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Residents rise up

Angry, frustrated Caledonians revolt against native occupation

Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Apr 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.]

Up to 100 OPP officers were called out last night to separate a native blockade of a local road from angry residents fed up with the eight-week occupation.

A crowd of as many as 500 residents surged against the police line about 9 p.m. on Argyle Street South, just north of the native blockade. A few hundred more stood on the sidelines and watched the crowd taunt the police and the native protesters.

The natives have blocked the road since Thursday, when OPP tried to vacate protesters from a nearby housing project, which has been occupied by protesters since Feb. 28.

Police kept the mob made up of 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."

The protesters say the land belongs to Six Nations, but Queen's Park and Ottawa say it was surrendered and sold in 1841 to help build the road, then called the Plank Road. Native protesters are also blocking the Highway 6 bypass around Caledonia.

The disturbance followed a raucous rally at the Caledonia fairgrounds earlier in the evening to let residents show their impatience at the road blockade and the standoff at Douglas Creek Estates. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were at the rally, hosted by residents Jamie McMaster and Ken Hewitt.

Angry residents -- far fewer than who attended the rally -- walked to the police line. They chanted, "Open the Road," and "Enough is enough." Boos and jeers greeted the police every time reinforcements arrived to strengthen and expand the police line.

OPP Sergeant Dave Rektor told officers to "watch for flying objects." At one point, Rektor twice held back a man trying to break through the lines and threatened to arrest him.

"Step back behind the line or you'll be arrested," Rektor told the man, who shouted back, "You're going to arrest me with what they're doing?"

One man at the blockade, who did not want to give his name, described the scene as "chaos." He said, however, "Police don't want to handle it."

At the rally, Inspector Brian Haggith, commander of the OPP Haldimand detachment, urged the crowd to keep the peace and told them "anger, fear and violence will not solve anything."

McMaster -- who urged all parties to resolve the Douglas Creek Estates protest -- told the crowd at the rally, "The most important thing to keep in mind is this must be resolved peacefully. If this is not resolved peacefully, Caledonia will be ruined forever."

Hewitt urged all parties to work to resolve land claims so situations like the Douglas Creek Estates standoff do not occur again. He said, however, he believed the protesters were going about their grievance the wrong way.

"When did freedom of speech, freedom to protest and democracy give anyone the right to disrupt the lives of others?...The actions of this group of protesters in Caledonia are not democratic."

The crowd got unruly when the rally ended after only the three speakers. Some came up and demanded to speak at a microphone set up on a flatbed. Small debating circles sprung up through the gathering.

Mark Watson began yelling at the crowd to withhold their taxes until the situation was resolved. Stacey Birkes told the crowd the protesters are scaring her children and she doesn't know what to tell them. Her complaint was met with heckling from one man who was escorted off the fairgrounds by the OPP.

Mike Whaling, a Caledonia resident who runs a Mount Hope business, was handing out sheets to the crowd saying the town was "being held hostage by terrorists." He was fed up.

"Go and talk to the residents," he said. "They're all scared of this group...and our government is pathetic."

While negotiations on resolving the standoff were not held yesterday, the province held its first talks in Hamilton with representatives of the developers and builders to discuss out-of-pocket compensation. The standoff will be the subject of a working group made up by one representative from the Six Nations Confederacy, Queen's Park, Ottawa, Haldimand County and Henco Industries.

Special adviser Rob Chadwick, a Toronto lawyer who was appointed by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan to look into the issue of compensation, met with Henco's lawyer Michael Bruder and Hamilton lawyer Brian Duxbury, who represents the six builders.

Bruder said he and Duxbury outlined the financial impact the standoff has had on their clients, including worries they are teetering on bankruptcy. He said Chadwick did not indicate any direction from the government, but gathered all data and information. He plans to report back to the two lawyers questions within a few days.

Clyde Powless, a spokesman for the Confederacy and protesters, told reporters after the disturbance he supported people expressing their opinions. He commended the OPP, however, for keeping the crowd well back from the barricade.

"The town of Caledonia has always been good neighbours to us," said Powless. "I realize there's a lot of frustration. They're good people. I can't argue that."

Powless also attended the rally at the Caledonia fairgrounds and said the message he heard there was that the government of Canada must deal with the Douglas Creek Estates land claim.

"What they're telling the government is it's time to grow up and deal with this issue honestly and fairly," he said.

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