Protesters block Winnipeg streets in support of B.C. Wet’suwet’en heriditary chiefs

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs blocked major streets in Winnipeg on Friday in protest after RCMP moved in on a blockade in British Columbia.

Friday morning, the protesters in Winnipeg briefly blocked the intersections of Portage Avenue and Main Street, as well as Portage and Dominion Street, in front of the RCMP D Division headquarters.

Police in B.C. arrested 14 people and cleared a forest service road in northern British Columbia that was blockaded by Wet’suwet’en and Haudenosaunee members opposing construction of a multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline.

“Right now the RCMP are engaged in an action against unarmed peaceful land defenders,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition.

“I think today is part of an escalation that we are going to see all across Canada. Canada right now is reeling from the impacts of the B.C. floods, a massive climate storm that has literally shut off the Port of Vancouver from the rest of thecountry.”

The escalation of tensions between protesters and police comes more than a year after a wave of protests swept over the country in early 2020.

Those protests, which included highway and rail blockades, followed another move by the RCMP to enforce a court order against those blocking construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The protests in B.C. are centred around a remote logging road west of Houston, 1,000 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.

Thursday’s move by the RCMP marks the third time it has launched operations on that road against barricades erected by supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who say the company does not have consent to cross Wet’suwet’en territory. 

“We’re here today to raise that issue and to say that we need something different,” said Muller

“We need a shift in policy, we need to stop investing in fossil fuel and we need to start investing in a new economic paradigm that doesn’t create violent circumstances, like what’s happening in Wet’suwet’en territory, especially during a state of emergency in British Columbia.”

Protesters briefly blocked traffic at Portage and Main in Winnipeg Friday afternoon, to draw attention to the situation in Wet’suwet’en. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

One resistance camp remains in B.C., occupying a site slated to be used by CGL crews to drill the pipeline beneath the Wedzin Kaw river.  

The RCMP said in a statement on Thursday the 14 individuals were arrested for breaching an injunction in place since 2019 preventing any obstruction on the road.

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