting up a separate area for peaceful protest that will be clearly marked.”

The order released Monday says that under the terms negotiated and signed by the lawyers for Poulette and Greenland-Smith and the Alberta-based firm, any person arrested may be released provided the person agrees to abide by the court order, but can also be kept in custody.

However, the document says that the respondents can apply to the courts to vary the order, after giving 72 hours notice.

The Ecojustice lawyer for Poulette and Greenland-Smith who signed the document says he is no longer representing them, and their new lawyer was not available for comment.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was met by protesters of the Alton Gas project during his visit to Halifax, and he said Ottawa will consider their grievances.

Trudeau said Ottawa would work with local communities, Mi’kmaq chiefs and the province “to move forward on regulations in a way that addresses your concerns.”

The federal government said last month that it will step in to regulate the company’s plan in a way that would manage potential threats to fish, fish habitat and human health.

The Canadian Press, Published Monday, April 1, 2019 

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United We Roll convoy meets counter-protesters as it leaves Winnipeg

Protesters wave flags and shout at passing trucks as the United We Roll protest leaves Winnipeg early on Friday evening. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Protest truck convoy passes through Manitoba en route to Ottawa

A convoy of at least 70 trucks protesting Ottawa’s oil and gas policies passed through Manitoba on Friday on its way to Parliament Hill, hoping to pick up steam among local drivers.

“We want the current government to realize that they have a huge disconnect with a lot of issues, and the biggest is our oil and gas industry needs to get back in order — and our farmers,” said organizer Glen Carritt Friday morning.

“Everybody’s hurting because the carbon tax is way too much.”

Carritt was driving one of roughly 170 trucks that left Red Deer, Alta., early Thursday morning with a destination of Ottawa as part of the United We Roll protest.

A convoy of trucks left Red Deer on Thursday, bound for Ottawa to demand the federal government do more to help the oil and gas industry in Western Canada. (Tiphanie Roquette/Radio Canada)

He said drivers want to show their opposition to the federal carbon tax and Bill C-69, federal legislation that would change the way energy projects are reviewed, as well as other policies they say are hurting the economy.

On Friday morning, Carritt said the convoy had slimmed down to a core group of about 70 trucks. He was hoping to pick up at least 30 more in Manitoba and Ontario on the way to Parliament Hill for a final rally.

Some of the participants are supporters of the yellow vest protest movement, Carritt said. But he has said the racist and radical views espoused by some yellow vest supporters aren’t part of his protest.

Cleared Deacon’s Corner after 6 p.m.

“We just want our voices heard,” he said. “There’s an election coming up and we want people to realize how important the oil and gas industry is for the rest of Canada.”

The convoy was slowed down briefly early Friday evening as it left Winnipeg, when protesters gathered at Deacon’s Corner to express their opposition to the movement.

“We’re against the message they’re bringing,” said Harrison Friesen, one of about 10 people who stood at the side of the highway, waving flags and shouting at the trucks as they passed.

“For us, we’re against pipelines, we’re Indigenous land defenders. I’m from northern Alberta — I have concerns about what happens with the tar sands, what happens with the community.”

Protesters wait for the convoy to pass Deacon’s Corner on its way out of Winnipeg early Friday evening. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The RCMP closed down one lane of Highway 1 eastbound just after 5:30 p.m. to give protesters a place to safely stand, warning them not to interfere with traffic in the other lane. Although this slowed the convoy’s progress, the line of vehicles had all cleared the intersection shortly after 6 p.m.

“These people that are out on the road here … they’ don’t like the fact that we’ve got a convoy that wants to promote the pipeline and promote oil,” said United We Roll supporter Les Michaelson, who drove ahead to scout any potential problems the vehicles might encounter.

“We want to put people back to work and doing otherwise is actually going backwards.”

Carritt described the convoy as a grassroots movement of drivers who want to stand up for Canada.

The protest has received support from an online GoFundMe fundraiser, he said, which he’s hoping will continue to take a bite out of the fuel cost of the journey.

For the big-rig trucks, that could be as high as $6,000, Carritt said.

Whether it’s drivers on the road or protesters at Parliament, Carritt said he hopes to see more people out supporting his cause.

