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Rude awakening for young protester

Marissa Nelson, with files from Paul Legall
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Apr 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.]

A handful of native protesters were sleeping soundly in their make-shift shelters when what was otherwise a tranquil spring morning was interrupted.

At 4:30 a.m. dozens of OPP officers swooped into the Douglas Creek Estates to clear out the protesters who were defying a court order.

One teenaged boy, who was at the back gate sleeping in a hammock, said he awoke to find more than five police officers standing next to him in the shelter, made of blue tarps and pieces of wood crudely nailed together.

"They threw me to the ground and put plastic handcuffs on me," said the boy, who would only say his name was Flame.

Donning a scarf to hide his face, he said police lifted his face up, snapped his picture, and put him into a cruiser. He was taken to Cayuga for processing, where he was charged with contempt of court and given six months' probation.

He was told he'd be arrested if he went back at the barricades. He was back within hours.

He said police had stacks of photocopied paperwork waiting for the arrested protesters.

Many of the protesters said they didn't even have time to leave -- they were put into plastic handcuffs and whisked away to face charges before they knew what was going on.

There are reports that police used pepper spray and Tasers on the natives. Police said they used minimal force and arrested at least 16 protesters.

Many who were there said police had their high-powered rifles drawn and pointed at unarmed protesters.

Not a single shot was fired.

As the sun rose, it revealed the massive police presence that had descended on this small town.

There were more than 24 police vehicles lining the road outside the main entrance to the property. The OPP helicopter flew overhead. There were police dogs, tactical officers and uniformed police swarming the subdivision.

But suddenly, around 8 a.m., Six Nations people stepped out of the woods behind the subdivision. One by one, native protesters returned, walking across fields and through brush that is north of the development and leads toward the Six Nations reserve.

The protesters were well behind the police lines at the two main gates to the estate.

First there were two protesters.

Then there were a dozen.

The numbers kept swelling.

The native people linked arms and walked boldly toward police.

The OPP, surprised by the sudden return of the natives, quickly formed a black wall of officers at the front entrance to the subdivision. Several officers had video cameras rolling, as the two sides faced off near the sacred fire.

An argument ensued, lasting just a few minutes. Then, at 8:15 a.m., the OPP officers turned around and walked away.

They left the site en masse, having been in control of the property for less than four hours.

Triumphant, the protesters cheered, waving flags and then began to drum in victory, jeering at the last few officers who climbed back into their unmarked cargo vans.

The roads in the whole area were shut down, causing motorists' tempers to flare as both Highway 6 and the bypass were blocked during the morning commute.

Some of the police went to the staging area -- a school on Unity Road -- while others went around the corner in unmarked cargo vans to the second entrance of the subdivision through an existing subdivision.

Minutes later, the protesters noticed police amassing at the back gate and there was a sudden flood of native people -- in pickup trucks and on all-terrain vehicles -- toward the back gate to bulk up support.

Police lined the entrance, with shields, as the protesters jeered at them.

The two sides clashed once again, and several protesters rushed at the police vehicles, smashing windows with a metal pipe.

The day was emotional, as tempers flared and nerves were fraught. Norma General stood with tears streaming down her face around 7:30 a.m. yesterday as she watched police walking around the main barricade. Her own son had spent the night there.

"We had peace in our hearts," General said. "And they just dragged them away."

As soon as the police were pushed off the site, a native dump truck was parked across Argyle Street next to the Canadian Tire store in Caledonia. Near the 6th Line, a massive pile of tires was set ablaze, sending thick black smoke into the sky.

Michael Laughing, from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation that straddles the U.S. border near Cornwall, was wearing a red face mask and waving a two-row wampum flag yesterday, standing on top of the dump truck.

He said the police had stuck "a stick in a bee's nest. Now the bees are coming out," he told reporters.

Tensions at the back gate remained high throughout the day, as police lined the streets in unmarked vans in the quiet, middle-class subdivision.

Native protesters intermittently came on all-terrain vehicles, speeding past the vans and taunting the police officers inside. The officers didn't budge, and simply stayed silent in the vans.

Down the road, at around 10:30 a.m., protesters towed a minivan to the Sixth Line bridge over Highway 6 bypass. A group of men hoisted the van up and threw it over the metal rail.

The numbers of Six Nations people at the building site grew throughout the day, with hundreds of native protesters -- some in traditional longhouse wear -- at the site by the afternoon.

Hours later, the Six Nations hereditary chiefs came to address their own people and the public.

"We do not control the protesters. We have influence over them but that influence depends on our ability to convince them serious attention is being paid to the causes of the protest," said Allen MacNaughton, the Mohawk chief. "Restoring the peace is even more urgent in the aftermath."

Leroy Hill, a spokesperson for the Confederacy and the Cayuga sub-chief, said they were disappointed police had stepped in when they'd been talking with government officials late into the night.

"We come from a long tradition of diplomacy and using a good mind and resolving things at the table," Hill said.

The chiefs said they had more meetings scheduled today.

"We predict they'll be listening to us a little better," Hill said.

Cleveland General, the elderly Cayuga chief, was helped to the top of a table to address the crowd.

"I'm proud of you people for hanging on this long. I'm really proud you stand up for what belongs to us. I hope it's to the benefit of our people and to those who are unborn," he said.

Word quickly spread across the protest site that they were getting support from other First Nations people across the province and country.

"The First Nations of the world are rising up. It's time Canada dealt with us -- nation to nation ... They didn't understand how serious we were," said Hazel Hill, who was part of the group who confronted OPP.

She said if police take action again, "it will escalate across the country."

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