Supporters of Caledonia land defenders gather in Toronto

Hundreds gathered in downtown Toronto for a peaceful rally to protest the arrest of several 'land defenders' in a property dispute in Caledonia. Don Mitchell / Global News

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Toronto on Saturday for a peaceful rally in front of Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs demanding an end to police actions tied to a controversial housing development in Caledonia.

Organizers say the movement on Bloor Street was in opposition to 26 people who have been arrested in connection with an occupation at 1535 McKenzie Rd. in Caledonia tied to a land claim dispute that’s been going on for more than 50 days.

Read more: More arrests made by OPP as Six Nations group continues to occupy Caledonia residential development

“We’re here because we wanted to choose someone at the provincial level to target in terms of doing something about this, because that’s what they’re there for,” organizer Subhanya Sivajothy told Global News.

A similar demonstration took place in Caledonia on Saturday afternoon near the Mackenzie Meadows site. OPP say a march closed Argyle Street South at Highway 6.

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A group from Six Nations of the Grand River, that identifies itself as “land defenders,” have dubbed the site “1492 Land Back Lane” saying it’s on unceded Haudenosaunee territory.

The demonstrators claim the tract of land was “promised” to Six Nations in 1784 but “unlawfully” sold to a developer by the Canadian government in 1853.

Read more: Journalist ‘conflicted’ after arrest tied to coverage of Caledonia occupation

Developer Foxgate plans to sell close to 200 homes on the stretch of land at Mackenzie Meadows near the Six Nations reservation.

In a statement in mid-August, Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt said Foxgate holds “a solid and reliable legal root of title” claiming the land was “surrendered” in an agreement signed by 11 chiefs in 1835.

The land defenders, part of a hereditary council, say they do not recognize the authority of the elected Six Nations band council.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say two court injunctions are currently in effect and prohibit anyone from being on the property.

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