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Encampment at B.C. legislature ends following day of protest

Indigenous pipeline protester Kolin Sutherland-Wilson speaks at an anti-pipeline rally in Victoria, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020.
Indigenous pipeline protester Kolin Sutherland-Wilson speaks at an anti-pipeline rally in Victoria, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have packed up their encampment at the B.C. legislature.

The group was seen taking down tents and removing signs around 9 p.m. Tuesday. The dismantling of the camp came after a day of intense protest at the legislature including the disruption of the B.C. government’s speech from the throne.

Indigenous youth and other supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had been sleeping on the legislature’s steps since Thursday.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters and supporters joined the Indigenous youth and blocked doors to the legislature. The protests led to the delay of the proceedings and forced Lt-Gov. Janet Austin to enter the building through a secret door.

Indigenous rights protesters block access to B.C. legislature
Indigenous rights protesters block access to B.C. legislature

“We all have our duty to stand up for one another,” organizer Kolin Wilson said at a rally Tuesday afternoon.

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“We all know what is happening to the Wet’suwet’en, the government is willing to do to our peoples.”

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters block entrance to B.C. legislature ahead of throne speech

Victoria police said officers received reports of people being assaulted and injured during the protests outside the B.C. legislature on Tuesday. In an online post that evening, investigators asked any witnesses and potential victims to contact them about the reported incidents.

“Officers are aware of reports in local media and on social media of people being assaulted and injured during the protests,” the release reads.

“We are actively investigating these reports and encourage those with information to come forward.”

Victoria police were present during the protests on Tuesday and did not make any arrests. The legislature had not sought an injunction to remove the encampment or the protesters.

“If people were violent, I fully expect them to face the consequences,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said.

Premier John Horgan released a statement on Tuesday after cancelling a press conference. He says British Columbians have the right to peaceful protest and the government supports people in their legal right to exercise their democratic rights.

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READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en — Here’s where solidarity protests are happening across Canada

“That said, I understand the frustration of people who have been unable to go to work today, who have been unable to enter government buildings or have been unable to get around in their communities,” Horgan said.

“These events show us why meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is our shared responsibility and is critical to our province and our country. This was a commitment my government made in good faith two and a half years ago, and as premier, I am determined to see it through.”