The Indigenous land defenders regrouped outside of Serious Coffee after being released by VicPD on Jan. 22. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Wet’suwet’en supporter ‘heartbroken and terrified’ during arrest at Victoria sit-in

Gina Mowatt was one of 13 arrested for occupying a ministry office

Gina Mowatt says she was “terrified” when police told her to leave an 18-hour demonstration in support of the Indigenous fight against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, but her beliefs made her stay.

Several days after the Jan. 22 sit-in at the offices of the Ministry of Energy in Victoria, the Gitxsan doctoral student at the University of Victoria described the events in a calm voice, though her face told another story.

Mowatt said she felt distressed and upset – not just about the interactions with police, but about how the demonstrators were portrayed as “pipeline protesters.”

“We were there in peace, we were there in prayer, we were there in solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en,” Mowatt said. “We’re not protesters. We’re land protectors.”

READ ALSO: Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Living by Indigenous law means having a “respectful, reciprocal relationship with the land” and protecting it at all costs, she said. “It’s not about a pipeline, it’s not about politics – it’s about the survival of life on Earth.”

Mowatt said the sit-in began after Michelle Mungall, then the energy ministry, did not comply with their request to ask Premier John Horgan to meet with the Wet’sutwet’en hereditary chiefs over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

READ ALSO: 13 Wet’suwet’en supporters arrested by VicPD

After several hours, police told them to leave or be arrested, Mowatt said. She said she and 12 others stayed.

Early the next morning, after hours of negotiation, police began removing the demonstrators from the building. They were arrested, loaded into vans and driven to the Victoria Police Department.

Mowatt said the arrests were carried out in an excessive manner, saying she felt bullied, “shocked, heartbroken and terrified.”

READ ALSO: Police say ‘misinformation’ spread after arrested protesters file police complaints

In a video statement later, VicPD Chief Del Manak addressed the “misinformation being shared” about the event. Police “were acting in the lawful execution of their duties,” he said, and officers had been pushed, kicked and targeted with racial slurs.

Manak spoke of “active resistance” from the group and others. “I’m quite proud of the officers [for] maintaining a very high level of professionalism and restraint in carrying out duties in very difficult circumstances.”

Following the arrests, several complaints were filed to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner and Manak said VicPD will “fully cooperate” should there be an investigation.

While it’s important to follow through with the complaints, “all eyes need to be on Wet’sutwet’en,” Mowatt said. She encourages people to learn not only about what’s happening on Wet’suwet’en territory, but what’s happened to Indigenous people throughout Canada’s history.

READ ALSO: One-sailing wait from Swartz Bay ferry terminal after morning protest


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

IndigenousIndigenous peoplesLand disputePipelinepipeline constructionpipeline politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5 million for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

Victims tell of abuse at hands of Victoria substitute teacher

Harry Charles Sadd pleaded guilty to eight charges that took place between 1970 to 1982

2020 Budget: ICBC ‘dumpster fire’ to turn into $86M surplus, NDP say

ICBC operating with $91-million deficit for 2019-2020 fiscal year

Resident mistakes screaming teens’ late-night plunge for an emergency

Big week for Oak Bay Police who respond to rampant theft in Oak Bay, host Polar Plunge

Victoria budtenders become first private cannabis workers to unionize in Canada

Two of seven Clarity Cannabis storefronts vote to join UFCW 1518 union

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the proposed changes for ICBC?

Tuesday’s provincial budget predicted a shift from shortfall to surplus in wake… Continue reading

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Most Read