Rail blockade has led to two arrests in British Columbia
Rail blockade protest in British Columbia degenerated into chaos on Monday evening amid arrests by officers at the scene. Moments of confusion and panic followed while two hereditary chiefs were being taken into custody.
The protest stemmed from the dismantling of a previous blockade after federal and provincial politicians promised more dialogue. The issue is the opposition from the Wet’suwet’en Nation to the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern British Columbia. The Gitx’san Nation put up the blockade to show their support and respect for the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
One Gitx’san hereditary chief, Chief Spookw, was among the arrested yesterday, witnesses confirm. His wife, Linda Stephens, describes thus the moments leading to his apprehension: ‘I was there and it was pretty intense. I brought his traditional blanket over to the railway track and helped him put it on. I turned around a step away…and turned back and he was already being escorted away by police’.
Witnesses reported chaos and fear in the night during the arrests, with around 40 protesters and 20 officers involved. According to Stephens, officers also arrested several other Gitx’san chiefs. As of today, it is unclear how many did the officers apprehend, not it is possible to confirm if it was RCMP officers or CN Rail officers at the scene.
Intense protest and outrage from the First Nations as chiefs taken into custody
Dinize Ste Ohn Tsiy, chief of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, is a key witness who was present at the scene. ‘It was chaotic’, Dinize Ste Ohn Tsiy stated. It seems that officers apprehended eight people. Among these were Chief Spookw and 80-year-old matriarch Gwininitxw.
Officers arresting hereditary chiefs on their own territory has led to public outrage in northern British Columbia. Moreover, video footage and live-streams of the arrest are trending online. Some of these videos even show RCMP vehicles, casting a shadow of doubt on the good intentions of the government.
The rail blockade was a response to an earlier blockade of CN Rail tracks and transports by supporters of the Wet’suwet’en Nation claims. Nevertheless, the government had acted on 13th of February to remove the blockade and begin dialogue.
‘We had put things on pause so that dialogue could take place’, Chief Spookw said before the arrest. ‘But the dialogue has stalled and is going far too slow for our liking’.
Now the rail blockade has evolved into a highway blockade, as protesters are moving to Highway 16. In conclusion, the situation remains stalled as a meeting between federal leaders and Wet’suwet’en chiefs is yet to materialize.