Hundreds of people marched throughout downtown Victoria on Friday morning in support of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and other Indigenous groups.
At 4:00 a.m. on February 6th, RCMP officers in tactical gear arrested six people at one of the three camps made by supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, in compliance with an injunction order issued by the BC Supreme Court.
Eight hours afterwards, at noon, Indigenous youth began an occupation at the gates of the Parliament Buildings downtown to show support for the Wet’suwet’en people currently battling that injunction.
In response to both events, and with rallying cries that touched on previous instances of Indigenous resistance in Canada, hundreds of people marched and occupied space in downtown Victoria this morning.
Starting at Centennial Square and ending at the legislature, the march featured banners reading “No Consent, No Pipeline” and “We Stand with the Wet’suwet’en.”
This AM in Lekwungen territories – a rally in support of the Wet’suwet’en meets up with the Indigenous youth locked down, in ceremony, with the sacred fire at the B.C. legislature!#Wetsuweten #LegislatureLandBack! pic.twitter.com/BhGTdPSI3g
— Stacie Swain (@StacieASwain) February 7, 2020
Next, a large group of marchers occupied the intersection at Belleville and Government Streets.
Most recently, as of 11:00 a.m., the same group has occupied the intersection of Fort and Douglas Streets.
A small group of a dozen people is also occupying the front lobby of the Royal Bank of Canada building at the intersection. They are protesting the company’s investment in fossil fuels in Canada.
Douglas Street is will be closed at Fort Street as the protest group moves to that location. There are significant #yyjtraffic disruptions downtown. Douglas at Belleville is now open. Thank you for your patience, #yyj.
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) February 7, 2020
BC Transit and Victoria Police have warned commuters that routes may be affected due to the rallies.
#yyj transit schedules may be impacted today and over the coming days due to civil protests. Please leave extra time for your journey as we work hard to get you to your destination. Stay up-to-date by signing up for customer alerts at https://t.co/68rww5ORVJ. #yyjtraffic
— BC Transit (@BCTransit) February 7, 2020
Indigenous youth address media
At 10:00 a.m., Indigenous youth at the gates to the Parliament Buildings addressed onlookers and media.
UVic student Kolin Sutherland-Wilson spoke first. Mentioning the potlatch ban, residential schools, and incarceration rates, Sutherland-Wilson said the RCMP were enforcing the same Rule of Law that has discriminated against Indigenous people in the past.
“[The Canadian government] treat us as an inconvenience. They treat us as something to be assimilated, as something to be pushed aside and erased,” he said.
“The reason we are here today is that we recognize that what is happening on Wet’suwet’en territory is not new. It’s happened before, all across this country, for 500 years.”
More arrests in the Wet’suwet’en territory are expected in the coming days as RCMP officers continue to enforce the injunction. Those arrests started with the six individuals arrested at 4:00 a.m. on February 6th.
According to an RCMP press release, the six individuals were transported to the Houston RCMP Detachment for processing.
“While optically, due to the number of police officers deployed, our presence may appear imposing. In reality, a minimal amount of force was required to support the arrests or removal of individuals from within the exclusion zone,” said the RCMP in their statement.
There is no end in sight for the Indigenous groups’ lock down of the gates at the Parliament Building. Youth there say they will leave when they receive “good faith negotiations” from the respective Canadian politicians.
“It is long-past time that Canadian politicians no longer perpetuate Canada’s shameful status quo in relation to Indigenous rights,” said Nikki Sanchez, Media Spokesperson for the lock down group, “And instead respect our sovereignty as Indigenous Peoples. This is the minimum.”
With files from Brishti Basu