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Native protesters push back after raid

Katie Rook
CanWest News Service; National Post
Friday, April 21, 2006

[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.]

CALEDONIA, Ont. -- More than 200 native demonstrators scrambled to reinforce a protest at a disputed construction site Thursday after police arrested 16 Six Nations men in a pre-dawn raid.

Ontario Provincial Police descended on the site around 4:30 a.m. and arrested protesters - some of whom were sleeping in cars. No shots were fired, but protesters reported being hit with taser weapons and beaten by officers.

Shortly after the raid, more demonstrators from Six Nations reserve began poring into the dusty subdivision project near Caledonia, southwest of Hamilton, to press their claim on the land.

They lit fires and manned blockades near Douglas Creek Estates. It's part of a standoff that began Feb. 28 to dispute the acquisition of the land by Henco Industries Limited in the early 1990s. They claim the 40-hectare tract of land was stolen from them two centuries ago.

''How is it they can do this and still expect us to have the same peaceful resolution we've been hoping for,'' Allen MacNaughton, a Mohawk chief, said.

''We still had hope (Wednesday) night about a peaceful conclusion. It makes things a little harder.''

Black smoke billowed from a car tossed over a bridge and onto a pile of burning tires on Highway Six. A light grass fire burned within metres of a pile of logs stretched across the same road.

An 18-wheel truck and large piles of gravel blocked other site entrances. No traffic was being allowed on Argyle Street, the main road through Caledonia.

OPP Deputy Commissioner Maurice Pilon said at an afternoon press conference Thursday that police tried to secure the site because ''the behaviour of the protesters presented what was in our view a threat to public safety.

''We felt the risk to public safety was heightening and thus we decided we should move today. I would like to emphasize that I believe our officers showed tremendous restraint and were focused on peacefully removing protesters.''

Pilon said there are no plans to raid the site again.

Hours before, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the government was trying to end the protest through peaceful negotiations.

''We are determined to resolve this, but we will do this in a way that results in no incident.''

In response to Tory criticism, McGuinty said the government had been accused of ''demonstrating weakness because we are taking time to resolve this issue in a peaceful mannerEwe are not going to apologize for that.''

A protester who identified himself to police as Rough Bark, said police showed excessive force, tasering one protester in the chest at least three times and then behind the knees.

Despite being charged with contempt of court Thursday, Rough Bark returned to the southeast corner of the site where there were several tents, a trailer and a picnic bench.

''It was supposed to be peaceful,'' he said. ''Until today.''

Rough Bark did not have any weapons or know of anyone on the site with weapons.

Dozens of cars lined the perimeters of the site and men, some wearing bandanas covering their mouths, circling on ATVs.

The Six Nations of the Grand River Territory has about 22,000 members, of which about half live on the reserve near Caledonia. It operates under the Iroquois Confederacy and represents the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Tuscarora nations.

Six Nations member Clyde Powless said Six Nations, which has its own police force, wants to be recognized by the government.

''Call Ottawa. We want them to recognize the Iroquois government instead of the Indian Act,'' Powless said.

He said his grandfather, Chief Tadadaho, was wrongfully removed from the same protest site in 1924 and with a gun to his head.

Pilon, the OPP deputy commissioner, said everyone involved is mindful of the shooting death of Dudley George during the Ipperwash occupation in southern Ontario 1995.

''Obviously there is potential of significant issues here, but again this has been ongoing for sometime and our focus is to find a peaceful resolution,'' he said.

There were reports of talks scheduled for Friday.

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