Protesters end Hamilton rail blockade; highway 6 blockade at Caledonia continues
Provincial police say protest was a 'solidarity demonstration blockade'
The protestors who shut down GO Transit out of Hamilton early Tuesday "peacefully" left the area at about 5 p.m. according to Hamilton police, ending a blockade of a key commuter and freight railway link.
Jackie Penman, a corporate communicator with Hamilton police, tells CBC News police had an "ongoing discussion" with the demonstrators.
"We encouraged protesters to abide by the injunction submitted by CN rail," she says.
"We're just happy the blockade is clear and they left peacefully."
It's still unclear what prompted protestors to leave. She says Hamilton police are investigating the rail blockade and ask anyone with information to come forward.
Metrolinx spokesperson Scott Money tells CBC News it's not clear when GO trains beyond Aldershot GO will resume operation but says all other lines are running, albeit with some delays.
Protest caused major transit delays
The protest was in response to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) moving to end a blockade by the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, of a rail line near Belleville, Ont. on Monday.
During the Hamilton blockade, which began Monday afternoon, a group of about a dozen people huddled around fires on the tracks by Hamilton Harbour, with green tarps strung up across between them and a pair of police cars parked to the side.
Throughout the morning Tuesday, small groups of people made their way down the muddy hillside to join the protest, some wrapped in blankets, while others hauled firewood or wagons packed with supplies.
Marcia Hicks was carrying a cooler bag with drinks and snacks as well as a sleeping bag.
She was only able to join the protest for a few hours, but said she came out because she's been following the news about Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory in northern B.C.
The situation resonated with her own concerns about the environment and investment in oil, she said.
"This also has to do with how our government responds to people that are in opposition to the way they're handling business," she added, saying she believes the situation has been handled "extremely poorly."
Hicks said the arrests in Tyendinaga show the protests shouldn't be solved through a "violent process."
"When people get to this place they're a bit desperate," she said. "They've really tried, and I think that … they really have tired with every peaceful means so it's kind of at the end of the rope for them."
On Tuesday morning, GO Transit announced on its website that "As the result of the ongoing police investigation along the tracks between Aldershot GO and Hamilton GO, our trains will not be able to service Niagara Falls GO, St. Catharines GO, Hamilton GO or West Harbour GO stations on Tuesday morning."
GO Train service was also suspended on Milton and the Lakeshore East corridor between Union and Pickering for a short time due to safety incidents near Guildwood in Scarborough and Kipling in Etobicoke.
The transit service arranged for buses to shuttle commuters from the Hamilton GO stations to nearby Aldershot station.
The Hamilton GO blockade was organized by a local anarchist collective. It started late Monday afternoon and prevented westbound trains from getting to Hamilton at the end of the Monday commute.
Larissa Fenn, HOPA's director of public affairs, tells CBC News the delays had the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority and terminal partners bracing for impact as the blockade would have prevented incoming gas products and resources for food processing and construction.
She said "terminal partners" were "concerned" about the situation, and some were "lining up other options to move goods should it become necessary. In most cases, the most likely alternative would be a truck."
"That's not sustainable in the long term, and an extended disruption would likely have effects on consumer gas stations, road projects, and other everyday uses."
The blockade would have affected the roughly 2,100 people who work in the area.
Protestors served with multiple court injunctions
Police presented the protesters with an CN injunction Monday evening to leave the site. In a release the service said it continued a dialogue with the protesters Tuesday.
A Facebook page called Wet'suwet'en Strong: Hamilton in Solidarity has been posting about the protest since it began. In an update Tuesday morning the group said it started the day by burning that very injunction.
Hamilton police spokesperson Const. Jerome Stewart said in a scrum at the scene Tuesday morning that officers were at the scene to maintain safety and a "peaceful environment."
"Hamilton police do respect the right of people's freedom of assembly and a peaceful assembly. However we have a court injunction that's in place and we're here to enforce that injunction if need…" Stewart said before trailing off. "Hopefully we don't get to that stage, hopefully people will leave the area peacefully."
Sonia Hill, who identifies as Mohawk from Six Nations of Grand River, sang medicine songs Monday night before voluntarily leaving.
Sonia Hill, who identifies as Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River and is a McMaster University sociology teaching assistant, says the pro-Wet’suwet’en blockade on CN rails between Aldershot and Hamilton will continue “indefinitely.” <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HamOnt</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WetsuwetenSolidarity?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WetsuwetenSolidarity</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BurlOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BurlOnt</a> <a href="https://t.co/7GMlWj8N5z">pic.twitter.com/7GMlWj8N5z</a>—@bobbyhristova
The 24-year-old, who is a teaching assistant in sociology at McMaster University, said Six Nations will defend their land indefinitely and she will support them, despite fears of being arrested.
"I'm coming back tomorrow... I'm going to bring my students, make it a part of their credit, their attendance [to] check in with me at the blockade."
McMaster University said while students and faculty are free to participate in demonstrations, a student's grade can't be conditional on whether they do.
Cancellations and delays
The Facebook page posting about the protest said protesters were shutting down the rail lines because of the "violence perpetrated towards Indigenous land defenders and their supporters" and the "forced removal and criminalization of Indigenous people from their lands."
The blockade remains in place here between <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Aldershot?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Aldershot</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Hamilton?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Hamilton</a> where protesters have been blocking the rails since last night. <a href="https://t.co/zQBZcXWu5O">pic.twitter.com/zQBZcXWu5O</a>—@LindaWardCBC
The post adds "disruption is what we MUST turn to," in order to make change and said the protesters will be in place as long as possible.
Blockade at Highway 6 in Caledonia
Highway 6 at Caledonia also remained blocked Tuesday morning.
Rodney Leclair, an OPP media relations officer, said Monday that the Caledonia protest was a "solidarity demonstration blockade."
Highway 6 is closed between Argyle Street South and Greens Road in Caledonia. The protest is close to the Six Nations reserve just outside Caledonia on the bypass over the Grand River.
The OPP tweeted just after 3 p.m. Tuesday that the highway was also blocked at First Line in Hagersville.
"Please be patient if impacted," the message advised.
*UPDATE* (15:10 hr) <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HaldimandOPP?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HaldimandOPP</a> ongoing. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HWY6?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HWY6</a> in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Caledonia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Caledonia</a> closed between Argyle St. South and Greens Rd. <br>**Intersection at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HWY6?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HWY6</a> and First Line in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Hagersville?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Hagersville</a> closed. Expect traffic delays for demonstration. Please be patient if impacted. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ONHwys?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ONHwys</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/OPP_WR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@OPP_WR</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/OPP_COMM_WR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@OPP_COMM_WR</a> <br>^rl—@OPP_WR
Colleen Davis, a member of the Mohawk Nation (Bear Clan), said the highway will be blocked until the demands of the Wet'suwet'en are met.
"The onus is now on Justin Trudeau, on the OPP, on the RCMP to withdraw from our territories," she said.
"We have our own self-governing systems that we abide by and that's what we are standing up for. That's how we're going to get things moving forward … if they can come appreciate and acknowledged the true title owners of the lands."
Davis added the interactions with the OPP have been good so far.
"Safety is the main concern and that's the same for us. We're here in peaceful protest."
Bettee Giles, 71, lives in Caledonia and says she saw a similar demonstration last week. She told CBC News she spent an hour in traffic because of it, but the demonstration didn't upset her.
"They were standing there very peacefully," she said.
Sonia Hill says they won't stop fighting.
With files from Catharine Tunney