Thursday, 2 January 2014

Road Blockades and Flash Mobs: Protests by Six Nations

The posting below is composed largely of my opinions. This does not reflect the content of the previous 64 posts which are largely rooted in verifyable facts.  None the less, there are multiple reasons why I believe that the topic is worthy of discussion.

I just picked up the latest issue of Turtle Island News (31 December 2013) and my eyes immediately were drawn to the caption to the side of the picture on page 1.  The picture itself showed a group of individuals, some First Nations, some White people, holding hands, doing a "round dance" while edging out into a road where there were three lanes full of vehicles backed up beyond the edge of the picture.  The caption reads, Aamjiwnaang First Nations march stops highway traffic as 'toxic tour' makes way through Sarnia. The underlining is mine.  Where were the OPP during this "action"?  Oh yes, they were "watching" while a helicopter circled overhead (p. 7).  Apparently the traffic was stopped for 3 hours! 

Now Sarnia (in the "Chemical Valley" near Lake Huron) is a long way from Six Nations, but the fact that the picture is on the first page of the local newspaper here speaks volumes about how much interest is expected in the matter from Native media far from Sarnia.  All people in Sarnia and surrounds have every reason to be concerned about the environmental hazards in that location.  My only issue is with the form of protest, not the legitimacy of the protest itself. 

However, back to page 3 where there is another article of interest, entitled, Idle No More: One Year Later.  Here the reporter provides an overview of the history of this movement, which began 10 November 2012 as a "teach in" at the University of Saskatoon about environmental issues.  Somehow this got wrapped up with the "hunger strike" (which was nothing of the sort) by Chief Theresa Spence of the Attiwapiskat Reserve in Northern Ontario who was demanding that the Federal Government meet with First Nations people on a nation - to - nation basis.  Eventually her "cause" (despite revelations of serious mismanagement of taxpayers dollars at Attiwapiskat) triggered protests elsewhere in Canada.  In particular, Protests and rallies were held in cities across North America.  Roads and highways were blocked during demonstrations and international bridges and railways were shut down, all in solidarity with Idle No More.  The underlining is mine.

Further in the article, it was reported that, Ralies, demonstrations and flash mobs continued during the holiday season until Idle No More hit fever pitch on Jan. 11, 2013 with an international day of action.  The underlining is mine.  I was scratching my head as to what a "flash mob" is in this context.  I had known of these social media driven events to be used by young thugs and gang bangers down south where I live part time - this is a means by which they create chaos and confusion to facilitate the theft of valuables at a mall.  I did not have to wait long to find that flash mobs also occurred with Six Nations youth.  My ignorance can be explained by my absence at the time of the following event from the Year in Review article on page 4 of Turtle Island News.  Here I find that, Jan. 2 - Idle No More Flash Mob Hits Brantford Mall.  Here, A crowd of 1,000 people from Six Nations and New Credit took shoppers by surprise Sunday afternoon at Lynden Park Mall launching a sudden flash mob round dance in the middle of the Christmas rush.  I can only guess at how much Christmas joy that must have brought to the merchants in Lynden Park Mall.

Then, in the same article, on Jan. 16 - Idle No More Rally Blocks Cockshutt Road, Marks Coming Global Event.  The snapshot goes on to say, Cockshutt Road was peacefully shut down Saturday by Six Nations activists in solidarity with 'Global Day of Action' and Idle No More.  The underling is mine.  Again, I was not in the area at the time and did not know of this action - guess I need to call more people more often to get the scoop on what is going on "back home".  So apparently Six Nations can just do that, close down any road or highway they wish, call it "peaceful" which is supposed to make it OK, all based on some justification that it is in solidarity with this or that. 

So here in addition to the old standby, the road blockade, there is something called a "flash mob" as a way of getting attention.  Both actually can now be "facilitated" by using the new social media options such as Twitter.  What these actions seem to have in common is that both are used as a way to protest something.  I will deal with flash mobs first.

1)  Flash Mobs:  It appears that flash mobs can emerge for a variety of reasons, to engage in bizarre behaviour (e.g., pillow fights) before dispersing, to "entertain", to manipulate a situation to obtain bargains at retail facilities, to protest some perceived wrong, or to engage in criminal behaviour.  See here for a good overview of the subject.  A very recent example of a seemingly benign "party" for "entertainment" purposes that took place at the Vancouver Airport can be seen here.  Since I am as yet unclear as to the disruption that may or may not be caused to innocent individuals by flash mobs, I will leave the topic for now and return to it on another occasion.  Here I merely wish to alert readers to the very real possibility of the escalating use of this method of getting attention in Haldimand and Brant. The "phenomenon" is becoming more common everywhere.

2)  Highway Blockades:  So how is this topic related to the theme of this blog, and why do I focus on this subject?  There are a couple of factors at work here.  First, I have always considered blockading highways, rail networks or any such activity as a very inconsiderate and unjustifiable way of getting ones point across. Inconveniencing innocent people can never be considered as justified.  For example, emergency services will be disrupted and someone could die.  Also, the protesters do not set up portable washroom facilities, so six hours in a car ...............  Who knows how many lives will be impacted in a negative way. In the  January 2013 incident, shutting down Cockshutt Road directly impacts Hagersville and Brantford, and clearly these actions were strategically sited for maximum local effect - but not taking it the next step of blocking a major thoroughfare such as Highways 6 or 403 - that was to await events later in the year. 

