Supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are prepared to stay on the steps of the B.C. legislature for “as long as necessary” as the group joins demonstrations across the country to try and stop a natural gas pipeline project in northern B.C.
Supplies like food, blankets and sleeping bags remained alongside the group – who call themselves land defenders – on Saturday and a crowd of supporters gathered in front of the legislature building in the afternoon to hear a live update from Wet’suwet’en.
Several people have gathered for a rally now. Updates were played through a megaphone and one of the land defenders is making a speech. pic.twitter.com/eeF59YMCGy
— Shalu Mehta (@ShaluMehta32) February 8, 2020
The supporters have been there since Thursday and have kept a ceremonial fire burning as well.
One of the land defenders, Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, said the fire is what keeps them connected with Wet’suwet’en and the other demonstrations across Canada.
“The fire is an act of solidarity with all the front lines across the nation. All of our sacred fires are linked through ceremony and through prayer and it is a symbol of our connection to our ancestors,” Sutherland-Wilson said. “For us here on this legislature step, it is a symbol of our unity as Indigenous peoples.”
RCMP continue to enforce a court-ordered injunction against the five Wet’suwet’en clans and their supporters in northern B.C. On Saturday, police reached the final camp along the only access road that leads to the project’s construction site.
Two of the three camps were dismantled by RCMP on Friday. Six people were arrested Thursday and another four were arrested on Friday. One of those arrested was Sutherland-Wilson’s younger brother.
“Our people are standing up for what they believe in, because our laws, we believe in them very intimately,” Sutherland-Wilson said. “They’re a part of who we are, they are our teachings that have been passed down from generation to generation.”
Sutherland-Wilson emphasized that they are not anti-pipeline protestors, saying that they are there to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples and the laws of the Wet’suwet’en.
“We are trying to reverse the course of colonialism in Canada,” Sutherland-Wilson said.
Just before 3 p.m. Saturday, Victoria police tweeted that traffic was disrupted at the intersection of Fort and Douglas Streets as well as on the Johnson Street Bridge as demonstrators had blocked traffic.
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) February 8, 2020
The forestry road where RCMP are in northern B.C. is part of an exclusion zone, only allowing officers, hereditary chiefs or elected officials and media through the checkpoint first implemented at the 27-kilometre mark.
The checkpoint has since been pushed back to near the entrance of the forestry road after the original access point was blockaded twice. RCMP said metal spikes were placed on the forestry road, interfering with a police vehicle transporting people who were arrested.
On Tuesday, a throne speech is to take place at the B.C. legislature. Sutherland-Wilson said the supporters could still be there, depending on what happens to the Wet’suwet’en.
“Our intention was always to stay here as long as necessary until this invasion of Wet’suwet’en is called off,” he said. “If it comes to Tuesday and the invasion is ongoing we will be here.”
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani and The Canadian Press