A standoff between provincial police officers and several hundred demonstrators protesting the Six Nations occupation in a small Ontario community ended Sunday withseveral arrests, but none of the violence many had feared.
Threepeople were arrested for crossing police linesduring the rally, which its organizers said was to highlightallegations that police are allowingSix Nationsprotesters to break the law at the former Douglas Creek Estates housing development in Caledonia, near Hamilton.
Two women were also arrested for intoxication, police said in a release.
Organizers of the march said they did not plan to approach the police line, butseveral large groups broke away from the main march and tried to enter the occupation site. Police held them at bay, some 300 metres from where Six Nations protesters were holding a potluck dinner.
Although hundreds converged on the site following the afternoon rally, the group slowly dispersed, with the road being cleared of protesters and police by the dinnerhour.
Many residents and politicians had asked those consideringattendance atthe rally to stay away, saying itwould threaten thecalm in the community after several violent clashes at the siteduring the seven-month dispute.
Gary and Christina McHale, a couple from Richmond Hill, Ont., north of Toronto, organizedthe rally and marchto protest against the continuing occupation in Caledonia of disputed land, which is now owned by the province.
Premier Dalton McGuinty last week urged the pair to protest on the front lawn of the provincial legislature rather than on land occupied by Six Nations protesters.
McGuinty said he was concerned about public safety if the "March of Freedom" rallywent ahead as planned.
Residentlashes out atMcGuinty, PM
At the rally that preceded the march, Caledonia resident AnneMarie VanSickle— whose home backs onto the occupation site — invited McGuinty to stay the night at her house and experience the occupation first-hand.
"Premier McGuinty, you, sir, are a medical anomaly —the fact that you can stand when you don't have a spine," VanSickle said to cheers from the audience.
VanSickle, who said her elementary-school children are afraid to be home alone, also took aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper for engaging in negotiations with the Six Nations while Caledonia is "held hostage."
Six Nationsprotesters have occupied the site of a 40-hectare housing development since February to back claims that the land had been illegally taken from them in the 1800s.
MPP sees 'double standard'
Conservative Toby Barrett, opposition MPP for the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant andone of the speakers at the rally, said the event has kept a welcome spotlight on the issue of policing.
"There does appear to be a double standard," Barrett told CBC Newsworld on Sunday. "People see a different application of the law, depending on which side of the barricade you stand."
The McHales' website, Caledonia Wake Up Call, said other speakers wouldinclude a resident of Caledonia and a resident of Ipperwash, Ont., where in 1995 a provincial police officer shot and killed an aboriginal protester during an occupation of the area's provincial park.