Highway 16 Blocked for 8 Hours After Gitxsan Chiefs Arrested
“On Feb 24, Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs Spookw, Gwininitxw, and Dawamuux were arrested at a Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk solidarity blockade on the CN rail tracks that run through unceded Spookw territory in the town of New Hazelton, British Columbia.
14 arrests were made in total, including journalist and filmmaker Melissa Cox who contributed footage to this video report.
When Gitxsan community members learned of the arrests, they blocked Highway 16 and demanded the release of the chiefs. What followed was an 8 hour stand-off, where police were outnumbered and stood down as Gitxsan community members, their Wet’suwet’en neighbours, and supporters held bonfires on the main highway through Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en territories, and blocked all traffic.
The Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, together with hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en nation, were plaintiffs in the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case. The Supreme Court of Canada found that Canada had never extinguished title to over 55,000km2 of Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en land.
When the Chiefs were released, the spontaneous gathering dispersed with no further arrests. Upon release, Chief Spookw told the crowd: ‘I hope this increases the resolve of our people because it’s our future, our title to this land that’s at risk. For them to come and arrest me on my territory, my family’s territory, my Wilp’s [House Group’s] territory, to come and arrest us for trespass – is wrong. It’s an issue that has to be corrected. They cannot have that option.’
Video report by Michael Toledano and Melissa Cox”
US documentary filmmaker Melissa Cox had a run-in with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) this week while trying to document an indigenous protest in British Columbia. Despite the fact that she is a member of the press, the RCMP chose to arrest Cox, allegedly using “undue force” and tampering with her camera equipment in the aftermath.
Cox is currently working on a feature called “Yint’ah,” which documents the Wet’suwet’en First Nation land defenders’ efforts to resist a pipeline project by Coastal GasLink. On February 24th, while filming the arrest of Gitxsan hereditary Chief Spookw at a railroad blockade, the RCMP put her in handcuffs and carelessly dropped her camera on the ground.
Speaking with PetaPixel over email, Cox said that the RCMP were clearly trying to prevent her from documenting the arrest of 71 year-old Head House Chief and Matriarch Gwininitxw (Yvonne Lattie) on her own territory. The tactic ultimately worked, as Cox was unable to leave the scene or reposition herself.
Unfortunately, says Cox, this kind of behavior lines up with what she has been experiencing for the past several months.
“While reporting on Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Territories I have witnessed alarming levels of violent state repression of independent media,” she tells PetaPixel. “Since beginning to report on this issue of immense public importance, myself and my colleagues have been detained, repeatedly threatened with arrest, had our access limited by the imposition of an ‘illegal’ exclusion zone, and have been told what we can and cannot document (which included threats of arrest from RCMP if we documented tactical teams).”
“A free press is essential to a functioning democracy and is a pillar for peace,” she continued. “The repression of journalists covering this story across Canada is being enacted by police forces everywhere you look. The way that I was treated made me feel as if I was a target that needed to be neutralized.”
US Filmmaker Arrested While Documenting Pipeline Protest in Canada, PetaPixel, Feb 27, 2020
Protesters arrested in New Hazelton for blockading CN Rail
New Hazelton, B.C., Houston
2020-02-25 11:30 PST
On February 24, 2020, the RCMP were called to assist Canadian National (CN) Police Service after at least two dozen protesters had blockaded the CN Rail tracks west of New Hazelton. One train reportedly had a near miss collision with a male on the tracks, just prior to CN Rail being made aware of the blockade.
At the request of CN Rail to enforce their court-ordered injunction, the RCMP attended and arrested a total of 14 individuals who refused to leave CN Rail’s private property (rail tracks). They were transported to New Hazelton RCMP Detachment for processing and released shortly after 3 am with an upcoming court date, and conditions to abide by the injunction order.
A large group of protesters remained in the area throughout the evening, and blocked Highway 16. RCMP and CN Police officers, as well as the Division Liaison Team, were on site. Late into the evening, before midnight, police officers noted that four patrol cars parked across from the highway had their tires slashed. The RCMP is investigating this criminal action and will take steps to ensure that those who damage property or threaten the safety of anyone may be held accountable in a court of law.
At approximately 3:30 am, after the arrested protesters were released, the large group blockading Highway 16 cleared the road and the highway was re-opened.
We would like to remind the public that any attempts to block rail tracks is extremely dangerous and unlawful. Should they put themselves in harm’s way, protesters are not only putting their own lives at risk, they are also putting the lives of train operators, rail employees, responding police officers and members of the public at risk.