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RCMP Arrest Gitxsan Land Defenders and Chiefs Along With Their Allies, and a Journalist (Feb 24, 2020)

by Melissa Cox

See video

The Media Co-op published a video report last week of the blockade on unceded Gitxsan territory, taking you inside the 8 hour stand-off on Feb 24, as Gitxsan community members backed by their allies held their ground against the BC RCMP. The new report published here contains unreleased footage of the lead-up to those events, ending with the arrest of journalist and filmmaker Melissa Cox.

The morning of February 24th, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) arrested 10 people during a raid on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. The Tyendinaga Mohawks setup that railway blockade to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation who oppose the construction of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipelineon their unceded Wet’suwet’en Territory Unist'ot'en Camp. After the arrests made in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Gitxsan community members setup a railway blockade on unceded Gitxsan Territory.

That evening, the British Columbian Royal Canadian Mounted Police (BC RCMP), along with their Division Liaison Team (DLT) – a unit that specializes in “Aboriginal relations” – invaded unceded Gitxsan territory and arrested 13 people. One arrest was made earlier in the day. Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs Spookw, Gwininitxw, and Dawamuux were among the 13 people arrested. Fourteen arrests in total were made that day.

Prior to the wave of arrests there was a stand-off between Gitxsan community members and the RCMP. Gitxsan community members demanded that RCMP stand down and advised RCMP that they were trespassing on unceded territory. Gitxsan community members advised RCMP that they were violating their human rights and breaking the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Article 10 of UNDRIP states, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories.” The RCMP advanced and began quickly making arrests.

The Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, together with hereditary chiefs from the Wet'suwet'en nation, were plaintiffs in the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa court case. The Supreme Court of Canada found that Aboriginal title had never been extinguished over 55,000 km2 of Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en land.

While filming this video report, journalist and filmmaker Melissa Cox was arrested. Melissa Cox is on assignment with Mutual Aid Media as a filmmaker for the feature length documentary film YINT’AH. Click to read Mutual Aid Media’s statement on the arrest.

My statement now on the arrest: "It was clear to me that police arrested me to prevent me from documenting the arrest of 71 year-old Head House Chief and Matriarch Gwininitxw (Yvonne Lattie) on her own territory. I had no opportunity to leave the scene or to reposition myself. While reporting on Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Territories I have witnessed alarming levels of violent state repression of independent media. Since beginning to report on this issue of immense public importance, myself and my colleagues have been detained, repeatedly threatened with arrest, had our access limited by the imposition of an “illegal” exclusion zone, and have been told what we can and cannot document (which included threats of arrest from RCMP if we documented tactical teams). A free press is essential to a functioning democracy and is a pillar for peace. The repression of journalists covering this story across Canada is being enacted by police forces everywhere you look. The way that I was treated made me feel as if I was a target that needed to be neutralized.”

*Correction, 3:21 EST March 3, 2020: the name "Jordann" is misspelled in the video as "Jordan." We reget the error.

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