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Mob of angry Ont. residents confront native protesters, held at bay by police

Gregory Bonnell
Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, April 25, 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. (CP) - An angry mob infuriated by a native protest at their doorstep rushed a police line surrounding the standoff Monday night, screaming insults and demanding the occupiers leave.

A line of about 100 police officers kept the crowd of about 500 non-natives at bay as several cars and more aboriginal protesters could be seen rushing to the other side of a police barrier that kept the two sides about 200 metres apart.

Furious residents waved Canadian flags as they chanted "Let us through!" and urged police to "Open the road" leading to a disputed tract of land featuring a housing development in this community south of Hamilton.

"Go Home!" one male resident yelled at the height of a frenzied mass outburst that lasted more than two hours.

"We are home!" a woman yelled back from the natives' side, also numbering roughly 500.

A crowd swarmed a police cruiser when one non-native man was arrested at the chaotic scene. Some residents attempted to jump onto the vehicle, others tried to hang onto the windows and screamed as the car pulled away.

The crowd gradually dispersed as darkness fell, with all of the non-natives and police leaving by midnight. A lone Ontario Provincial Police vehicle was left to stand guard through the night.

A spokesman for the aboriginal protesters suggested the brief but ardent riot by non-native residents did not reflect the peaceful relationship the communities share.

"The Town of Caledonia has always been good neighbours to us," Clyde Powless said afterwards.

"I realize there's a lot of frustration, they're good people, I can't argue that."

Aboriginal spokeswoman Janie Jamieson said their seven-week-long protest would not be dissuaded by the crowd and that if the protest erupted into violence, it would not come from them.

Frustrations over the native occupation boiled over at a rally roughly two hours earlier when non-native residents demanded an immediate end to the standoff, in which members of the nearby Six Nations say a tract of land running through this southern Ontario community belongs to them.

While rally organizers pleaded for a quick yet peaceful resolution, the meeting quickly descended into several heated arguments throughout the crowd of 3,000 people.

One placard held up at the rally read: Invoke the War Measures Act.

Another resident sneered at the protesters' insistence they were bound by their own aboriginal laws.

"If these people are not Canadians then they're bloody terrorists," said Lisa Parent, one of about 10,000 in this quiet community on the disputed 40-hectare tract.

The standoff over the contested land, some 30 kilometres south of Hamilton, escalated from quiet protest to angry demonstration last Thursday after provincial police raided the site and arrested a group of protesters.

The natives quickly retook the site and put barricades across the road into the town.

The scheduled rally had begun with a plea for peace, with Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Brian Haggeth taking the stage appealing for patience and calm.

"Get the outlaws out of there!" someone from the audience screamed back.

"Anger, fear and violence will not solve anything," he replied.

"Enforce the law," another man screamed out at the rally, held about two kilometres from the native barricades.

The mayor said the entire situation has left non-native residents "frustrated" that their rights as landowners are taking a back seat to native rights.

"They are kind of being held ransom for all of Canada," said Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer, who earlier had urged residents to "use common sense" at the rally and said she hoped that "cool heads will prevail."

Later, she expressed disappointment that the meeting quickly degenerated into a wild mob.

"It's really dividing the community. It's sad because we lived beside each other for 300 years."

The occupiers, for their part, had vowed not to interfere with the rally.

"That's their community meeting," said Jamieson. "They have a right to hold those without interference, and we plan on respecting that."

With marathon weekend negotiations between police, natives and provincial and federal officials being described as positive, OPP deputy commissioner Maurice Pilon delivered his assurances to the occupiers earlier Monday that they're safe from police action, at least for the moment.

"This was an opportunity... to reassure those who are inside that we have no immediate plans to return," Pilon said after emerging from a 45-minute meeting at the occupation site.

"I hope this was one small step in building trust."

Pilon's visit had indeed raised hopes among the occupiers, said protester Clyde Powless.

"I hope it's a big step to regaining trust that has been lost," said Powless, who urged federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice to visit the site as well.

"Maybe that should be a step."

Posters for the rally billed the event as a chance "to voice our anger, frustration and disappointment with our government and its abandonment of our community." Opposition critics have also lambasted the governing Liberals for its handling of the crisis.

In fact, negotiations between the Six Nations, Ottawa and the province had been making steady progress for two years until a "faction" of the native community lost patience and occupied the land, said David Ramsay, the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.

"When, literally, you've got Tasers and pepper spray being used, that doesn't sound like progress to people," NDP Leader Howard Hampton told the legislature.

"Why did you allow this situation to disintegrate to the point where the OPP are using force once again against aboriginal people?"

The raid, which began in the early hours last Thursday, backfired when hundreds more residents of the nearby Six Nations reserve raced to the scene and used sheer numbers to push police back.

Native leaders and provincial and federal officials met for about five hours Saturday night following a 19-hour marathon Friday in a bid to end the seven-week standoff.

Henco Industries - which is developing a subdivision known as Douglas Creek Estates on the contested 40 hectares - said Sunday that it is on the verge of bankruptcy and needs a resolution soon.

The Six Nations claims the land was taken from them more than two centuries ago. They say they agreed to lease the property for a road in 1835 and dispute arguments that it was later sold to the Crown.

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