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Calls to end Caledonia blockade draw cheers

Townspeople boo speaker from OPP; 500 rush police line near occupation site

Kate Harries
Globe and Mail
April 25, 2006

With reports from Karen Howlett and Canadian Press

[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. -- Waving Canadian flags, a crowd of about 2,000 people cheered wildly at a meeting in Caledonia as speakers called for an end to the Six Nations occupation of a construction site and blockade of the Southern Ontario town's main highway.

"We feel it's time that Canadians hear from the tax-paying community of Caledonia whose voice has not been heard," said protest organizer Ken Hewitt, who blasted Prime Minister Stephen Harper for inaction and leaving the matter to be "settled in the courts at our expense."

"We do not want the lawlessness to continue," he said, adding "the residents of Caledonia do not support the land transfer of Douglas Creek Development to the native protesters."

Because of the turnout, the meeting was moved from the municipal office to the fairgrounds beside the Grand River.

Ontario Provincial Police Inspector Brian Haggith, an invited speaker, was booed when he stepped to the microphone.

"Get those outlaws out of there," a man shouted.

Insp. Haggith called for patience. "Anger, fear and violence will not solve anything," he said.

As darkness fell about two hours later, about 500 people rushed a line of about 100 police officers near the site of the occupation. They chanted, "Do your job" and "We're fed up" at the police officers. A few yelled racial slurs aimed at the Six Nations occupiers who were about 250 metres down the road.

Police kept the mob made up of area residents 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.

A crowd of residents swarmed a police cruiser when one non-native was arrested at the frenzied scene.

Furious residents waved Canadian flags as they chanted "Let us through" and urged police to "Open the road."

Six Nations leaders urged their supporters to move back and keep behind a barricade thrown up Thursday on Highway 6, the main artery for this bedroom community of 10,000 south of Hamilton.

In an interview hours before the protest meeting yesterday, organizer Mr. Hewitt said the goal of the gathering was to allow the community's voice to be heard. "Our concerns are not with the natives; our concerns are with the process."

But, he said: "We don't believe you can be in negotiations when one of the parties is performing an illegal act by blocking one of the roads. Our town shouldn't be the victim or the tool to control the government."

Mr. Hewitt, a financial-services consultant, said there also has to be a better way of dealing with land claims. "The [federal] government has tiptoed around these issues for generations. I'm tired of seeing tax dollars spent on how to deal with it rather than deal with it."

Negotiations between Six Nations and the federal and provincial governments are to resume tomorrow. The occupation began Feb. 28. The OPP raided the site Thursday to enforce injunctions obtained by Henco Industries, which bought the site 15 years ago. Police were pushed back a few hours later after residents poured from of the nearby reserve to support the occupiers.

In conducting the raid, the OPP ignored its own protocol calling for avoiding the use of force in conflicts with native communities.

Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter confirmed yesterday that police had been responding to a court order when they swooped in. An Ontario Court judge had ordered protesters to leave the site by March 22 or face being arrested for contempt of court.

While Mr. Kwinter said the police protocol applies to general land-claims disputes, New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton chided the Ontario government for not providing the police with guidance on how to deal with the dispute and to remind them about the protocol. He said public policy should override private court orders.

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