Cops off Indigenous Land! Workers and Indigenous Peoples Unite!

Members of Socialist Action and allies attend rally outside of Caledonia, Ontario on Sunday, October 25 in solidarity with Six Nations of the Grand River indigenous land defenders.

October 25 at 1492 Land Back Lane

by Corey David

Toronto Socialist Action members made their way to Six Nations territory, near Caledonia, Ontario at about 10:30 on a briskly cool Sunday morning. We answered a call for a solidarity march with the Haudenosaunee people to support their land rights and to stop an illegal housing development. Land defenders there have been victims of police violence and persistent harassment that reached a peak two nights earlier. Rubber bullets and a taser were fired by police during an unsuccessful raid.  The Ontario Provincial Police insist it was in response to a cruiser being damaged. Blockades were erected on Highway 6 and on the rail line adjacent to the disputed land.

The rise in tension also comes after local courts put in place a permanent injunction on the site, a continuation of colonial-capitalist rule that makes any one standing on the land chargeable by police.  Indeed, over 35 people have been, with 70+ charges laid. The injunction was awarded to Foxgate the development company.  Still, the blockade stands and for the moment police are conducting what they call an ongoing investigation.

We were about to cross the police line when undercover cops pulled behind us.  They asked a few questions, we gave vague answers, my friend said lets go and we walked past the OPP officer who had blocked us. A Land Defender came to meet us, we walked past the ploughed up road and a wrecked school bus with “1492 Land Back” sprayed across it, next to a church, then past an electrical pole that had been lit a blaze at the base and now seemed to float above the ground, held up by its overhead wires, its power disconnected. The farmer who lived on the neighbouring lot was inspecting the damage.

We talked with another local farmer, a dedicated ally since this confrontation began in July, as well as a member of the community who lived in town, about how things had been. About 10 supporters made their way past the police line. Eventually we heard people were meeting at the safety zone at Argyle, so we continued up highway 6. A truck pulled up to us with its license plate taped over and the passenger asked if there was going to be some kind of parade today, almost mocking the situation. It was obviously more real to him, we just showing up to stand together for a few hours, but he smiled and a woman in the back talked to us for a minute before we joined the crowd addressed by speakers.

A community member spoke about the history of 6 Nations and the Grand River, and the relationship with local farming communities. Like much Indigenous land inside the Canadian state, Six Nations has been cut up and sold off since it was recognized by the crown as sovereign territory following the US war of independence when Britain surrendered territory in what is now New York state during the peace talks. The Treaty states 6 miles on both sides of the Grand River, end to end, belong to Six Nations. This dispute was triggered by the band council selling this land in what has become a very unpopular decision, made without proper consultation. The band council now apologizes and supports the protest. This is indicative of the way the colonial system operates — disenfranchising a people, and then offering them temporary relief by compensation that will be gone in no time and leave the people with basically nothing.

Another speaker read a beautiful, gut-wrenching poem about her daughters and the struggles of the past continuing into the future. A member of the Mohawk nation thanked us all for coming and asked us to keep calm in our hearts even when we are confronted by hate and ignorance. The final speaker mentioned the material needs of the camp: the legal fund, supplies, and an ask for assistance to make shelter for the winter.

At about noon, led by musicians and numerous Land Back banners, over 100 of us marched down to the police line where some locals, media and more cops gathered. There were maybe 20 counter protesters on the police line but most were quiet, save for a few yahoos. I believe that some folks were just curious.  A group of young kids watched from a few meters away. An Elder, Norma, addressed the police and others, denouncing the ravages of colonial capitalism on the land and people. At one point the media rushed over to an argument but it was quickly calmed by organizers.  Norma continued. I mention this to address the sensationalism that some media promote, instead of sharing the big story. There’s been a lot of talk about home buyers and workers who are suffering.  But it is very clear this is about profit and the commodification of land.

Friendship songs were sung to the crowd and the police. After about half an hour we began to depart.  A united front of land defenders, local community members and organizers from Caledonia and 6 Nations, the Ontario Federation of Labour, CUPE, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, activists from the region, and Socialist Action, marched back to the designated safety zone.

There was a short debrief.  Everyone seemed to be in high spirits — eating, talking and laughing.  It was a moment that showed how beautiful life can be, even in the face of repression and spartan living conditions. We said our goodbyes and walked back; a few police cars remained but the cops didn’t bother us.

The First Nations in Canada continue to demonstrate great courage and a radical break with the business as usual of capitalism and state violence. Taking radical action to hit exploiters where it hurts financially.  Standing up for inherent Indigenous rights. It was truly moving to join them for the day. SA will always support the Indigenous struggle for self-determination and for their territory and rights to be respected as the first peoples of this land.

Financial support can be sent here:https://www.gofundme.com/f/legal-fund-1492-land-back-lane

Support, material and otherwise, is welcome at Highway 6 and Argyle.

Solidarity with the Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane.

No reconciliation without restitution!

Full report to follow.