Sunday, 5 October 2014

Highway 6 Blockade - 5 October 2014 - Day 2 - Double Standard Still in Place

At 1:30 pm Sunday 5 October 2014 I decided to re-visit the locations I saw yesterday and note any changes or observations of potential importance.

I did not bother to stop at the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) barriers at 5th Line where there was hardly any vehicles so no need for officers to be out of their vehicles directing traffic.  I then proceeded to drive west on 5th Line to Cayuga Road, take a left here, and a left turn at 4th Line (the specific location of the protest blockade) heading east to the tent site of yesterday. 

OPP barricade at 5th Line along Highway 6 on Sunday

Once again there was no police (e.g., Six Nations Police) at the corner of 4th Line and Cayuga Road, so anyone who wanted could travel down to the location where Men's Fire had their "operations center".  No OPP were on 4th Line west of the protest site (before it becomes Reserve land), only on the opposite side of 4th Line (east of Highway 6).  There were also no barriers anywhere approaching the site, as seen below.  The tent was obscured by the utility vehicle on the immediate right.  Three men were speaking to drivers and again a woman had the flyers I spoke of yesterday to hand out to all who passed through the "check point".  Out of respect, I did not take any potentially "intrusive" pictures.

Cluster of people on the north side of 4th Line at Highway 6

A sign which I did not see yesterday

View from barricade tent north on Highway 6 - no vehicle with flags today

View of Highway 6 looking south - no vehicles nearby

View down 4th Line from Highway 6 - two OPP vehicles

Things were a bit quiet today, and it seemed that only the stalwarts were there - no Confederacy or Mohawk Warrior flags.  Chatted a bit with those present and asked if it would be ok to come back after my trip to Hagersville.  The answer was sure, as long as the police allowed me through and good luck with that.  There was no presence at all to impede vehicles.  However I don't know if any non-Native people were coming down 4th Line, or whether the very large Native man would have let them through to Highway 6. 

I then turned right on Highway 6 and headed to Hewitt's Dairy to pick up some ice cream.  On my way back to Caledonia I decided to stop and inquire as to the policy of the OPP concerning who could proceed along Highway 6 past their check point.

OPP barricade and check point at 3rd Line and Highway 6 looking north

I parked and approached one of the vehicles asking the officer whether, since I had just come from 4th Line along Highway 6 and passed by their check point (on the far left of the picture above), whether I could proceed back along Highway 6 to the 4th Line.  What I was told was very interesting.  The officer said that only those with the "Man Fire" could proceed.  I said that if I produced a "status card" would that be sufficient.  The officer asked to see a card.  I said that it would not say "Men's Fire", but that the people at the barricades at 4th Line told me I could come back.  The officer said that as long as I was "with" the people there I could proceed.  I thanked the officer and decided that I would prefer to take the detour up 3rd Line to 5th Line and return home that way.

Assessment:  Today was pretty "low key" compared to yesterday (where even then little was happening).  There does not seem to have been any media reporting relating to Sunday's activities at the barricades.  It does not appear that the issue captivated the folks at Six Nations and New Credit since there were very few participants.  One of the "problems" for the protest organizers is that the OPP kept the public as far away as possible from the 4th Line and so only Six Nations residents got the literature on the subject while traffic from other sources was ushered around the protest site via detours (completely unmarked once the drivers got to Cayuga Road or McKenzie Road - so good luck to them).  This must have been a source of frustration to Men's Fire (not that I have any sympathy with their methods).  So like a tree falling in the forest, who was there to hear the message?  However if the OPP did allow drivers to go past the 4th Line barricades, there would undoubtedly have been some unpleasant incidents as local residents vented their anger and frustration.  The OPP deflected what would otherwise have been a certain problem, and the risk to public safety was defused.

The police presence was half of what it was the previous day with, for example, neither of the two vehicles at the corner of Argyle Street and the Highway 6 bypass at the south end of Caledonia.  Not only were there fewer OPP vehicles, but there were no Native vehicles blocking Highway 6.  I am not sure whether the whole thing had just fizzled out.  There were no media persons there.  It was all very serene (on the surface at least). 

What I think was most important was to learn that by being identified as Native (although I never said I was Native, only asked hypothetically about what would be allowed in terms of passage along Highway 6 with a status card) meant that you were given the "privilege" of unrestricted access, whereas White folks (non-Native) could expect to be funneled along one of the detours.  The traffic, however, for whatever reason, was extremely light at around 2 pm.

I simply don't quite know what to make of the "protest".  It all just seemed to be quite futile.  If the message was for Prime Minister Harper then the correct venue would have been Ottawa or his riding in Alberta.  Here again, a matter that has nothing to do with people in Caledonia or Hagersville or the larger number of confused travelers who seemed (when I stopped to talk with officers) lost and disoriented (who seemed to predominate).  Perhaps locals made other plans. 

I expect that the action has been a great disappointment to Men's Fire.  Some undoubtedly did believe in the stated cause, although I wonder about others who may be opportunists who would see this as an opportunity to apply more pressure on the unresolved Douglas Creek Estates issue (or maybe "kill two birds with one stone" here - I simply don't know the motivation). 

Some further reading about the matter can be found at the "Brantford Expositor" here, and a broader view (related protests included) in "The Hamilton Spectator" here.

While I acknowledge that the approach used by the OPP on this occasion did "work" by keeping confrontation out of the equation, the reality is that their actions still reflect the "double standard".  So still to this day, there is one response for Natives and another quite different one for non-Natives.  OPP policies and procedures continue to employ two - tiered policing.  Hence the question can be asked, "What would happen if a group of Haldimand residents were to shut down Highway 6 to bring to public attention the 8 years of suffering, including physical and psychological abuse, perpetrated against Caledonians and others at the hands of Six Nations members?"  In other words, what would the response of the OPP be to the very same actions or tactics if employed by local Caledonia residents?  I am almost certain that I know the answer to this question based on my observations and personal involvement since 2006 - arrests and paddy wagons for all non-Natives.


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