Six Nations protesters say they have no immediate plans to open the Highway 6 bypass.
For a while this afternoon it looked as if the barricades might come down. But when protesters found out the OPP had not backed down at another protest near Deseronto, Ont. the decision was made to continue to stand firm.
The protesters are continuing to block the Highway 6 bypass today after police backed off an attempt to clear the road last night.
The road is now barricaded with a downed hydro tower, wires and a telephone pole. The blockade has escalated since it was erected on Friday in support of Tyendinaga protesters near Deseronto, Ont.
Native spokesperson Hazel Hill said there has been no new communication between the OPP and natives in Tyendinaga. The protesters have demanded that police retract statements that the natives were armed.
“If the OPP would back off from the people in Tyendinaga and allow them to freely leave on this own, this would have been over,” she said of the Caledonia protest. “This was only a demonstration of support.
The Ontario Provincial Police made an attempt to try to open the Highway Six bypass last night, only to back down because of concerns for officer and public safety.
The move prompted some tense moments at the Sixth Line bridge and underlying roadway. About 100 Six Nations protesters gathered around 7 p.m. at the two sites, ready to defend their blockade.
Although police vehicles came within about a kilometre of where protesters were, there was no confrontation between the two sides. After learning the OPP planned to reopen the road, about 30 protesters gathered on the bypass, some with faces covered.
“We’re staying here,” said Six Nations spokesperson Brian Skye. “The road is closed until the armed forces that are in Tyendinaga move away from the quarry. And that’s firm.”
OPP have blocked off either end of the Highway 6 bypass to traffic.
Shortly after OPP tried to reopen the road, Caledonia residents and natives ended up standing about 15 metres apart on Argyle Street South. Residents gathered in a nearby parking lot around 6 p.m. and made their way over to near the former Douglas Creek Estates. There were about 60 people on site at each side during their high points and the scene was relatively quiet, although it took more than an hour to disband.
OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino also held a press conference in Caledonia late last night to clear up what he says are misconceptions about what’s happening in Caledonia and at Tyendinaga.
Fantino said none of the Tyendinaga arrests, which started Friday with the arrest of well-known protestor Shawn Brant, had anything to do with land claims.
The Commissioner went on to say OPP had not trapped anybody in the quarry, nor pulled or aimed guns, among other things.
There had been reports the police had drawn guns on a group of people near the quarry.
The renewed problems have brought Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer to tears. Speaking after Fantino, the Mayor was visibly upset at the developments.
“I don’t know what to do anymore,” she said. “I don’t know who to ask.”
Trainer says despite going to meetings where everyone is cordial, nothing changes.
As of yesterday there was still no indication when the Highway 6 bypass would reopen.
Skye said the situation in Caledonia is dependent on what happens in Desoronto. A men’s meeting yesterday decided that protesters would continue to stay on the bypass.
The situation has angered some area residents, who are complaining police treat native and non-natives differently.
“If any of us blockaded a road they would come in full force,” said Bill, a Caledonia resident who did not want his last name used.
There is also concern about a construction project slated to get underway in a few weeks, which will see the town’s main bridge reduced to one lane. The bypass is supposed to provide a traffic alternative when construction gets going.