Protesters block downtown traffic in London for 2 hours
About 150 demonstrators marched through the core to RCMP headquarters Wednesday
About 150 protesters blocked traffic in downtown London for two hours Wednesday, a day after similar protests in Toronto and Vancouver.
They were responding to the arrests of 14 people by the RCMP earlier this week at an Indigenous blockade of a pipeline construction project in remote northern B.C.
Londoners marched through the downtown, blocking several intersections before proceeding to the RCMP's Ontario headquarters on Talbot Street at Fullarton Street.
They then proceeded east along Fullarton to Richmond and marched south to Richmond and Dundas where they blocked what many consider the heart of the city for about 45 minutes.
Among the demonstrators who waved placards, chanted slogans, waved flags and sang and danced was Keesmis Nadiwon.
"I'm here because we need to come together in a good way," he said. "I think a lot of people misunderstand when First Nations people come together that we're not coming together for First Nations people. We truly believe in the unity and solidarity of all nations and people and the reason I'm here is I want to help spread that message."
After arresting 14 people Monday, the Mounties forcibly dismantled a gate blocking access to an area where Coastal Gaslink wants to build the natural gas pipeline.
The police were enforcing a court injunction against the Indigenous protesters, who had erected the gate blocking access to the construction site.
The conflict between police and protesters has become a flashpoint for similar demonstrations across the country, including Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, where protesters also blocked traffic. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to delay a speech.
"What we want to do is help our community," said London protester Drew Hedley, who said he only recently discovered his Indigenous ancestry. "We're here to help the people who can't help themselves."
While most London drivers seemed to take it in stride by waving or smiling at the protesters, some turned around in order to avoid being late or missing an appointment, while others honked their horns in frustration.
"If it wasn't for getting angry I don't think any of us would be here right now," said Hedley of those who were upset. "It was the anger that woke up our hearts in a good way."
The Coastal GasLink pipeline would run through the Wet'suwet'en territory to Kitimat, B.C., where LNG Canada is building a $40-billion export facility.
TC Energy, formerly TransCanada Corp., says it has signed agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the path, including the Wet'suwet'en.
However, members of the First Nation opposing the pipeline say the company failed to get consent from its five house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected.
They argue the elected council only has jurisdiction over the reserve, which is a much smaller area than the 22,000 square kilometres that comprise the Wet'suwet'ens traditional territory.
with files from the Canadian Press