“Everybody is welcome as long as they’re peaceful.”

Originally posted by CBC News · Posted: Feb 15, 2019

[SOURCE]

Indigenous leaders to gather in support

Photo: UBCIC

Hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. are holding a gathering of solidarity on Wednesday that is expected to attract Indigenous leaders from across the province.

Chief Judy Wilson, secretary treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said she was planning to attend the meeting and other members of the group had already flown to Smithers.

“I’m heading up there to support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the people, the clans, in their fight to protect their land,” Wilson said.

She said the difficulty that the hereditary chiefs have had in getting their authority recognized by industry and government is familiar.

Elected band councils are based on a colonial model of governance, she said. Under the tradition of her Secwepemc First Nation in the B.C. Interior, title belongs to all of the people within the nation.

“Collectively, people hold title for our nation,” she said.

Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations bands along the pipeline route to LNG Canada’s $40-billion export facility in Kitimat, B.C.

But the project has come until scrutiny because five hereditary clan chiefs within the Wet’suwet’en say the project has no authority without their consent.

While elected band councils are administrators of their reserves, the hereditary chiefs say they are in charge of the 22,000 square kilometres comprising Wet’suwet’en traditional territory, including land the pipeline would run through.

Members of the First Nation and supporters were arrested last week at a checkpoint erected to block the company from accessing a road it needs to do pre-construction work on the project, sparking protests Canada-wide.

On Thursday, the hereditary chiefs reached at deal with RCMP, agreeing that members would abide by a temporary court injunction by allowing the company and its contractors access across a bridge further down the road, so long as another anti-pipeline camp is allowed to remain intact.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks told reporters that the chiefs reached the agreement to ensure the safety of those remaining at the Unist’ot’en camp, but remain “adamantly opposed” to the project.

The interim court injunction will be in place until the defendants, including residents and supporters of the Unist’ot’en camp, file a response in court Jan. 31.

A Facebook page for the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidumt’en territory posted an alert on Sunday calling for rolling actions across the country.

It referred to the 1997 Delgamuuk’w case, fought by the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitsxan First Nations, in which the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that Aboriginal title constituted an ancestral right protected by the constitution.

“As the Unist’ot’en camp says, ‘This fight is far from over. We paved the way with the Delgamuuk’w court case and the time has come for Delgamuuk’w II,’ ” the statement says.

The ruling in the Delgamuuk’w case had an impact on other court decisions, affecting Aboriginal rights and title, including the court’s recognition of the Tsilhqot’in nation’s aboriginal title lands.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Indigenous convoy slows Ontario highway traffic in solidarity with B.C. pipeline protest

The eight-car convoy left from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne early Friday morning, with hopes of reaching the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

‘We’re standing strong with our brothers and sisters out west,’ said one participant.

A convoy of vehicles slowed traffic on a stretch of Canada’s busiest highway Friday morning in Ontario in a show of solidarity with an anti-pipeline protest in British Columbia.

Eight westbound vehicles rolled down Highway 401 near Cornwall, Ont., at about 50 km/h during the early rush hour. Provincial police cruisers formed a buffer around the convoy and surrounding traffic.

The vehicles are carrying people from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, about 86 kilometres southeast of Ottawa, and the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, just south of Montreal.

Brandon Bigtree, who was driving one of the vehicles, said the demonstration was to show support for protesters at the Unist’ot’en camp — the site of a fortified checkpoint preventing people set to work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline project from accessing the Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Wet’suwet’en and police have agreed to allow the company access to do pre-construction work as specified in an interim injunction order for the time being, following arrests on Monday.

“We’re standing strong with our brothers and sisters out west. What’s going on out there isn’t right,” Bigtree said.

He said Indigenous communities across the country feel the federal government and provinces are failing them.

“We just need to let [the federal government] know that we’re all united.”

Those in the convoy from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne are also trying to raise awareness about local governance issues. Some in the community are frustrated with how the elected band council has handled  negotiations over a 130-year-old land grievance along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. They are advocating for the nation’s hereditary leadership to play a larger role in the process.

The convoy hopes to make it to ​the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., today.

CBC News · Posted: Jan 11, 2019

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