As RCMP continue to arrest opponents of a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C., those against the project — and the police action — rallied outside RCMP headquarters in Winnipeg Friday.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline have dug in at a camp blockading the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C.
Police began enforcing a Dec. 31 B.C. Supreme Court injunction Thursday, ordering pipeline crews be given access to the worksite, arresting six and setting up an “exclusion zone.”
Police made at least two more arrests at the B.C. protest site Friday.
“We’re here in solidarity with the people of Wet’suwet’en who are defending their homelands,” said Brielle Beardy-Linklater, one of the organizers of the noon-hour demonstration in Winnipeg.
“We don’t want any more police brutality, we don’t need any more violence against our people for protecting their homeland and trying to preserve life on earth for all of us.”
Opponents in B.C., who describe themselves as land defenders, said Friday via social media that an “RCMP militarized convoy” had arrived at the Gidimt’en camp, and that officers in tactical gear had surrounded the site around 11:30 a.m.
Police had said Wednesday that the opponents would have the choice to leave peacefully or to be arrested without handcuffs before any kind of force was used.
But in a video posted to social media Thursday, arrestees claimed that did not occur, saying police “barged in and started grabbing people right away.”
Coastal GasLink has said work is starting to clear the service road of any obstructions, and heavy machinery was brought into the territory behind the RCMP units enforcing the injunction.
The $6.6-billion, 670-kilometre pipeline is intended to carry gas from northeastern B.C. to a massive LNG export plant being built near Kitimat, and would traverse unceded Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.
Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the path of the pipeline — including the Wet’suwet’en.
The company says it is facing a tight timeline to complete work and that it remains committed to trying to work with the Wet’suwet’en people.
In Winnipeg, the dozens of demonstrators who met at RCMP headquarters carried signs, waved flags and chanted slogans of support to the B.C. protesters and opposition to the RCMP action.
Many of the local protesters are the same who have been occupying the Winnipeg office of Liberal Member of Parliament Dan Vandal in opposition to the pipeline.
Beardy-Linklater said the action at Vandal’s office will continue.
“This is an issue that affects all of us, not just Indigenous peoples because water and land,” Beardy-Linklater said. “All life on earth depends on it, and we have so little left of it.
“This is a critical moment in history and I hope people get on the right side of history by standing with us in support.”
–With files from Sean Boynton