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OPP accused of taking sides in land dispute

Cops say criminal acts being probed

Paul Choi
Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (May 26, 2006)

[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.]

As both sides in the Caledonia land claim dispute slowly step back from the brink, resident anger still smoulders over the perception that police officials have been taking sides throughout the dispute and turning a blind eye to criminal acts.

This view was apparent Monday, when tensions at the now-removed Argyle Street barricade erupted into violence and more than 45 OPP officers with riot gear had to be called in.

Many residents were angered at the officers' decision to direct two floodlights at the agitated crowd of townspeople rather than turn their attention to the native protesters.

"The residents certainly got the impression that the OPP were there to police them more than they were there to police the natives," said Ken Hewitt, head of the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance, of Monday's fracas.

"And there are several people who are frustrated with incidents of the last couple of weeks where they felt (the police) could've been more active.

"What (residents) resent is the idea that there are people who could be considered above the law, or excused from the law of the country."

Michelle, a 34-year-old Caledonia resident who didn't want her last name used, said while she understands the OPP's primary mandate is to keep the peace, she is still disheartened at their lack of authority.

"The OPP were just standing by," said Michelle, who was at Monday's standoff. "If somebody's breaking the law, then something needs to happen."

Since the Six Nations Confederacy occupied a 40-hectare site Feb. 28, trucks have been overturned, a pedestrian bridge torched, tires set on fire, roads dug up, homes looted, and objects tossed from both sides.

A Hydro One transformer was set on fire Monday, leaving thousands in Haldimand County without power for days and costing an estimated $1.5 million to repair, said Hydro One spokesperson Daffyd Roderick.

OPP officials insist officers are not under any statute of limitations and are free to investigate all criminal acts reported to them. OPP Constable Steve Starr said investigations into looting at Douglas Creek Estates and the disruption of the hydro transformer are under way.

Thus far, two arrests followed Monday's fracas.

A 69-year-old native man was arrested after he attempted to drive through a crowd of non-native protesters about 11 a.m. He has since been released and formal charges are pending.

On Monday night, officers arrested a non-native teen for breach of the peace. He was released without charge.

On April 20, the OPP arrested 16 native protesters for mischief after they raided the site.

"The OPP will not take sides," Constable Paula Wright of Haldimand County OPP said. "If a law is broken, we will take steps to investigate."

Mark Freiman, a Toronto constitutional lawyer, said people on both sides should expect nothing less from the police.

Civil disobedience, he said, does not and should not serve as a shield from the law.

"The law doesn't have a category called civil disobedience. When Mahatma Gandhi practised civil disobedience, he understood there was the potential consequence of being arrested."

Native spokesperson Janie Jamieson was adamant that Six Nations protesters would not fall in line with Canadian laws if it meant giving up their cause.

"There's always an attempt to draw us into the Canadian judicial system," she said. "There's a continuous attempt to institutionalize and criminalize us."

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