Saturday, May 18, 2024

Indigenous youth speak out about arrests made during protest at Victoria government offices


Dozens of Indigenous activists gathered at the steps of the BC Legislature on Friday morning to speak out about the events of on the night of January 21st and 22nd.

Protestors gathered at the the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on Tuesday morning 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.

They also demand that Premier John Horgan meet with the hereditary chiefs.

However a total of 13 people were arrested over the course of the night after Victoria Police stated that the owner of the building requested they remove the protesters from the premises.

They were released the next morning and have not been charged as of the time of publication.

See also: 12 arrested after overnight protest in support of Wet’suwet’en chiefs at Victoria government offices (UPDATED)

“What happened two days ago is a perpetuation of the violence that my people have been experiencing since contact,” said Sii-am Hamilton, one of the protestors who was arrested.

“Handcuffs, violence, and denied access to water and food as bargaining chips is our relationship with RCMP and Victoria Police. What happened to us is a fraction of what we can expect to happen to our relatives in We’tsuwet’en,” she adds, her voice breaking with emotion.

While VicPD have stated that they facilitated access to food and water for the protestors inside the building, multiple witnesses say otherwise.

According to Hamilton, access to food and water was only allowed once a medic requested it. She says police told protestors that no one was allowed in or out of the building, and refused to provide food and water themselves to the activists who had, at that point, been inside the lobby and hallway of the building for over 12 hours.

Hamilton tells Victoria Buzz that police monitored the activists’ social media accounts and stopped supporters and activists from entering the building only after they saw an Indigenous law student advise the protestors on how to protect themselves legally.

Other activists describe the abundance of armed police – as many as 36 – carrying weapons while apprehending the protestors one by one as a terrifying experience for the dozen or so unarmed youth inside the building.

One protestor, Kalilah Rampanen, says that at one point she could look down the barrel of a pistol as police arrested a fellow activist.

In their original statement, Victoria Police said that no one arrested was under the age of 19. They later corrected this after one protestor, Ta’kaiya Blaney, confirmed that she is 18 years old.

“Victoria Police is spreading misinformation claiming no youth was arrested. I’m a minor provincially and I was arrested,” said Blaney.

The gathering on Friday morning concluded with activists reaffirming their demands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, with chants and music in various Indigenous languages punctuating every note.

Brishti Basu
Former Senior Staff Writer and Content Manager at Victoria Buzz.

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