Ontario Provincial Police have moved in on protesters holding a blockade on a railway on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, hours after a deadline calling for them to clear the area expired.
The blockade near Belleville, Ont. has been in place for nearly three weeks as a show of support for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who oppose the construction of a massive natural gas pipeline on their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.
Protesters were given until just before midnight ET to leave the tracks. The blockade, which has choked railway traffic across a significant swath of Ontario and Quebec, was still in place in the early hours of Monday morning.
Sources in the Mohawk community told Global News protesters had no intention of leaving, and that they were prepared for police arrival.
A stream of OPP vehicles descended on the site shortly after 8 a.m. Monday.
The officers and vehicles have created “almost like a human wall,” reporter Morganne Campbell described in a tweet, which she says are obstructing part of the blockade from media.
A number of protesters have been led away by officers, some in handcuffs, according to those at the scene.
OPP says no arrests have been made, but that enforcement of the court-ordered injunction “may include the arrest of those who choose not to comply.”
“However, use of force remains a last resort,” the provincial force said in a statement, adding that no injuries have been reported.
“The OPP will continue to follow and engage in communication while enforcing the injunction. Open communication, a reasoned and tempered approach, and proper use of police discretion guides the OPP’s response to this and other major events.”
While the situation is tense, both sides appear to be having discussions at the blockade, though it’s unclear what about.
A number of protesters are standing together south of the train tracks on Wyman Road, near a plow that’s been parked there since the blockade went up on Feb. 6.
The move to dismantle the Ontario blockade comes days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded injunctions be enforced.
“Every attempt at dialogue has been made but discussions have not been productive. We cannot have dialogue when only one party is coming to the table,” he said during a press conference Friday. “The fact remains: the barricades must now come down. The injunctions must be obeyed and the law must be upheld.”
As police begin the work to dismantle the barricade, more protesters are scheduled to arrive on Parliament Hill shortly.
A group of youth climate activists had been set to protest against the Teck Frontier oilsands project but following the news that broke overnight that the company has pulled back their application for the project, those activists sent out a press release saying they will now be switching the focus of their protest to standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
The blockade has forced sporadic suspensions and cancellations in service by both Via Rail and CN Rail. Many routes remain halted, but some have resumed.
Sources within the Mohawk territory told Global News that there have been discussions within the community about whether to take down the barricades to avoid charges. The same source acknowledged that some people are weary after weeks of protesting.
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the pipeline cannot proceed without their consent, despite the fact Coastal GasLink has received support from a number of other elected band councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline.
The dispute has sparked solidary protests across the country in recent weeks, including in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and several locations in B.C.
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