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Tensions grow as native protesters return to Ontario site

CBC News
Last updated: Thu, 20 Apr 2006 13:58:35 EDT

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

With police helicopters hovering overhead, aboriginal protesters continued to block the road to a construction site in southwestern Ontario on Thursday, hours after police staged a pre-dawn raid to break up a seven-week-old occupation.

Plumes of black smoke billowed in the air as protesters burned a pile of tires on the two-lane highway leading to the site in Caledonia, about 90 kilometres southwest of Toronto.

OPP Deputy Commissioner Maurice Pilon said police have no immediate plans to remove the second group of demonstrators, but defended their decision to launch an early morning raid to remove about 45 protesters.

Police in cruisers and vans swooped into the site around 4:30 a.m. EDT with tear gas cannons and Tasers, arresting 16 people.

Pilon said police carried out the early morning raid because an "escalation of activity" posed a risk to public safety, but didn't provide any further details.

A judge granted an injunction in March to remove the protesters.

Protester Mike Desrouches, who witnessed the early morning raid, told CBC Newsworld a number of people were subdued with shocks from Tasers as police "covered the entire area within seconds."

Protest spokeswoman Janie Jamieson said one female demonstrator was "beaten by five OPP officers" and that others were pepper-sprayed. She said nine people were arrested, but that eight of them were later released.

Pilon said officers showed "tremendous restraint," but had to use force with demonstrators who were armed with clubs. Three officers received minor injuries in the clash, he said.

Protesters block road

By 9 a.m., hundreds of protesters had gathered at the site, setting tires on fire, climbing on vehicles and waving Mohawk flags. Jamieson, who vowed to stay "as long as it takes," said they had put out a call to other reserves for more demonstrators. Protesters have a one-month supply of provisions, said CBC reporter Nil Koksal.

Aboriginal leaders at the scene said they were under the impression talks with the government were ongoing when police raided the site, although there were reports Tuesday that talks had broken down.

Reports swirled that 1,000 police officers were placed on standby later Thursday morning, but Pilon said the OPP had "no immediate plans to go in again."

"We hope a peaceful and lasting resolution can be achieved. Violence is not the answer," he said.

Ontario Minister of Community Safety Monte Kwinter said the provincial government has no influence in police operations, but added that he was monitoring the continuing standoff.

The situation led local officials to close an elementary school in the town.

The protesters are getting support from a native community in Quebec. Residents of the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal have made signs and posters, while others are planning to travel to Ontario to join the protest, said Timmy Norton, a spokesman with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.

Protest stretched over seven weeks

The protesters have been camped out since Feb. 28 at the site, where they have erected tents, a teepee and a wooden building there. They say the land was granted to the Six Nations more than 200 years ago and was never transferred to non-natives.

A sign on the land reads: "Oh Canada – your home on native land."

The province says aboriginals gave up the land in 1841 to make way for a new highway.

Six Nations filed a land claims suit over the area in 1999.

Henco Industries, the property developer of Douglas Creek Estates, hasn't commented on the day's events.

In 1995, another OPP raid on a native occupation made national headlines when an unarmed protester was killed by a police sniper.

Dudley George's death at Ipperwash Provincial Park became the subject of an ongoing inquiry, which has heard testimony from former Ontario premier Mike Harris.

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