Six Nations Territory – In a press release issued today, 1492 Land Back Lane’s land defenders highlight the escalation of police tactics lining up with a key court date for a second time.
The OPP have asked camp spokesperson Skyler Williams to turn himself in for arrest this week, with the next court date for the injunction against the reclamation of 1492 Land Back Lane coming next week.
The press release from the camp highlighted the arrest, tasing, and shooting of rubber bullets on August 5th – only two days before the key injunction court date on August 7th – as a way of making preparation for the court date impossible.
The land defenders are battling on two fronts. One front is the criminal legal pressure of mounting arrests and the threat that more police violence brings, and the second front is fighting –against the odds – to navigate the expensive and complex civil court injunction.
“Facing criminal charges while going through a civil court process at the same time is very difficult,” Skyler Williams said in the release, “using two different court processes to prosecute Indigenous people who are protecting their land is a colonial tactic that makes real justice unattainable.”
Justice Harper cited a lack of formal engagement in the court process as a reason for extending his injunction order on August 25th. This judge called property rights sacrosanct and said that “chaos, mayhem and anarchy would prevail” if the rule of law were not upheld.
“Indigenous people are told over and over again to engage in these formal processes that are inaccessible, incredibly expensive, and take a very long time,” Skyler Williams also said in the press release from the camp, “our community has been in the specific claims process for nearly 25 years.”
The court process in Canada is expensive and comes with a price tag too high for land defenders to currently meet. Civil litigators contacted by Land Back Lane land defenders gave estimates between $250,000 up to as much as $1.5 million to challenge the injunction. A Go Fund Me to raise legal funds sits at $150,000 – well short of the low estimate to fight the injunction.
The land defenders have decided to fight the individual arrests instead. Over two dozen camp supporters have been arrested, a new round of warrants has been issued, and the OPP is pressing the land defenders to let the developer continue working on the property.
Included in the round of arrests are One Dish, One Mic journalist Karl Dockstader, Real Peoples Media reporter Starla Myers, and researching reporter Courtney Skye who specializes in research on how injunctions are disproportionately denied to Indigenous people defending their lands.
Last week officials from Haldimand County continued to issue statements criticising a lack of action by the police. In a September 23rd document the Haldimand County Police Services Board expressed “disappointment” and “concern” over the OPP handling of the reclamation and said the response was “unacceptable”. They also equated the actions of land defenders as legal “terrorism”.
While the land defenders face hard choices with limited funds, police resources seem to be virtually limitless. In August One Dish, One Mic made a video showing how a community centre had been converted to an ad hoc police headquarters with 20 police cars in the middle of the town of under 10,000 people.
The camp has only seen conflict on one of the 72 days since the occupation started, but with local political pressure, no intervention from the Federal government in sight, and arrest numbers piling up, will the OPP attempt a second raid days before a crucial court date again?
One Dish, One Mic will continue to update this story as it develops.