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Aboriginal protesters remove Caledonia blockade

CBC News:
Last Updated Tue, 23 May 2006 15:11:51 EDT

[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.]

Aboriginal protesters removed a barricade Tuesday at the scene of a violent weekend confrontation in the southern Ontario town of Caledonia.

Ontario Provincial Police cleared demonstrators, reporters and onlookers off of Highway 6, the site of aboriginal and non-native blockades, around 2 p.m. EDT.

Backhoes quickly pulled away an electrical transmission tower that had been placed across the road as native demonstrators filled in a trench dug across the road a day earlier.

The blockade came down shortly after two demonstrators – an aboriginal and a non-native – crossed the 300-metre span between the two blockades.

The men, who carried a lilac branch symbolizing an olive branch, told police and the non-native group that their blockade would come down immediately and that the road would be opened.

"I can understand the frustration. We've got to start loving our neighbours," said the unidentified non-native man

Sandra Muse, editor of the Tekawennake News, a Six Nations reserve newspaper, said aboriginal demonstrators made the move to dampen down the tension that has boiled over in the land claim dispute.

"Nobody wants to see a repeat of yesterday," Muse said. "Let's allow some healing to begin."

Ken Hewitt, with the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance, said he's relieved by the development.

"I would say it's a good start," he said. "It's a way of taking a step forward and both communities were willing to do that."

Earlier, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty appealed for "cooler heads" and a peaceful resolution.

"It's not the kind of thing that's going to be resolved overnight," McGuinty said.

Calm follows violent clash

Tuesday dawned a much calmer day than Monday, when a standoff between aboriginal protesters and non-native residents exploded in violence and ended with a vandalism-induced power outage.

By mid-morning, a small but growing number of non-native protesters from Caledonia were milling around the site of an aboriginal blockade on the road.

Down the road, 50 native protesters had gathered behind a toppled electrical transmission tower, which made up the bulk of the protesters' barricade.

Separating the groups were three Ontario Provincial Police cruisers, about a dozen officers and a single line of yellow police tape.

Talks – which had been planned for Tuesday amid hopes the longstanding land claim dispute was about to be resolved – were not expected to resume.

Municipal officials in Haldimand County declared an official state of emergency late Monday night after vandalism at a local transformer cut power to much of the community.

Hydro officials said restoring electricity could take days.

Children in the region have an extended long weekend as 17 schools were closed on Tuesday.

Brawl scuttled goodwill gesture

The calm that settled over the town after darkness fell was a stark contrast to the scene during the daylight hours on Monday, when protesters and residents traded punches and insults.

OPP officers repeatedly separated the two sides during the day, and showed up in the evening in riot gear on Highway 6, the main road running through the southern Ontario town.

Former Ontario premier David Peterson, who was appointed by the province at the end of April to help resolve the standoff, said the clash had "complicated the situation by a large measure."

When talks could resume is uncertain, he said, calling Monday's brawl a "heartbreaking" turn of events.

The native protesters had briefly dismantled their barricade Monday morning as a sign of goodwill after the province pledged to indefinitely halt development on a plot of disputed land.

The Six Nations community claims the land on which the subdivision was being built was illegally taken from them 200 years ago.

Ugly scene at protest

Hundreds of town residents turned up Monday and barred access to the site. The scene turned ugly when a van driven by a Six Nations protester tried to force its way through the locals, prompting a fist fight.

Several native and non-native demonstrators were injured in scuffles after natives blocked the highway with the electrical transmission tower taken from a construction site and then used backhoes to tear a shallow trench across the road in front of their blockade.

The non-native blockade began Friday night, as part of a weekly demonstration by members of the community frustrated about the barricade that has been in place for almost five weeks.

One non-native protester denied that residents had made the situation worse by coming out to face the natives.

"We're not provoking the situation," Jeff MacNeil told CBC News early Tuesday.

"We're just treating them the same way they're treating us — refusing them access to various things, like, 'We're not allowed over there? OK, you can't come over here.' "

Many First Nations watching dispute

Peterson told CBC Newsworld the Caledonia dispute is being watched by native groups across North America.

"Don't underestimate the significance," he said. "All of us were praying and working hard to ensure that something ugly didn't develop out of this, like an Oka or a Wounded Knee or something like that."

In a development that seemed to underline Peterson's concerns, members of First Nations in the North Battleford area of Saskatchewan set up a short-lived blockade of their own at a major highway near the community Monday afternoon.

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