(Photo by Jeff Doctor/Twitter)

Victoria Police have arrested 12 people last night and this morning during an overnight protest in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that took place at government offices on Blanshard Street.

Protestors started gathering at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in the 1800-block of Blanshard Street at 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning, and many of them stayed inside the building overnight to ensure their demands were met.

The activists set up the protest in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs demanding respect for sovereignty and an end to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C.

Posted by Ta'Kaiya Sierra Blaney on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

In a statement on social media, Victoria Police said protestors started occupying offices in the evening after being on site for most of the day. The activists themselves said they went no further than the lobby and hallway of the building.

They were given an ultimatum to either leave the building or face arrest. When they refused to leave, police began taking people into custody, sometimes carrying them out under duress.

Police also denied allegations that officers were blocking access to food and water for the activists inside the building.

Witnesses on social media say otherwise, claiming Victoria and Saanich police officers barred them from taking food and blankets to the activists inside. One witness says police denied entry to a registered nurse when a protester in the building was experiencing a medical issue.

With 12 activists behind bars, organizers of the protest arranged a second rally in front of the same building on Wednesday morning at around 8 a.m. Protestors dispersed within an hour.

“We will remain until Canada demonstrates a clear and genuine commitment to meet the demands of the Wet’suwet’en in hereditary chiefs,” says leader of the protest, Ta’Kaiya Blaney on Facebook.

“Canada has rarely or if ever delivered upon their promises to indigenous peoples. We will not leave until we have actual proof that their promises to us will be kept.”

Victoria Police respond

In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Victoria Police stated that there is a “great deal of misinformation” about the arrests last night.

They say the activists were arrested after 15 hours of failed negotiation, which is when the building owner requested they be removed from the premises in keeping with BC’s Trespass Act.

Police assert that plain clothes and liaison officers spent hours trying to find a peaceful resolution between the protestors and the province, and that they facilitated access to medicine, food, and water.

“Officers also assisted parents who arrived to pick up youth who were present at the protest,” reads the statement.

“During the arrests, officers spoke directly with protesters, informing each of them of what was occurring at each step of the arrest process… As such, the arrests took place over a four-hour period. During the arrests officers were required to carry protesters from the inside of the building to waiting police vehicles.”

Supporters of the protest rallied outside the building to try and stop these arrests by surrounding the officers. One of these supporters was also taken into custody.

Those arrested were then transported to police cells for processing. No charges have been sworn and no injuries were reported from the incident.