By Haldimand Press Staff
CALEDONIA—Self-titled land defenders set up a blockade on Argyle Street South on Monday, October 5, 2020 in response to the attempted arrest of a man for charges related to the demonstration. The blockade went up at approximately 5:25 p.m. and was removed by the following morning.
“Today guns were drawn on an unarmed man simply getting groceries with his girlfriend. Cops continue to ramp up efforts to see us jailed. This escalation in tactics have now caused Argyle Street to be shut down between Highway 6 and Sixth Line,” said land defender and 1492 Land Back Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams in a Facebook update. The road was closed off at Braemer Avenue by police to redirect traffic away from the blockade.
Williams said in an interview that he has no interest in blockades, but that he feels it successfully expressed their frustrations with the OPP response: “We’ve never been an advocate for barricades, but we’re letting people know that the 30 or so arrests are not going unnoticed…. I don’t think we’ve ever made a plan for a barrier. The only time it’s been a thought has been when there is OPP violence against people occupying their own territory.”
Haldimand OPP released a statement shortly before the blockade went up, which said officers attended a retail store parking lot on Garner Road West in Ancaster “acting on information received … to affect an arrest on an individual who faces outstanding charges.”
Officers approached the man, who then entered the driver’s seat of a vehicle and fled the scene. When asked if guns had been drawn as claimed by Williams, Media Relations Officer Rod LeClair reiterated the information in the original release, stating, “We attempted to affect an arrest today and the individual got into their vehicle and fled, striking a cruiser and a civilian’s vehicle. Thankfully there were no injuries.”
The release also noted that the driver had been identified, although no name was released. OPP continue to investigate.
As of press time, 26 individuals have been arrested, with three of those having been arrested twice. Most charges have generally been related to Disobeying Order of Court (court injunction), Obstruct Peace Officer (resisting arrest or obstructing an officer), Causing Disturbance (impeding another person), Mischief (interfere with lawful use or enjoyment of property), and Intimidation (block or obstruct a highway). There is an unknown additional number of people who have been called and requested they turn themselves in.
“You cannot continue this violence toward our people. My wife has also received a call from the OPP that she is to turn herself in,” said Williams on Facebook. “Your constant escalation on unarmed peaceful people who are simply occupying their own lands will not go unanswered.”
Williams has been named personally in the injunction that is set to return to court on October 9. It will be the first time the judge will hear submissions in opposition to the injunctions that have criminalized any visits to the McKenzie Meadows development site or the creation of any blockades in the area.
The Land Back Lane legal fund had raised about $165,000 of its $200,000 goal as of press time. Demonstrators have planned a Day of Solidarity to align with the court case, with groups in other cities planning their own demonstrations in support as well. Court cases for individuals who have been charged are set for various dates after the injunction hearing.
“If you jail enough of us there won’t be anyone left here to stand up,” said Williams in an interview. “We’re expected to put our best foot forward (in court on October 9) but the OPP is making sure that doesn’t happen. If we were on equal footing heading into the injunction hearing I would 100% say we’re ready for it, but when the OPP continue to put pressure on us it certainly distracts. The safety of our people is paramount to us.”
Officer LeClair provided the following details on Wednesday, October 7 after press time.
On the attempted October 5 arrest, he said, “When a uniformed officer attempted to arrest the individual who was in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, the individual resisted and quickly reversed the vehicle causing the open door to strike the officer and the marked police cruiser. The vehicle then struck a parked civilian vehicle. As the driver put the vehicle in drive, they sped past the officers. Due to the imminent threat to safety of the public and police, an officer unholstered their firearm. Once the vehicle fled the area, and the threat to public safety reduced, the firearm was holstered. Fortunately there were no injuries. We have identified the individual and charges are pending.”
On the ensuing barricade, he stated, “On Monday, October 5, 2020 OPP responded to Argyle Street South just north of Sixth Line where it was reported several pedestrians were observed standing in the middle of the roadway causing a safety hazard.
When officers attended the area, demonstrators had thrown rocks causing damage to several cruisers and also civilian vehicles that were in the area.
In the interest of public safety, OPP were able to clear the civilian vehicles that were in the area and closed Argyle Street South between Braemar Avenue and Highway 6.
Demonstrators were then observed dragging debris out onto the roadway.
A short time later while OPP were stationary at Argyle Street and Highway 6 assisting with the safe flow of traffic, rocks were thrown at the police cruisers.
OPP later received further information that the rail tracks were blocked in the area of Sixth Line. CN Police were contacted and notified of the blockade.
An inspection of the rail track and control area revealed the control box was damaged and required repair.”