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Emotions run high in Caledonia after blow up between protesters and townsfolk

County declares state of emergency

Daniel Nolan
Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday, May 23, 2006 | Updated at 9:12 AM 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.]

CALEDONIA -- Emotions remain high in town this morning in the wake of violent confrontations between townsfolk and native protesters over a barricade on a main thoroughfare.

Hydro One says a blackout that left much of the town without power overnight was caused by a vandalized transformer behind the native barricade, prompting Haldimand County to declare a state of emergency. Schools are closed in Caledonia, Waterford and Simcoe.

Much of the power had been restored by this morning to Caledonia homes and businesses on the northside of the Grand River.

One of the workers said a Hydro One crew was working at a hydro station in Vanessa, near Waterford, in an effort to restore power to a "a good portion" of Norfolk County.

Dave, 34, who works as a technician in Mississauga, was upset his home had no heat because of the power failure. His two young children had to sleep together in one bed to stay warm.

"My kids just got over being sick," said Dave, who declined to give his last name. "Thank goodness they're not sick now. They've sent us back into the 1800s here. I've got to worry about all the food in my fridge which I just bought. It's ridiculous."

Dave, and some other residents milling around a few hundred feet south of the native blockade, wondered aloud if it was not time for the governments to send in the army to end the standoff.

"I can't even have a shower in my house," said hospital worker Danielle, 25, who was near tears. She declined to give her last name.

"I've barely slept a wink in the last two nights," she continued, while visiting the barricade site this morning at about 6 a.m. with about half a dozen other residents. "We're under siege and we're hostages in our own town."

A Caledonia citizens group was meeting this morning with government officials. It was not immediately known whether they are meeting with federal or provincial or local officials.

The natives behind the barricades are expected to make a statement at around 10 a.m.

The standoff began when native protesters moved on to a housing project Feb. 28, claiming it is Six Nations land. They erected barricades across Argyle Street, the Highway 6 Bypass and the Southern Ontario Railway line April 20 after an OPP raid failed to oust them.

Canada and Ontario say Six Nations surrendered the land in 1841.

In a goodwill gesture, native protesters removed the blockade from Argyle Street South yesterday morning, but hundreds of town residents rallying nearby caused them to put it back up and to strengthen it with a hydro tower.

Fisticuffs were exchanged when a native motorist tried to pass through the town crowd and, later in a nearby field, natives and non-natives traded punches.

Power was disrupted mid-afternoon. A Hydro One crew at the barricade this morning said a helicopter sent over the Argyle Street transformer found the transformer was damaged by a truck set on fire.

The two-man crew, who declined to give their names, were waiting near the barricade shortly after 6 a.m., hoping to get access to the transformer to assess the damage. They did not know if they would be allowed in and were waiting to hear if an earlier crew had been allowed in.

One crew member said the power outage impacted 8,000 homes and businesses across Haldimand-Norfolk. Six Nations was not affected because it is served by another feeder.

They did not know how long the power would be out, but one of the men said "a while." A County press release said power outage could last two to three days in some areas.

While many residents threatened to keep an all-night vigil in front of the native barricade after yesterday's violence, the crowd dwindled to about 40 by 1:30 a.m. Nonetheless, OPP presence remained heavy and just before 1:30 a.m. there was a crew change for about 30 officers equipped with riot gear. But, shortly after 2 a.m., those officers had left and about a dozen regular uniformed officers stood between the native barricade and half a dozen townspeople gathered around a fire in an oil drum.

Residents this morning expect another large show of people near the barricade today, but they couldn't say for sure. Police also said they did not know what to expect.

"We're prepared," said an officer from the Chapleau detachment, who has been in Caledonia for two days. "We've got lots of bodies here."

Jeff MacNeil, 18, was the lone resident who stood by the oil drum fire overnight. He said he remained because, "I have to stand my ground for my town."

He expects another large gathering of townsfolk in front of the barricade.

"They're going to wake up and realize they have no power," he said. "They're going to come back because this should have been fixed by this morning."

Shortly before 1 a.m., Vanessa Friday, 29, and Tasha McIntee, 23, both of Dunnville, arrived on the scene in their mini-van. But they didn't come to cause any trouble, just to make sure people had enough to eat. The pair operate Moe McFridays restaurant in Dunnville and came loaded with two large pots of soup -- Italian wedding and cream of cauliflower -- plus buns, biscuits, coffee and tea.

They handed the grub out to residents on scene and offered some to police officers. Friday said she and her friend were watching the 11 p.m. news when they saw what was happening in Caledonia and decided to give the residents a little warmth.

"No one's got any hydro, people are standing out in the cold and it's not fair," said Friday.

"I think this is ridiculous," said McIntee. "Caledonia residents just want their life back. They don't need to deal with barricades and they shouldn't have to."

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