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War then peace?

Tensions explode into violence on Monday

Karen Best - Chronicle Staff Writer
Dunville Chronicle
Local News - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 @ 5:00

[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.]

CALEDONIA - Dawn on May 22 came with the promise of peace. By 5:30 a.m., both the Six Nations and the Caledonia barricades were gone. Before noon, Argyle Street became a battleground with anger surging from both sides.

“This has been a terrible setback,” said David Peterson, who was appointed by Premier Dalton McGuinty to negotiate the opening of the street, the Highway 6 bypass and the rail line through Caledonia. “I came down to see if I can salvage this.”

With negotiations proceeding in a collaborative effort, he was very disappointed with the heartbreaking behaviour that occurred on the street. He arrived around 4 p.m. after two violent skirmishes between natives and county residents, and after natives destroyed a Hydro One transformer station. At midnight, Haldimand County council declared a state of emergency because of the outage.

Earlier, at 6 a.m., Caledonia residents gathered on the street said they would move off once police checked it for safety. Structural damage was expected at the intersection of Argyle Street South and Sixth Line, where a tire and wooden pallet fire burned on April 20. After police arrested 16 and pulled out of the Douglas Creek Estates property on that day, Six Nations activists set up barricades.

While the crowd of 100 waited, Six Nations citizens sang a welcome song to make them at peace. However, the tone of the day was set when a Caledonia resident and another native got into an argument laced with comments about non-natives funding aboriginal people and suggestions that non-natives return to Europe.

Wayne, who was the native in the exchange, understood the reaction. He said that both sides need to understand each other and take the issue together to Toronto and Ottawa.

Damon, who like others gave only first names or withheld their name due to fear of retaliation, said Caledonia residents, who were abandoned by politicians, took action by putting up their own barricade late last week. They refused to let Six Nations people through.

Late Sunday night, warriors threatened to cement in their barricade and to dump a load of gravel off the Highway 6 bypass onto Highway 54 if the Caledonia barricade was not removed on Monday, reported Rob Clark. He later learned that this threat did not come through native spokesperson Clyde Powless.

On Monday morning, people began testing Caledonia’s line by trying to walk to Tim Hortons. The crowd refused them as they did Powless when he pulled up in a pick up truck.

While Rob Clark was prepared to leave the road, others began to call for the opening of the bypass and the rail line before they would leave. Throughout the day, the Caledonia crowd grew from 25 to 400.

At a 10 a.m. press conference, Six Nations Chief Allen MacNaughton asked the government to drop charges against natives who were involved in civil actions. He also wanted continued movement on land titles and repossession of land, and an end to racist remarks. Then he declared Argyle Street open.

The ball’s now thrown back to Canada and Caledonia, said Powless. Just Argyle Street is open and as his neighbours progress so will they, he stated. The road block was lifted as a show of faith and to extend peace, he told media.

The press conference was held on the Douglas Creek Estates property. Last week Six Nations people consolidated their camp by moving the cook house and other structures away from the road and up by the seven homes in the subdivision. Because they have built a gravel road off Sixth Line, there will be less traffic on Argyle Street South.

Less than 15 minutes after the conference, natives were still rebuffed at the Caledonia line.

Six Nations resident Jan Longboat arrived with her own message. “I’m here today to say let’s be peaceful,” she said. Afew people responded with racist comments. One person ordered her to go back. Nonplused Longboat shook hands with county residents and embraced Marilyn McCurdy, who felt serene during their exchange.

“We were so close to having it (peace),” she said at 9:30 p.m. on Monday.

Jamieson noted that county people need a more positive way to express frustration. Six Nations has a deadline to open up Highway 6 and the rail line by May 31, she said.

Just as OPP were about to split their line to allow county residents to walk down the street, a native driver struck two people who were between a cruiser and his Blazer. The two individuals were slightly injured.

The crowd immediately surrounded the vehicle. Someone broke the antenna which had a small Six Nations flag on it. At the insistence of 150 people, police began the process to charge the driver. He was transferred into a cruiser and taken to the Cayuga detachment office for questioning. The father of the 26 year man who was hit wanted charges laid.

