Tag Archives: Land Defenders

Blockades and bonfires — Warriors stand with Wet’suwet’en chiefs

Before Trudeau called for an end to national protests, Winnipeg’s Urban Warrior Alliance blockaded Highway 75 in support of community engaged in years-long dispute

Pipeline actions ramp up

Several people were arrested Monday when Ontario Provincial Police broke up a railway blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in the latest escalation of a conflict that began more than a year ago in British Columbia.

Since January 2019, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and community members have been resisting the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is part of a $6.6 billion project to bring natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to the coast and has been approved by the provincial and federal governments. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils are also in support.

But the hereditary chiefs have consistently opposed the construction and set up blockades to stop work from going forward in the winter of 2019. The project has also been panned by B.C.’s human rights commission and the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination.

A report published by the Guardian late last year said authorities were prepared to use lethal force against the land defenders.

After the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) moved to act on an injunction requiring the Wet’suwet’en to stand down earlier this year, solidarity demonstrations and blockades popped up around the country, including the Tyendinaga action that began over two weeks ago. In Manitoba, demonstrators have shut down Portage Avenue several times — including twice in front of the Manitoba RCMP headquarters and a rush hour rally that saw some 400 people shut down the Portage and Main intersection.

A blockade of the CN and Via Rail tracks near Headingly, Man., lasted less than 24 hours before a CN injunction was quickly approved by the courts. On Feb. 17, members of the Urban Warrior Alliance blockaded Highway 75 for several hours. Following Monday’s arrests, another series of solidarity actions sprang up, including blockades of commuter rail lines in Ontario and the second rally outside Manitoba’s Mountie headquarters. 

Manitoban columnist Cam Cannon attended the Feb. 17 highway blockade and filed the following report.

The air is rich with the smoke of a nearby bonfire.

Indigenous warriors and land defenders, clad in camouflage, are holding an emergency meeting in a large black pickup truck parked on the side of Highway 75, where a blockade of both the CN railway and the southbound lanes of the highway has been set up.

All traffic is being allowed through at the moment — everybody around the fire is in disbelief at what just happened.

Moments earlier, as Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) liaison officers dressed in plain clothes visited the blockade — informing the land defenders that the officers were there not only to protect the public, but to protect the land defenders as well — a large tractor trailer pushed through the blockade, swerving through at speed as land defenders scrambled to stop the driver.

The truck sped away, followed shortly after by an RCMP vehicle.

A land defender’s arm was “jarred” during the incident, according to Harrison Powder, a land defender with the Urban Warrior Alliance — one of Winnipeg’s warrior societies, an organization of Indigenous militants.

Land defenders completely stop all traffic in retaliation — including passenger vehicles, which earlier in the day had been allowed through while only commercial trucks were being held up.

They hold the line for about 10 more minutes before holding an emergency meeting away from their allies and the media.

The truck breaking through the blockade was only one of three separate incidents of what Black Turtle, a warrior with the Urban Warrior Alliance, described as “violence” against the land defenders during the day, including an individual who exited his vehicle to confront blockaders.

“That’s never happened before,” she said, comparing the incident to previous demonstrations.

“It’s like the temperament in some of the people has gotten a lot worse than it used to be. The anger level is higher, I guess the stakes are higher.”

“In eight years of protesting — like real heavy protesting as a land defender, doing lots of other kinds of protests, blocking highways, rail lines — this has maybe happened maybe once and today we’ve had three incidents of violence on this highway,” she said.

Overall, the attitude toward the blockade from drivers can be described as tense. People could be heard yelling obscenities from their cars with some regularity, though a few dropped off snacks as they passed through.

The blockade — established as part of a wave of ongoing peaceful protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk nations — was established at noon.

The RCMP were on the scene minutes later and maintained a presence for the rest of the day. Within a few hours, a court injunction was served to land defenders by RCMP officers — which they promptly threw to the wind.

“I’m kind of surprised how fast it was, it seems a little not normal,” said Powder, noting it has taken up to eight hours to be served with an injunction at previous protests.

“They’ve been getting these injunctions now in a matter of three, four hours,” he said.

“Once a blockade is going up across Canada — because it happened in Toronto, too — they had a blockade and were served within four, five hours.”

The blockade came down after 5 p.m. Amidst rising tensions over the blockades that have shuttered parts of the Canadian economy, there has been increased pressure from both the police and civilians to take down the blockades.

Although some injunctions had gone unenforced for weeks before this weekend, a blockade just south of Montreal, Que., was dismantled on Feb. 21 upon the arrival of police in riot gear.

