APTN: Amanda Polchies, the woman in iconic photo, says image represents ‘wisp of hope’

Amanda Polchies, the woman in iconic photo, says image represents ‘wisp of hope’

National News | 24. Oct, 2013 by | 0 Comments

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APTN National News
It’s a picture that has been viewed around the world.

And helped define the events of the raid on an anti-fracking barricade in Rexton, New Brunswick last week.

It’s a photo of a Mi’kmaq mother kneeling in front of a line of riot police.

APTN’s Ossie Michelin now with her story.

APTN: Route 134 camp cleared, burned-out cruisers moved if RCMP grounds surveillance flights: Elsipogtog War Chief

Route 134 camp cleared, burned-out cruisers moved if RCMP grounds surveillance flights: Elsipogtog War Chief

National News | 21. Oct, 2013 by | 0 Comments

Route 134 camp cleared, burned-out cruisers moved if RCMP grounds surveillance flights: Elsipogtog War Chief

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
ELSIPOGTOG FIRST NATION–The remaining encampment along Route 134 that was the scene of a heavily-armed raid Thursday will be dismantled if the RCMP grounds its surveillance aircraft, said Elsipogtog’s War Chief John Levi.

Levi said stopping the surveillance flights would be an act of good faith and allow people in the community to heal.

Levi said he spoke with RCMP officers Sunday who also wanted free passage to remove the burned-out shells of their vehicles torched during Thursday’s raid.

“I told them, get rid of that plane. We are trying to heal and you are still there poking us with a stick,” said Levi. “They are not willing to call off the plane and I told them I am not backing them up on cleaning up their mess. It works both ways, when you negotiate something, you get something.”

He said he came away frustrated from the meeting, but hoped to convince the police to do the right thing Monday.

“Let our people heal, don’t agitate any more, it is so simple,” said Levi. “Yet they can’t even do that.”

New Brunswick RCMP could not be reached for comment.

Levi is the war chief specifically for Elsipogtog and is not connected to the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society which was in charge of security at the encampment at the time of the RCMP raid by camouflaged tactical units.

Levi was a prominent spokesperson for Elsipogtog’s anti-fracking movement throughout this past summer.

Levi said there are plans to move the encampment and light a sacred fire in an open area used during the summer. The area, which was once the nerve centre of the region’s anti-fracking movement, sits just off Hwy 116 which runs through Elsipogtog First Nation’s territory.

“We are planning on going to the 116 where the sacred fire was before and do our healing there and get ready for the next round,” said Levi.

Levi said there is no longer any point to the Route 134 encampment after the raid freed the exploration trucks it was blocking.

“There is no sense to being on the side of the road, it’s only a danger for our people,” said Levi.

Many of the Warrior Society’s core members were among the 40 arrested during the raid. At least two involved in its leadership are still in custody. The RCMP also seized three hunting rifles, ammunition, knives and crude improvised explosive devices.

The encampment is less than a kilometre away from a high school.

“For the safety of the students there, we don’t want anything to escalate here anymore,” said Levi.

Levi said he’s never advocated the use of weapons or violence.

“I told my supporters, let’s kill them with kindness. The only weapons we carry are drums, sweetgrass and sage,” said Levi.

A community meeting was held in Elsipogtog Sunday afternoon to discuss the trauma experienced by community members as a result of the raid.

Levi said the community hall would remain open 24-7 throughout the week for people who need counselling as a result of the events.

“We have to help our people heal,” said Levi, in an interview with APTN National News by the burned out police cruisers as the RCMP’s surveillance plane circled overhead.

Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock also asked the community to allow RCMP members to return to the detachment on the reserve, said Willi Nolan, from Elsipogtog.

“There is great disappointment, there is mistrust of (the RCMP by) the people,” said Nolan.

Nolan said Thursday’s raid, which triggered widespread chaos and clashes between police and demonstrators, left many people shaken.

“The community suffered terrible trauma. We saw our elders, youth and women being injured, being hurt by the police because a corporation wants to poison everything,” she said. “They saw what the law does.”

But there was another sentiment just beneath the pain, said Nolan.