The passenger was about to be driven away in the Blazer by an aboriginal officer when the crowd demanded that the car be towed.

Because police did not arrest arrest a native driver, who smelled of alcohol, on Sunday, the crowd acted with heightened anger to this incident. In the other accident, the driver wanted to drive through the blockade to take a son to visit his dying father, said Six Nations spokesperson Janie Jamieson.

OPP did not arrest the driver and watched as she switched seats with her passenger. They returned to the native site. Caledonia resident Pat Woolley is filing a complaint against two officers for failure to protect the public.

On Monday morning, Jamieson became angry when she heard that a passenger was surrounded in the red Blazer. When Powless and three other men came forward to escort the woman out of the crowd, county residents demanded that he go back. They pressed forward.

Later Caledonia witnesses said Powless put a 70 year old man in a headlock. The man received a facial injury and Powless’s lip was split. When Kevin Clark, who was not out to fight, stepped forward to assist the 70 year old, he received a blow to his face that broke his glasses. “Clyde was pushing the envelope when the skirmish started, “said Kevin Clark. Police later told him they “can’t” press charges.

Jamieson and others pulled Powless and the other men away. As they moved back, Powless yelled that the barricade would go back up. Peace began to end at 11:53 a.m.

Around this time Haldimand Norfolk Brant MPPToby Barrett arrived, heartened that the street was open. He hoped the announcement about the barricade was a temporary setback because it was so important to Caledonia to keep Argyle Street open. “I don’t want hot heads to destroy that,” he added.

Two lines with 50 police officers formed with one facing the natives and the other the non-natives. Len Kiesmatt of Caledonia warned county residents that this could go on all summer. He pleaded with people to move to the side of the road or walk down it with him. No one moved. “It sounds more like revenge to me,”he said of keeping the road closed.

At 12:48 p.m., a pickup truck hauled a hydro tower down the street from the other side of the subdivision. The tower was laid sideways across the street where the old barricade stood 10 hours earlier.

Kevin Clark and others blamed police for allowing a car to advance into a human barricade and for allowing natives to get belly to belly with town protesters.

“It’s time to bring in the military. We want policing, not what we’ve seen,”he said.

Black smoke drifted east across Argyle Street, south of the Sixth Line. At 2:14 p.m.,electricity was off in Caledonia, Cayuga, Fisherville, rural Dunnville, Simcoe, and Delhi. Hydro One stated that the cause was human/vandalism. Later a resident reported that tires were lit under the transformer station.

A little while later, a Six Nations elder walked forward with an offer for peace. He set a war hammer and a cedar bough on the road and asked Caledonia to choose what they wanted to follow. “Either way there is going to be peace,” he said.

When no one stepped forward, Brian Sky announced that there was a proposal to dig up Argyle Street. Natives agreed but discussions began between natives and the on-duty OPP superintendent.

County councillors Tom Patterson, Lorne Boyko and Buck Sloat were asked to assist Luimes and police. On a cruiser loudspeaker, Luimes recognized the crowd’s frustration but asked them to build on little wins and to move off the street to nearby parking lots.

Boyko said, “This is an opportunity to take the destiny of Caledonia into your hands in a positive gesture...Move back for your own good and the future of the community.” Sloat and Patterson urged people to disperse and open the road. By the native deadline of 30 minutes, only a few dozen people left the street.

At 2:28 p.m., the elder picked up the peace offerings. Two Caledonia people ran forward placing bread and cheese on the road, mocking the native’s Bread and Cheese celebration on Victoria Day. Mohawk warrior Mike Laughing angrily threw the groceries to the side of the road. “You’re going to need cheese for all the whining you’ll do,” he shouted.

With Six Nations people clamouring in the background, Powless came forward again. “I have to try everything. I would like to address Caledonia. They are ready to dig the road up and it won’t be good for either of us, “he said. The Caledonia crowd was not willing to listen. Head down, he walked back. “Dig it up,”he called out. A backhoe peeled up asphalt and dug a hole into the roadway.