At a press conference the same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that RCMP were scaling back from Wet’suwet’en and called for all the blockades across the country, now in their third week, to come down and for the rule of law to be upheld.

A few days prior, on Feb. 19, counter-protesters — among them, members of far-right groups and movements including Yellow Vests Canada, United We Roll and Wexit, according to Yellow Vests Canada Exposed, a group that monitors the far right in Canada — dismantled a blockade outside of Edmonton, Alta.

The vigilante action was met with support on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet from Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Peter MacKay.

With rising antagonism from both the Canadian government and from Canadians themselves, Black Turtle — who said she attended the blockade out of love and a want to see reconciliation between the country and the Indigenous populations — questioned how far away that may still be.

“I think that we’re the furthest from reconciliation at this point in time than we’ve been in for a very long time,” she said.

“I think it was starting to come into that direction until this last situation occurred. I’d say that reconciliation is dead at this point.”

“It is completely dead.”

This article was first published in The Manitoban on February 25, 2020. 


Barricades Taken Down Outside Caledonia, Ending Occupation

Land defenders blockade outside Caledonia ends

Barricades erected by Six Nations people near Caledonia have been dismantled, marking an end to an occupation that lasted for nearly a month.

An OPP spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that officers intercepted the development on Monday. A “verbal interaction” occurred between land defenders and OPP officers and they were subsequently instructed to leave, said Rod Leclair. Officials are on-site clearing leftover debris, he added.

The issue is linked to a contentious move by the Six Nations Elected Band Council to place a parcel of land into a federal corporation, ostensibly defaulting on a promise entered into by Ontario and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in 2006 to stem the Caledonia Standoff, a protest that grew to a fever pitch after Indigenous people occupied a subdivision called the Douglas Creek Estates.

The unelected, hereditary council want the Burtch lands, located near Brantford, to be independent from the Canadian government, citing expropriation concerns. It validates its position through a letter signed by former Ontario premier David Peterson which says the land will return to its original state and status under the Haldimand Proclamation, an official order of 1784 that gave land to the Haudenosaunee people for their military allegiance to the British during the American Revolutionary War.

The blockade was initially located on Argyle St., a thoroughfare outside Caledonia. On Monday, the barricade was transplanted to Highway 6 and Sixth Line Rd., where it was later shut down, said Caledonia councillor Craig Grice.

“As of right now, Argyle St. is clear, Sixth Line is clear,” he said. “We’re just waiting for the reopening of the bypass. It was a small group of protestors that didn’t have the support inside Six Nations and I think that was proved last night.”

The OPP is investigating a fire that was set on Saturday on railroad tracks near the site of the botched occupation. No demonstrators were seen on Monday afternoon in the area, said Leclair, and no arrests have been made.

Grice said he is relieved, that the hope is to move on.

Torstar News Service




Mexico: Land Defenders Occupy Mining Installations


May 7th, 2016 from Servicios Para Una Educacion Alternativ 

translated by Earth First! Journal

Seven years since the brutal eviction in which the Coordinated Unity of Towns of the Valley of Ocotlán (CPUVO) were beaten and imprisoned, we are still demanding the immediate exit of the mining corporation Fortuna Silver Mines.

Coordinated Unity of Towns of the Valley of Ocotlán (CPUVO) were beaten and imprisoned, we are still demanding the immediate exit of the mining corporation Fortuna Silver Mines.

For this reason, the town of San José del Progreso, in the framework of the National Campaign to Defend Mother Earth and Land, has determined to occupy the main entrance to the mining projects installations.

Community members blame that company for the wily murders of our compañeros, Bernardo Méndez and Bernardo Vásquez, social warriors who lost their lives defending the land.

In this sense, far from finding justice for these violations to our rights as Indigenous People, the mining corporation, in cahoots with state and federal authorities for over a year (since April, 2015), acquitted the murderers.


In the same sense, this project is expanding through territories of San José del Progreso, Magdalena Ocotlán, Monte del Toro, and San Martín de los Cansecos, even though the communities have made evident the systemic violations which the project has produced against the towns, leading there to be no peace in José del Progreso.

CPUVO declares solidarity with the struggle and resistance in this country and makes a call out to continue coordinating our strength and brotherhood[/sisterhood] to defend via the National Campaign to Defend Mother Earth and Land.