“It was also celebratory. One elder said, ‘we are winning,’” she said. “Even though it doesn’t feel like it now, it feels like we are all traumatized, but he said we are winning and I want to believe him.”

The encampment along Route 134 continued to hum with life late Sunday evening as volunteers split and piled fire wood while others sat around fires chatting and smoking cigarettes. In one area, a group of warriors were called into a circle and told that their job was not to instigate, but to keep the peace.

There was an air that this could all continue indefinitely, even as they opened the road back to two lanes of traffic. The day before, over 100 Mi’kmaqs and their supporters marched from the site and for about an hour blocked Hwy 11, which passes over Route 134.

Some people, who did not want to be named, criticized the meeting held earlier in the day. One long-time supporter said he thought the meeting was going to map out the next steps in the protest and came away disappointed. He said he planned to dig in for the long haul.

Assembly of Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak visited the site late Saturday night and attended the meeting Sunday after participating in a ceremony on the community’s Sundance grounds with Sock. The two exchanged gifts and smoked a peace pipe.

Nepinak said he suspected there was collusion between the RCMP and Houston-based SWN Resources Canada, which had its vehicles trapped by the encampment. SWN is conducting shale gas exploration in the region. Shale gas is extracted through fracking, a controversial method many believe poses a threat to the environment.

“How is it that during this process that the company was able to come in untouched and remove their equipment?” said Nepinak. “There was obviously a degree of collusion.”

AMMSA: RCMP crackdown on Elsipogtog anti-fracking blockade spurs over 50 protests in support

SOURCE: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/rcmp-crackdown-elsipogtog-anti-fracking-blockade-spurs-over-50-protests-sup

Fracking protestor at Elsipogtog faced down by RCMP line
Author:
By David P. Ball Windspeaker Contributor Rexton, N.B.
Volume:  31
Issue: 8
Year: 2013

“Oh my gosh, they’re going to kill me before hearing me out,” Mi’kmaq anti-fracking blockader Amy Sock thought, as camouflage-clad tactical police with assault rifles and attack dogs chased her down.

“My spirit told me to just run,” she told Windspeaker. “I’ve never seen rifles like that; they were really big, Afghanistan-style guns. When I saw them, when I saw those outfits with the dogs, I knew, ‘This is it’ … I could have easily been shot. But my spirit is unharmed, it’s still strong.”

Sock, a member of Elsipogtog First Nation involved in a months-long fight against shale gas exploration by SWN Resources, arrived at the blockade on Oct. 17 after dropping her children off at school.

When she saw hundreds of riot police lined up across the road near the protest encampment – ostensibly to serve a court injunction in favour of the company – she approached waving a white towel in hopes of negotiating a solution.

Instead, she claims an officer punched her in the head so hard her glasses flew off, sparking an escalating confrontation that ended with 40 arrests, six torched police vehicles, and RCMP allegations they found bombs, rifles and bear spray in the camp. Media were barred from the site, and could not verify those claims, and some have speculated that several new faces that morning could have been police infiltrators.

The massive police raid – with estimates between 200 and 700 officers deployed with live ammunition and armoured troop carriers – sparked a flurry of at least 50 solidarity protests across Canada and even in some American and European cities. But police insisted they swept in because of alleged threats against private security contractors the night before.

“The weapons and explosives we seized show that this was no longer a peaceful protest and there was a serious threat to public safety,” RCMP assistant commissioner Roger Brown told reporters on Oct. 18. “Some in the crowd threw rocks and bottles at (police) and sprayed them with bear spray.

“Setting police cars on fire created a dangerous situation for everyone in the area, and it was at that point that police were forced to physically confront some in the crowd who refused to obey the law.”

Since early this summer, Sock has been part of a group of Mi’kmaq and non-Native protesters raising the alarm about SWN Resources. Residents fear seismic testing and search for shale gas will lead to polluted water through the controversial fracking process, in which high-pressure chemicals explode the earth deep underground.

Leaders of Elsipogtog First Nation have supported the blockade with band council resolutions, and have attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with the province to prevent fracking on the traditional lands near their reserve.

“There’s no guarantee fracking will be safe,” Sock said. “To me, if there’s no guarantee it’ll be safe, we should not even bother.

