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Barricade comes down day after Caledonia violence

John Paul Zronik - Expositor Staff
Brantford Expositor
Local News - Wednesday, May 24, 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.]

Residents breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday as Six Nations protesters removed their blockade of Caledonia's main street.

“This is a huge step for Caledonia,” said Steve Tong, a member of the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance. “It was a huge stress for the town. Lives need to go back to normal.”

Tuesday's action came following Monday’s violence between native protesters and Caledonia residents frustrated by the blockade. Argyle Street had been blocked since after a failed police raid April 20 trying to end the continuing Six Nations protest over a disputed 135-acre parcel of land that natives say belongs to them. The land is the site of the Douglas Creek Estates housing development.

Brian Skye, of Six Nations, said protesters received instructions to take down the road blockade from Six Nations Confederacy leaders and negotiators.

“We want to focus on our land rights and take the whole issue of the road out of the question,” Skye said.

Protesters continue to occupy the disputed housing development, located off Argyle Street at the southern edge of Caledonia. They have been there since Feb. 28.

While residents at the scene were happy to see the blockade come down, some recognized the current land claim dispute is far from over. Two native blockades remain in place, one on a railway line and the other on the Highway 6 bypass, both in the Caledonia area.

Residents also are concerned that much of Caledonia remained without electricity following damage to a transformer on Monday. The OPP on Tuesday said damage to the transformer was “deliberate” and they are investigating.

Hydro One officials said it could be up to two days before power is fully restored. A state of emergency, declared Monday night by Haldimand County, will remain until power is restored.

Before the blockade came down Tuesday, OPP Const. Paula Wright advised people to stay away from the protest area.

“The likelihood of a confrontation is there,” Wright said. “Certainly, tensions are high.”

But at about 1:30 p.m., native protesters presented a lilac branch as an offering of peace to the OPP and said they would open Argyle Street if Caledonia residents cleared the road, which was blocked in reaction to the native protest.

Some residents, clearly angry with the protesters, said they wouldn’t move, but were convinced to do so by others.

Argyle Street was soon cleared and dozens of OPP officers formed lines on either side of the road to prevent anyone from crossing.

“I’m very excited about this,” one resident said. “This is what we wanted.”

Protesters then removed a metal structure, as well as a pile of gravel, that had been blocking the road. After that, a strip of Argyle Street dug up on Monday was filled in by protesters using heavy machinery.

The blockade was completely removed by about 3:20 p.m. Shortly after, protesters held a peace ceremony on the road before fortifying their position at the Douglas Creek Estates site.

Former Ontario premier David Peterson, called in by the province to help with negotiations, was present as the native blockade was being dismantled. He said opening the road was an expression of goodwill on the part of protesters.

“The native community, with their leadership, decided it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Everybody was unhappy with what happened yesterday.”

Peterson said negotiators continue to work toward opening the railway line and highway bypass that remain blocked by protesters.

“I think we can build on this going forward. There’s lots left to do.”

Ontario Conservative Leader John Tory was also at the protest site Tuesday, his third visit since the Six Nations action began. He said the barricade might have come down earlier if the province had taken quicker action.

“I think this could have happened sooner if we didn’t wait 50 or 60 days to get Mr. Peterson involved,” Tory said.

Tory accused provincial Liberals of creating “a vacuum of leadership” in solving the issues that led to the current protest.

“Mr. McGuinty needs to be here, Mr. Ramsay needs to be here,” Tory said of Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Ramsay.

During his visit, Tory met with local residents, recognizing the frustration some are feeling.

“They just want to live their lives,” he said. “It does cause frustration for people who can’t go to work or send their kids to school.

“The bottom line is that these people feel no one has communicated with them.”

Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant MPP Toby Barrett, also at the protest site Tuesday, said he was happy to see the blockade coming down.

“That’s a tremendous indication of faith,” Barrett said. “Having spoken with people at Six Nations... I’m quite heartened.

“Yesterday, I thought we were back to square one.”

Barrett said he holds out hope that life will return to normal in Caledonia once the current dispute is finally resolved.

“I think we can get over this hump down the road,” Barrett said. “We’ve lived together as neighbours and we will continue to live together as neighbours.”

Ken Hewitt, with the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance, also holds out hope for a positive resolution to the dispute.

“I’m hopeful that maybe there’s some opportunity to talk,” Hewitt said. “I really believe there is a way to do this peacefully.

“It’s our community and the future development of this community we’re all concerned with.”

Caledonia resident Tammy Slater has been at the protest site every day since the occupation began. “To get the road open is very important to the people in Caledonia,” Slater said. “Business is being crushed. Doors are being closed.”

Jim Meyer, whose driveway was located in front of the road block, said he understands the protesters’ frustrations, but was happy to see the road open again.

“I feel frustrated as a Canadian,” Meyer said after the barricade came down. “With all the scandals that have gone on in government, I really believe the natives probably got ripped off.”

Skye said native protesters had wanted to take their barricade down on Monday, but confrontations between natives and non-natives prevented the action.

“The violence that happened here yesterday meant it had to be up for safety and security,” Skye said. “It can go up again if our safety is threatened.”

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