We demand the immediate cancellation of the San José [mining] project, as well as its expansion into ejidos [communal land] and municipalities. In addition to the immediate cancellation of ALL [emphasis added] mining projects in the state of Oaxaca, we also recognize communities who have strengthened their resistance in the Central Valley regions, as well as the Southern Mountains, North Mountains, Mixteca, and Isthmus [Valles Centrales, Sierra Sur, Sierra Norte, Mixteca, and Istmo] against mining projects of death.

Justice for San José del Progreso!

Coordination of Unity Towns of the Valley of Ocotlán, May 6, 2016


Land Defenders Strike Back Against Mining Industry After Colorado River Poisoning

Land Defenders Keeping Armed Watch Over Akwesasne As NY State Manhunt Continues

(Jerry Jock, left, and Bryan King, right, take a break after searching through swamp and thick bush for escaped murderer David Sweat. APTN/Photo)

(Jerry Jock, left, and Bryan King, right, take a break after searching through swamp and thick bush for escaped murderer David Sweat. APTN/Photo)

Jorge Barrera | ATPN National News

Akwesasne men keeping armed watch over territory’s edge as New York State manhunt continues

AKWESASNE— Armed with shotguns and AR-15s, a group of about five men from Akwesasne searched through swamp and thick bush on the edge of the territory Saturday for an escaped murderer who has been on the run from authorities for three weeks.

The camouflage-clad men, known as “Land Defenders,” were acting on a tip from the community that a white male had been spotted entering the woods in an area known as the “Al Capone bootleg trail” because it was used to smuggle booze during the prohibition area.

Roger Jock, who led the four-hour search, said the ongoing manhunt for the escaped inmate was beginning to put people in Akwesasne on edge.

“We have been watching and listening to this unfolding,” said Jock. “A lot of people here are on edge.”

Three members of the Land Defenders search crew emerge from the bush following a search for escaped murderer David Sweat. APTN/Photo

Three members of the Land Defenders search crew emerge from the bush following a search for escaped murderer David Sweat. APTN/Photo

New York State and U.S. federal authorities continued to focus their search on an area about 16 kilometres south of Malone, NY., which sits about 40 kilometres south-east of the U.S.-side of the Akwesasne Mohawk territory. Akwesasne straddles the Canada-U.S. border and is about 120 kilometres west of Montreal.

State and federal authorities have established a 35 square-kilometre perimeter around the area they believe still contains David Sweat, one of two men who escaped the Clinton Correctional prison on June. 6. About 1,200 state and federal law enforcement officers are involved in the manhunt.

Sweat’s partner in the escape, convicted murderer Richard Matt, was shot and killed by a U.S. Border agent Friday. Matt was holding a shotgun when he was gunned down.

St. Regis Mohawk police chief Matthew Rourke said in an interview with APTN National News Friday that the hunt for the escaped inmate is still too far away from the community to put his force on alert.

“They are still a good (40 kilometres) away from where we are, if not farther away,” said Rourke. “We are aware of the situation and we will provide whatever assistance as required.”

New York State law enforcement officers at a roadblock near Malone, NY, Saturday evening.

New York State law enforcement officers at a roadblock near Malone, NY, Saturday evening.

Jock said he believes Sweat had likely slipped through the police perimeter.

New York State police said earlier this past week that investigators believed the escaped men were headed to Canada. Jock said he grew concerned the men could end up in Akwesasne and put out a call for eyes on the edge of the territory.

Jock also got in touch with Duane Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, who is now in Malone.

Chapman was in sporadic contact with Charles Kader, an Akwesasne journalist, during the day. At one point Chapman texted, “go, go, go” after Kader sent him a photo of Jock and his crew searching through the bush.

The search crew waded through swamp and dense brush while swarmed by black flies and mosquitoes.

Jerry Jock joined the search out of concern for his family.

“It’s basically about protecting our people,” said Jock, as he sat at the back of a pick-up truck with an AR-15 next to him. “My kids are down the road over there.”

Bryan King said he trekked through swamp and bush for the same reason.

“I live up the road too,” said King, who carried a shotgun during the search. “We’re basically all family.”

Roger Jock said it is up to the men to protect the community and he said words have little meaning without action.

“If we can’t protect our people, then we’ll let someone else do it,” he said. “But I am a strong believer in protecting our own.”

Later in the evening, Jock received a request to check an area around a large garage at the end of a bush trail. He and a relative, with their semi-automatic long-guns in hand, slowly walked around the building and peered between rusting cars and trucks for any signs of an unwanted visitor.

“The plan is to make sure we don’t take any rumours of sightings lightly,” said Jock. “It’s our responsibility.”