A group of marchers hold the Wet’suwet’en Nation banner at the Rideau Centre mall
Photo: Brent Patterson
By Mike Hermida and Tim Kitz
O

n March 16, a cold but otherwise sunny Saturday, approximately 30 people marched through downtown Ottawa and dropped a banner in the Rideau Centre, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

The march was a response to a call to action posted less than 24 hours before to the Earth First! Newswire and It’s Going Down. This “Second International Call to Action for Gidimt’en, the Wet’suwet’en & Indigenous Peoples” called on allies to “step up for a second International Day of Action in solidarity with Gidimt’en Checkpoint, Wet’suwet’en Frontlines, and all Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island.”

The first day of action took place on Jan. 8, after the RCMP unilaterally moved into Wet’suwet’en territory the day before, dismantled the Gidimt’en checkpoint, and arrested 14 land protectors. The checkpoint was set up by the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en to support the Unist’ot’en camp, which has denied Wet’suwet’en land access to pipeline companies since 2010.

Armed only with a giant red banner, a mega-phone and some contagious energy, the crowd of Indigenous and settler supporters marched from Confederation Park up to and through the Rideau Centre mall.

In Ottawa, the first day of action saw protestors storm into a government building in Ottawa and disrupt a speech to be delivered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The second call to action denounced  “violent, militarized raids, destruction of personal property, continued harassment and threats” from the RCMP, as well as “defaming and untrue statements by the government and industry.”

Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa responded by organizing this action. Armed only with a giant red banner, a mega-phone and some contagious energy, the crowd of Indigenous and settler supporters marched from Confederation Park up to and through the Rideau Centre mall. They enthusiastically chanted things like “Respect Indigenous Sovereignty! Water is Life! Water is Sacred! Stop the pipelines! Stop the hatred!”

After making a lap of the mall, the banner was dropped in a high traffic and high-visibility location, where an impromptu freestyle hip-hop show was delivered via megaphone, drawing cheers from a crowd of Saturday shoppers and mall workers.

Rideau Centre security showed up, but were ignored as they could not be heard over the chanting, cheering and dancing.

Police were called and about five or six of officers showed up and began cutting down the banner, which — through some clever negotiations — was given back to the supporters.

Moving as a collective unit, the supporters were followed out into the street and watched by police as they made their way back out into the early afternoon sunlight.

As the Wet’suwet’en struggle against B.C. pipeline project Coastal GasLink’s private security (aka the RCMP) intensifies, similar injunctions are being resisted in Nova Scotia by the Mi’kmaq. They have been fighting Alton Gas, a gas storage company trying to store natural gas on unceded Indigenous land on the shores of the Shubenacadie River for years.

One marcher, identifying simply as Kit, told The Leveller “today was a show of solidarity. Not theoretical solidarity, but the practice of actually physically showing up again and again for the urgent resistance of an industry and system (whose) biggest threat is civil disobedience.

“Hope to see you out at the next one!”

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