Round dance for Wet'suwet'en occupies downtown Edmonton intersection

Rush hour drivers in downtown Edmonton saw an unusual traffic disruption Tuesday afternoon — a protest in a busy intersection.

‘Don’t stand on the side while the police and pipeline companies can do what they want’

Protestors gather in a downtown Edmonton intersection for a round dance in solidarity with members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in B.C., who have been protesting the construction of a natural gas pipeline on traditional territory. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Rush hour drivers in downtown Edmonton saw an unusual traffic disruption Tuesday afternoon — a protest in a busy intersection.

The intersection on 104th Street and Jasper Avenue was blocked for nearly an hour starting at 5:45 p.m., as about 100 people took part in a round dance. Police helped re-direct traffic around the drummers and dancers.

Members of Indigenous Climate Action and Climate Justice Edmonton organized the event to show solidarity with members of the Wet'suwet'en Nation in northern B.C., who have been protesting the construction of a natural gas pipeline on traditional territory.

Organizer Asiniy Thundering-Antler said the timing of the protest was purposeful, with the hope drivers would be curious about the rush-hour roadblock.

"By having this round dance we are going to be educating the public about what is happening to our relatives just over the mountains," he said.

"We're just trying to keep up national momentum. There are other organizations and groups in different cities throughout Canada that are hosting solidarity [events] with Wet'suwet'en."

About 100 people blocked the intersection for nearly an hour. (Peter Evans/CBC)
The protest took place during rush hour. (Peter Evans/CBC)

The Coastal GasLink pipeline project is approved by the Wet'suwet'en Nation's elected leaders, but staunchly opposed by hereditary chiefs.

Two camps were set up to deny Coastal GasLink employees access to the traditional territory. In early January, 14 people were arrested at one of blockades in a heated exchange with RCMP, who were enforcing a court injunction to give Coastal GasLink access to the area. 

"This event with the RCMP going in with militarized equipment onto unceded land is Canada again committing settler-colonial violence," said Thundering-Antler, who noted his family is made up of residential school survivors.

"I wasn't able to stand up against the government and the RCMP when they were taking children away, but I am able to do something today."

Thundering-Antler said people concerned about the pipeline project can send messages to TransCanada, and their MPs and MLAs.

"Read, learn and don't stand on the side while the police and pipeline companies can do what they want," he said.