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Wet’suwet’en solidarity rally arrives in downtown London

Demonstrators stopped at the train tracks in the area of Waterloo and Pall Mall streets in London, Ont. on Feb. 28, 2020. .
Demonstrators stopped at the train tracks in the area of Waterloo and Pall Mall streets in London, Ont. on Feb. 28, 2020. . Sawyer Bogdan/980 CFPL

At least 80 people gathered in downtown London, Ont., on Friday afternoon as another show of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, including protesters in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville.

READ MORE: Racist comments on Indigenous stories prompts outlets to turn them off

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters are trying to stop construction of a massive natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory in British Columbia. Ontario Provincial Police arrested 10 people on Monday at a solidarity railway blockade in Tyendinaga, though new blockades were set up soon after.

The London event, dubbed ‘Emergency Action in Solidarity with Tyendinaga + Wet’suwet’en,’ was organized by Idle No More – London, Red Warriors, and Climate Justice London and began at 2 p.m. Friday in Victoria Park.

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Protesters began marching north on Richmond Street in a show of solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters.
Protesters began marching north on Richmond Street in a show of solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters. Sawyer Bogdan/980 CFPL

At roughly 2:30 p.m., they began marching north on Richmond Street before stopping at the train tracks south of Oxford Street. The march resumed soon after with protesters making their way to the tracks on Waterloo Street, near Pall Mall Street just after 3 p.m. Friday.

“We want Canada and Canadian citizens to be aware of the situation that happening and one of the ways to do that is to set up blockade at a rail station or a walking protest,” said Biinbigay Gizhig, who spoke at the rally.

London police issued a release soon after, asking motorists to avoid the area and to expect delays throughout the downtown.

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“Members of the [London Police Service] Provincial Liaison Team are communicating with demonstrators, and open dialogue is continuous and ongoing,” the release stated.

“Our objective is to maintain the safe flow of traffic and, when delays occur, restore traffic flow in the safest manner possible in those areas.”

Around 5 p.m. Friday, demonstrators started to disperse, walking back to Victoria Park while a small group stayed behind to pack things up.

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The gathering comes just over two weeks after over 100 protesters marched through downtown London in an initial showing of solidarity.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en supporters hold solidarity march in London, Ont.

The hereditary chiefs and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who support them had been blocking construction on a section of the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink project that runs through traditional Indigenous territory near Houston, B.C. before RCMP began enforcing an injunction in early February.

“We stand with them and we want the federal government to deal with them on a nation to nation relationship,” Gizhig said.

The 670-kilometre pipeline is being constructed elsewhere between northeastern B.C. and an LNG export facility in Kitimat on the coast, and has received consent from all 20 elected First Nation councils along the route.

But opponents argue that those councils only have authority over on-reserve matters, as artifacts of the colonial system under the Indian Act.

Hamilton railway blockade disbanded after protesters receive injunction notices
Hamilton railway blockade disbanded after protesters receive injunction notices

The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed Indigenous rights and title over unceded land, territory that Wet’suwet’en opponents say only hereditary chiefs have authority over.

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A B.C. Supreme Court injunction against the opponents was granted on Dec. 31 but enforcement was held to allow dialogue between all parties. However, talks broke off and arrests began in early February.

READ MORE: Coastal Gaslink says Wet’suwet’en alternative route not ‘feasible’ — here’s why

On Feb. 12, two Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs launched a constitutional challenge of fossil fuel projects, calling for the Federal Court to declare that Canada is constitutionally obliged to meet international climate change targets which they believe would cancel approvals for the Coastal GasLink project.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and government ministers meet in northern B.C. over pipeline dispute
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and government ministers meet in northern B.C. over pipeline dispute

— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton and Simon Little and The Canadian Press’s Michelle McQuigge.