Mounties have confirmed an exclusion zone has been established as the RCMP enforces a court-ordered injunction at the controversial LNG pipeline through the Wet’suwet’en territory in northcentral B.C.
RCMP confirm six people refused to leave and were arrested for obstruction on Thursday.
“One individual was arrested for resisting arrest as well as obstruction. Several individuals, including members of the media, were transferred out for safety reasons, but not arrested,” it says in a release. “One male, dressed in a costume, fled from police and climbed up a tree. He was taken in custody a short time later without incident.”
A vehicle window had to be broke to arrest another protester who locked herself inside and took off her clothes. Mounties say no one was hurt.
Other people were also escorted out of the area for “safety reasons.”
This comes after talks between the province and hereditary chiefs fell apart and failed to reach a solution to the continuing standoff over the controversial 670-kilometre pipeline.
“We had committed to respecting the 7-day discussion period, referred to by the Wet’suwet’en as ‘Wiggus’, by not taking action to enforce the court-ordered injunction,” the RCMP says in a release. “However, given that the stakeholders were not able to come to an agreement during the ‘Wiggus’, and the RCMP has maximized the discretionary time frame given by the Court, we will be enforcing the injunction today, February 6, 2020.”
Self-titled land-defenders say the RCMP has brought heavy machinery and even bulldozers into the area, with reports suggesting 36 vehicles have driven up the road as part of a convoy.
RCMP acknowledges its presence “may appear imposing” considering the number of officers on scene, but assert “a minimal amount of force was required.”
The head the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) suggests the situation wouldn’t have escalated if Premier John Horgan would have agreed to meet with local Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs earlier this week.
“Needless to say we’re outraged, we’re deeply disappointed. The fact that the Horgan and Trudeau government simply sat on their hands and allowed this situation to allow this situation to reach a point where the RCMP, once again, have moved in,” Chief Stewart Phillip says.”These unfortunate circumstances have once again taken place in Wet’suwet’en territory vis-a-vis the violent enforcement of an injunction on the interests of business and industry over the Indigenous rights of the proper titleholders.”
He says the police action is going to fire-up Indigenous groups, their supporters, as well as those opposed to other major projects.
“The elephant in the room is TMX, and where that project is going and the resistance and opposition to that project throughout the entire province of British Columbia.”
Arrests being made
Gidimt’en member Jennifer Wickham was behind the RCMP checkpoint this morning when the raid began. She says the camp the police raided first was a support camp that was set up purposefully to be in line with the requirements of the court upheld injunction.
“It was far enough off of the road that they were not impeding anybody from doing their job. They were strictly there to be keeping an eye on RCMP activity,” she says.
She tells NEWS 1130 at least six people have been arrested, and explains she’s lost contact with those camped at 39 Kilometre on the Morice West Forest Service Road.
“The last word we got, the person was sitting in a truck with the radio and they smashed in the windows and took them,” she explains, “they” apparently referring to officers.
Jennifer says it’s been reported about 20 RCMP vehicles have been spotted in the area.
“I’m worried that we don’t have anybody in contact anymore,” she admits, adding she feels “nauseous” about the situation. “We haven’t had any reports that those people arrested at 39 Kilometre have been brought out, and so they are somewhere out on the territory in police custody and that makes me nervous.”
Activists with the Wet’suwet’en Nation have posted a message on Facebook saying about a dozen Mounties are involved in clearing the Morice West Forest Service Road near Smithers.
“They’re starting to clear out that camp, arresting people that aren’t in violation of any injunction, that are following Wet’suwet’en law, that are guests there on our territory. Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people in the dark at 5 o’clock in the morning,” Molly Wickham, Jennifer’s sister, says in the video. “It’s time to make it known that Indigenous people will not be oppressed any longer, that the RCMP can’t come in and remove us from our territories where they have no legitimacy on stolen Indigenous land.”
There’s word other blockades are now going up on the road leading to the Coastal GasLink site.
The action comes just a day after the RCMP promised peaceful enforcement in the area, as the standoff over the LNG pipeline continues to brew.
“Our most important part to play is to ensure the peace and safety of all those that are part of the enforcement of the injunction,” RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs said officers have been instructed to use the least amount of force possible, similar to protests on Burnaby Mountain. This followed revelations that police had requested authorization of lethal force when raiding camps on Wet’suwet’en territory last year.