In November 2013 the spontaneous social media driven blockade of Highway 6 south of Caledonia occurred - which was, curiously, not mentioned in the above year in review article. The stated reason for this action was to show support for the First Nations in New Brunswick, who were at the time blocking a highway in the Moncton area (and tossing Molotov cocktails at vehicles), in their protest against fracking to extract natural gas from shale. The facilitator of the events along Highway 6 was, according to their own statements, Turtle Island News who used their "streaming" this or that with all the social media at their disposal to in effect coordinate the protest (although this may not have been their goal, only de facto the result).  The "foot soldiers" here appear to have all been adolescents or young adults.

In my opinion, those who blocked Highway 6 in November 2013 are bullys, with no concern for the rights and feelings of others. Their youth and immaturity, combined with crowd psychology, are explanations not excuses.  There was nothing unusual when I left home, but after purchasing my dinner in Caledonia, I saw that there was now bumper to bumper traffic in both directions along Argyll Street. Thanks to the kindness of fellow motorists who stopped or slowed down to let me in traffic, I was able to access Argyll Street and make for home - albeit rather slowly.

In later reflecting on this incident, I recalled the fear and anger I felt as the target of school yard bullies - blocking my way home.  The consequence of the latter here was the birth or "hatching" of the present blog to allow me to vent about matters I had until then been reluctant to reveal.  This became my version of "Idle No More" - a way of "thanking" those who resurrected "old ghosts".

It appears that the goal of the November 2013 blockade of Highway 6 by Six Nations members, which does not traverse Six Nations at any location, was to inconvenience the general public.  What I cannot understand is the rationale.  There is a protest over fracking going on 1000 miles away, but instead of "showing solidarity" by travelling to the area where the fracking is actually happening, a group of youth here at Six Nations decide that a proper course of action is to block a busy highway a few minutes from their homes.  So in effect, those impacted by the "solidarity action" had nothing whatsoever to do with fracking, and were simply convenient pawns in the game initiated by Six Nations youth.

If one were to focus on fairness and balance, it would not be surprising if local citizens decided to return the favour, if they had a valid "cause", and wanted to shut down a road that would offer comparable "inconvenience" to primarily Six Nations members living on the Reserve.  Probably the corner of Chiefswood Road and Highway 54 would have the most impact.  

Thus if citizens wanted to show solidarity with local environmentalists, one completely legitimate cause is the destruction of birds that will die on an "industrial scale" on the Six Nations supported wind farms established on lands in South Cayuga Township falsely declared as "unceded".  I wonder what would happen if local activists shut down Chiefswood Road with "round dances".  The likely OPP response here will be a function of the assessment of the composition of the protesters.  In all probability, if there is evidence that Six Nations were responsible for the action, then it is hands off, become "peacekeepers" and bring in the Native liaison officers.  If it is "only" White folks doing the deed it will be time to go into the "disperse and arrest mode".  If the composition of the gathering included both Six Nations and non Six Nations citizens ............. well that could pose difficulties for the OPP in deciding how to gauge their responses.  However, certain "Rez dynamics" ensure that no action of this particular nature will occur by Six Nations members on the Six Nations Reserve.  It would be a very brave soul indeed who contravened this unwritten rule.

There is a very real possibility that someone in say Caledonia might start a social media driven campaign to get people from as far away as Brantford, Simcoe and Dunnville to gather at the corner of Chiefswood Road and Highway 54 (an OPP patroled public Provincial highway that traverses the Onondaga Township part of the Reserve) to protest the wind generators a few miles away in South Cayuga - within the Haldimand Tract. I ask the "what would happen if" question out of mere curiosity, and I disavow any intent to spark a protest of this nature.

Edited:  3 - 6 January 2014.



  1. DeYo: Welcome to a new year and hope you keep on blogging!

  2. Quite a bit of blogging and Facebook activity going on in the Niagara Region since the Haudenausenee deer hunt at Short Hills Park which sparked some local media attention and dialogue; most of the issues and related issues have died an early death ; one exception might be some of the blogging going on at "Niagara At Large" where a local writer-activist makes specific mention of the work of Canadian professor Anthony James Hall and his books, "Flanagan's Last Stand?" and "Earth Into Property" ; professor Hall has a lot to say about Canada's treatment of First Nations peoples both historically and under the Harper government, as well as the Idle No More movement with which he appears to be closely associated; just thought you might be interested if you are not already familiar with these potential sources of information; in any case, please take care and stay tuned.....Tony

    1. Happy New Year Tony, and to all my readers!

      I was aware of the Short Hills Park controversy (as well as RBG and Dundas Valley closer to home), but not of the writings of Professor Hall. Unfortunately in recent years the Departments of Sociology and Political Science at many or most Canadian universities have become "radicalized", and are intolerant hotbeds of anti-rational, politically correct, Marxist inspired activism. Sounds as if Hall fits very well into this mold. It is very disconcerting that Professors who only want to reveal the facts (sometimes "inconvenient"), such as Frences Widdowson at St. Marys in AB, end up being threatened and black listed by the self proclaimed purveyors of the concocted "truth". Will keep an eye out for the writings of Hall. What these academics and others need to realize is that sometimes at Six Nations here, people are authors of their own misfortune, not "victims" of "racism" and "colonialism" and other such knee jerk buzz words. Best, DeYo.