Wet'suwet'en Solidarity Protests Disrupt Business As Usual On Both Sides of Lake Ontario
by DARIEN LAMEN
(WXIR-Rochester) North of Rochester, just across Lake Ontario, indigenous protesters are holding the line.
For the past week, members of the Mohawk Nation have been camped out along a major railway connecting Toronto to Montreal and Ottawa.
Over 400 trains have been cancelled, and Canada’s largest rail company is preparing to shut down its entire eastern Canadian network while the Mohawk blockade lasts.
"Everybody's mad," says Andrew Brant, a warrior from the Mohawk Nation who’s been participating in the protest action.
"It's an inconvenience, but we've also been inconvenienced for over 150 years," Brant adds.
The Mohawk blockade is one of several protest actions taking place across Canada in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en land defenders, who have been in a standoff with the fossil fuel industry for years in a remote region hundreds of miles north of Vancouver.
Last week, heavily armed Canadian police began carrying out arrests on unceded Wet'suwet'en territory, in an effort to clear the way for the multi-billion dollar Coastal GasLink pipeline.
According to reports, at least 28 people have been arrested, while others have been detained, among them journalists.
In response, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy put out a statement condemning the raids and calling on people to take action in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people.
"That's what we're doing, we're standing up for them and their rights to their land and their hereditary chiefs and their title to say no, we don't want anything going through our traditional territory," Brant says.
Here in Rochester, activists with the direct action group Extinction Rebellion are planning a Wet'suwet'en solidarity action of their own Saturday.
Dwain Wilder says the protest will include a rally and a march to Chase Bank, a leading investor in Coastal GasLink's pipeline, and in natural gas pipeline projects generally.
Wilder says the "brutality" of the militarized police raid on Wet'suwet'en camps was what inspired Extinction Rebellion's decision to hold a rally.
"These people have been such staunch resisters to the build-out of fossil fuel infrastructure, worldwide really," Wilder says.
"Some of our most stalwart allies in the movement to stop the industrialized north's contributions to the climate crisis have been by indigenous people. So it behooves us to stand up when they put their lives under risk."
Back in Ontario, Canada, police have not yet attempted to enforce a court-ordered injunction against the Mohawk railway protesters.
But Andrew Brant says Ontario provincial police have attempted to "sweet talk" them into moving.
"They did offer us some maple syrup as a gift. But we let them take their maple syrup back," Brant says.
Brant says the Mohawk have set up a second blockade on the railway. And that they’re prepared to stay as long as it takes until their one demand is met:
"The one demand we have is to leave the Wet'suwet'en people alone," Brant says, adding, "What I would call for is all of our brothers and sisters south of the border is to stand up, use your voice. Indigenous peoples in the Americas, we've had enough."
The Rochester action in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders begins at 11am Saturday in Washington Square Park.
DARIEN LAMEN is news producer/director for WXIR Community Radio. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org