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Back to square one

Native standoff escalates into violence

Michael-Allan Marion
Brantford Expositor
Local News - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 @ 01:00

[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 holiday morning that began with the hope of one native barricade being lifted in Caledonia quickly spiraled into ugly racial slurs, near anarchy and even more dug-in positions that took a three-month-old dispute back to square one.

As he stood Monday afternoon between 500 angry Caledonia residents kept back by an OPP line and about 200 natives and Mohawk warriors, former Ontario premier David Peterson, told reporters he was mystified how a deal worked out with Six Nations Confederacy officials that two barricades erected by natives and town residents would be lifted that morning had degenerated into an even greater impasse.

“It’s very regrettable because we were so close at 10 o’clock this morning,” the province’s chief negotiator said, recounting how he and Mohawk Chief Allen McNaughton had spoken hopefully on the phone.

Then he added “I think that if we don’t solve this damn fast there will be a a stain on this community.”

The disaster had its origins in protest activity the day before when six busloads of people came riding into Caledonia from the Toronto area.

Ranging from members of a Palestinian group to the Communist Party of Canada Marxist-Leninist, they were intent on supporting natives who have been holding fast for more than three months in an occupation of the unfinished Douglas Creek Estates subdivision, which they call a “land reclamation.”

A group of angry residents calling themselves the Caledonia Citizens Alliance, stopped them on Argyle Street, setting up what amounted to a second roadblock just up the road from the native barricade.

The natives also had two other barricades, on the Highway 6 bypass and another road by the subivision.

In talks during the evening, Confederacy officials agreed to remove a first barricade on Argyle Street on Monday morning as a show of good faith, and take away the others as negotiations progressed.

Shortly before 6 a.m., natives pulled away vehicles and cement block obstacles on Argyle, but kept several standing on the road.

At 10 a.m., a group of Confederacy chiefs and clan mothers held a news conference in which McNaughton read a statement on behalf of the chiefs saying Six Nations would not be intimidated but calling for both sides to work together in peace.

“Canada has asked us to show a sign of good faith,” said Clyde Powless, a spokesman for the protesters, said while explaining how Highway 6 (Argyle), would be opened.

“We will show a sign. We are a people of peace. Canada’s got a long way to go before they show anything of substance for us.”

But he warned the barricade could back up quickly if the gesture was not reciprocated.

Minutes later, all natives cleared the road and everyone looked north to see if the other side would follow suit.

But they wouldn’t budge. OPP Supt. Ron Gentle tried several times to persuade white protest leaders to give ground. But many hurled insults and said they would move only when all the native barricades were lifted.

One yelled that natives only agreed to lift one barricade because they wanted to clear the way for people to attend the traditional Bread and Cheese Day at Ohsweken.

“To hell with them!” he hollered as the crowd roared its approval.

Several told police they weren’t doing their job and yelled that the army should be called in.

At one point a middle-aged native couple in a red Blazer SUV tried to drive down Argyle through the barricade, but they were blocked. The male driver kept inching forward, eventually glancing a woman, leaving her shaken.

The crowd closed in around the Blazer and began rocking it. “Roll it! roll it!” they chanted in unison.

The police eventually gained control of the vehicle and extricated the two trapped people.

At one point Powless and three other natives came forward in an attempt to rescue the female occupant. They quickly became involved in a shoving match and one man punched Powless in the face, leaving his mouth bloody.

He pulled his supporters away from the crowd and told them to retreat.

Soon after, about 40 Mohawk warriors came up up Argyle, with two vehicles pulling part of a transformer tower into place across the road and set up another barricade.

Groups yelled and chanted at each other for about half an hour.

At one point power went out in Caledonia and across three counties.

Eventually a gathering of Confederacy officials came to a spot midway between the two sides. One held out a warrior club and a cedar branch and dropped them on the ground.

He said the branch represented peace now, the other peace after a fight.

“You choose which one to follow,” he said.

The native group stood awhile on the road, but when no one from the other side came to pick up the branch, they retrieved both objects and left.

Moments later, Powless came forward to warn that if the white barricade was not lifted, warriors would tear up a section of the road.

Several shouted that he was “blackmailing” the town. Moments later, a backhoe and front-end loader began their work.

Both sides shouted at each other for the rest of the afternoon, with several aboriginals and non-aboriginals engaging at one point in a prolonged brawl on a grassy knoll to the east of the road, until police finally regained control.

Peterson tried several times without success to cajole residents to “give a little ground,” but they shouted him down and at one point pushed him back toward the natives.

By evening, aboriginal and non-aboriginal demonstrators were still in their positions on the highway, engaged in an uneasy staredown over the heads of the police officers acting as a large human buffer.

Some taunting between the groups continued, with shouts of “terrorists” breaking the dark silence. By late evening, police wearing riot gear had emerged as a show of force.

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