Later Luimes said the natives were prepared to move the barricade back 150 feet if Caledonia residents made a gesture of good faith. “Fifty voices up front were calling the shots,” he observed.

“The unfortunate part is that was not the right move.”

In mid afternoon, a battle broke out in a field on the east side of Argyle. Screaming back and forth, Caledonia residents and natives beat upon each other. One county resident hit a native with a two by four.

A Caledonia resident took a hard blow to his face in another fight. Natives used pepper spray which injured people on both sides.

Jim Downs of Cayuga was hit in the face by two natives and five kicked him when he fell down. A 50 year old man was kicked by three natives, he said. About 50 county residents stormed into the field but almost half left once the hitting began.

“I don’t think violence is the answer. This can be solved more expeditiously by Peterson and McGuinty,”he said.

Later a Hamilton resident walked between the police line and county residents, who over 400 strong and back on the street. He was trying to calm tempers down. Meanwhile ongoing discussions continued with police. In a meeting just after 3 p.m., one of the county representatives passed the cedar bough to a native man.

Around 4 p.m., a group of people gathered around Peterson near Tim Hortons. He heard everything was okay at 10 a.m. but decided to come to Caledonia when he heard violence erupted. Someone accused him of being on the native side.

“If we can’t solve this and damn fast then we run the risk of a permanent stain on this community,” he warned. He asked people to be part of the solution and said he had no answers but had an approach to resolve this situation.

Back at the front of the Caledonia line, Jim Irwin, who is employed at a local pool company, said he can’t get work. “No one is coming to Caledonia because they think it’s a war zone. I’m sick of it. I want my town back.”

Around 7 p.m., Peterson and Luimes tried to make their way through the Caledonia crowd. Just out of a meeting with native leaders, Peterson was blocked by a tight group of county residents. Incensed that he spoke to natives, they demanded he turn around.

Luimes tried to convince the crowd to let them through but they refused. “What is the next step?”Luimes asked. “Get the army in,” said Irwin.

Peterson and Luimes turned around. The former premier was to meet again with council which began an emergency council meeting in the late afternoon.

Later Peterson talked about negotiating with SixNations to let Ontario Hydro in to fix the damaged transformer station located within the barricaded area.

He was told that decisions now rest with those at the native barricade.

The natives feel that their gesture of good faith in bringing the barricades down was violated. Everything was normalized in the morning before short sighted actions occurred and drove up levels of frustration, he said.

Peterson asked Haldimand County council to hold back on declaring a state of emergency but recognized their ability to decide. “We do not want to incite this. This is a very volatile situation,” he said, noting he was still looking for a way to get people talking.

For three weeks, Peterson has been concerned about escalation into an Oka type crisis. “Something could happen that everyone could regret,” he said.

Something positive soon happened. A Caledonia man, who asked to remain anonymous, received permission for him and a woman to approach the native line. A Confederacy chief accepted a branch, given as a symbol of peace. “They were grateful and graciously accepted our sign of peace,” he said later. “I don’t know (if it made a difference) but I have to try. We all have to try.”

As the sun was setting, Luimes said the town was not doomed but residents did not realize they need to back down. Matters were complicated because OPP did not have the force to proceed since day one, he observed.

Like other county residents, Mark Habinsky of South Cayuga came out to support Caledonia residents. He too favoured bringing in the military to go toe to toe with natives. Gloria Coholan also of South Cayuga doesn’t believe that natives should get land in exchange for a 150 year old land deal gone wrong. “We all make bad deals at some time,” she noted.

On Tuesday morning, Sloat said the army should be called in because of the state of lawlessness. He also denounced accusations that Caledonia residents were to blame for Monday’s activities.

The occupation and blockades were initiated by natives and they are not open to good faith negotiation, he said.

“This is all give and no take,” said Sloat. He believed that natives are asking for as much as they can before they are willing to go away.

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