Blockade comes to end
Posted By JEREMY ASHLEY AND W. BRICE MCVICAR,
THE BELLEVILLE INTELLIGENCER [Ontario]
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Motorists are once again able to cross the Skyway Bridge after protesters who had closed the Highway 49 fixed link for six days left the scene without incident.
It was just after 5 p. m. on Friday when the small blockade preventing vehicles from crossing the bridge was removed.
“We left on our own terms,” a female protester told The Intelligencer. “It’s contingent with our boys on bail and that’s all I can say.”
The protester was referring to 13 individuals who were arrested and charged at the protest scene early Friday morning. Napanee OPP detachment commander Pat Finnegan confirmed Shawn Brant was among those arrested.
It was at approximately 6:30 a. m. when the OPP’s Public Order Unit arrived at the scene and, after Tyendinaga Mohawk Police Service officers — who were in control of the scene throughout the protest — advised protesters they should move or be arrested, the OPP team moved in, police said.
During the arrests, police said a Tyendinaga Police Service officer sustained an injury to his hand and two protesters were taken to hospital with injuries. One was treated for a minor injury, the other remains at hospital complaining of back and shoulder pain.
“The decision to remove the protesters was a joint policing decision made after all other avenues to finding a resolution to the road closure were exhausted,” Sgt. Kristine Rae said.
By midmorning, police had assumed the original position the protesters held since Sunday evening in support of Akwesasne Mohawks.
That position was lost later in the morning, however, when as many as two dozen protesters blocked access to Bayshore Road, while others — namely native dissident Jerome Barnhart — loudly ordered media and the public away from the scene. A short time later the protesters resumed their original position and were again preventing vehicles from crossing the bridge.
Clad in camouflage and wearing white sneakers, Barnhart barreled across Highway 49 shortly after 8:30 a. m. barking orders that all media “should get away from here right now.”
“You need to leave right now, or else,” he said, his finger now pointing down the highway.
“The CBC is not allowed here and neither are you. Get the f–k out. And don’t be pulling off the road down there … we’re going to be watching you and where you go.”
A vehicle with individuals from the protest group followed the retreating reporter from the scene.
An OPP helicopter was circling the scene throughout the day and a police marine unit was nearby, Finnegan said.
There was a heavy police presence around the bridge, including several dozen officers and vehicles parked at the Picton Arena and another, smaller group of officers at Centennial Park in Deseronto.
Finnegan confirmed his concerns that if the bridge had remained closed during the weekend there could have been clashes between the protesters and people from neighbouring communities, including tourists.
He also said Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Chief R. Donald Maracle requested the OPP help the Tyendinaga Mohawk Police clear the bridge.
Meanwhile, support among Mohawks for the protesters in both Akwesasne and Tyendinaga — who are not all natives — appeared to have bottomed-out, according to sources on both reserves.
As many as 100 Mohawks from Tyendinaga who are opposed to Brant’s actions confronted him and his followers Thursday evening at the bridge site, demanding he and others remove themselves from the scene.
Also, earlier this week, The Intelligencer has learned, the Rooseveltown, New York, long house of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs representing Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora peoples, — ‘Haudenosaunee’– formally asked Shawn Brant to remove the roadblock. The message was sent to Brant formally, through Tyendinaga police chief Ron Maracle.
The longhouse is considered the epicentre of the Mohawk community.
Brant had earlier claimed he had support of Akwsasne “clan mothers.”
As well, earlier this week representatives of the band council of Akwesasne — the elected native municipal leaders — voiced displeasure with Brant’s actions, claiming it could negatively impact the situation in their community.