“Water is a source of life, it travels far and wide. Without it, not even an insect will survive. They’ll pollute our water; no one has ever said that it won’t … It’s irreparable harm. We will not put up with that, if there’s any doubt that our water is in danger. We have to stand up.”

As reported by Windspeaker in July, the blockade has seen previous arrests as well as arson against SWN equipment. But Sock said the conflict came to a head on Oct. 17 when police raided the camp before dawn with pistols drawn, arresting several sleeping Mi’kmaq warriors at gunpoint. During that operation, police said at least one Molotov cocktail was thrown from the forest.

But supporters of the blockade say the police assault – photos show officers pointing live sniper rifles at unarmed protesters – was unprovoked and amounts to a violation of the Mi’kmaq peace treaty with the Crown.

Pam Palmater, head of Ryerson’s Centre for Indigenous Governance, said the confrontation reminded her of the 1990 standoff at Kanesatake, the so-called Oka Crisis: “overkill to the max.”

“You’re talking drums and feathers versus assault rifles, Tasers and pepper spray,” the Mi’kmaq academic told Windspeaker. “As soon as you send in RCMP or military, heavily armed, it stops being a peaceful protest.

“You can’t call sending in 200 RCMP with dogs and snipers, attacking protesters, anything other than hostile. They made a direct choice to violate the peace treaty.”

Palmater believes that it’s no coincidence that police only decided to enforce SWN’s injunction within days of the departure of UN Indigenous envoy James Anaya, and the Conservative government’s Throne Speech outlining its aggressive resource extraction priorities.
But with police withdrawing after a day of unrest, she declared the standoff and solidarity protests a “victory.”

“It showed that we as Indigenous peoples actually have the power to deal with this stuff – to stop what’s happening on our land,” she explained. “SWN and New Brunswick are now partnering together to get an injunction to prevent any future protests. That’s not conducive to a negotiated solution. It will fuel the fire.”

But although burning police cars and a televised Native standoff drew comparisons to Oka in 1990 or Ipperwash in 1995 – where unarmed protester Dudley George was killed by police – the author of Resource Rulers: Fortune & Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources – said that the parallel ends there.

“I don’t think this is another Oka or Ipperwash,” Bill Gallagher said. “Both of those had a burial ground connotation that went to the very heart of what Natives are prepared to go to the wall for and protest. Now the Native ability to stand up and push back has never been more strident and thought out, often with allies like eco-activists.”

However, in New Brunswick, an APTN reporter heard one police officer shout at blockaders, “Crown land belongs to government, not to f**king natives.” Those words echoed Ontario’s Ipperwash-era premier Mike Harris, who it was reported told his staff, “I want the f**king Indians out of the park,” immediately before George’s killing.
As Indigenous people and supporters stage solidarity rallies and several highway blockades across the country, however, the crisis in New Brunswick could still follow the path of Oka and “spin off and … replicate or draw adherents right across the country,” he said.

“The trouble with it happening the way it has is that Canadians have to get a crash course in why they have to be prepared to take a deep breath and cut First Nations some slack until they get all the facts,” he argued. “It’s incumbent for Canadians to get their heads around it and understand that all these events are interconnected with history.”

As the conflict unfolded on Oct. 17, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo wrote a letter to New Brunswick Premier David Alward warning that “the actions of police this morning have been completely unacceptable and are an extreme use of state force and control over First Nation citizens and territories.”

Sock sees a direct parallel to the Oka Crisis. At age 20, she journeyed to Kanesatake to support the Mohawks in their fight against a golf course on their cemetery.

“At Oka, they wanted to protect Mother Earth, and at Elsipogtog, we want to protect Mother Earth,” she said. “The issue is the same.

“When you’re a First Nations person, you have a strong connection to Mother Earth … We’re very proud of that. To us, it doesn’t matter if they drag us around or throw us in jail. We have no other choice. We can’t trust the government and we can’t trust the RCMP to protect us. We have to do it ourselves.”

– See more at: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/rcmp-crackdown-elsipogtog-anti-fracking-blockade-spurs-over-50-protests-sup#sthash.Pv2PvUkF.dpuf