By Haldimand Press Staff
CALEDONIA—Roads were shut down in Caledonia and Toronto on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in support of the self-titled land defenders at the McKenzie Meadows housing development on the south side of Caledonia, who are demanding the return of the land to Haudensaunee people.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs in Toronto as part of the demonstration. The group blocked the intersection of Church and Bloor streets and painted or drew in chalk various messages of support, including “Land Back”, “solidarity”, and “defend the sacred”, among others. In Caledonia, a group of people marched from Sixth Line along Douglas Creek Estates on Argyle Street South, blocking the road for just under an hour.
“What an amazing day. We are so incredibly blessed to have the friends that we have. Huge rally in Toronto, a march down Argyle Street in front of Kahnastaton (Douglas Creek Estates),” said Skyler Williams in a Facebook update. Williams has been at McKenzie Meadows, retitled 1492 Land Back Lane by demonstrators, for approximately two months now.
“Having hundreds of people across turtle island taking to the streets is an amazing gift and such good medicine for all of us. We managed to coordinate all of it and made the most amazing time of it all,” continued Williams. “The divisions are what keep us down. Divisions that the government and police depend on. But when we can come together and show up in this way, this is what gives us our power. Working together in the spirit of unity and pride in our people, we can’t lose!”
“New tents and supplies continue to make it through despite all the pressure from the OPP. The arrests have finally slowed. A welcome reprieve from it all,” added Williams, referencing the wave of arrests that took place recently.
Williams asserted September 15 that 27 arrests had been made, but OPP said at that time 21 people have been arrested since August 5. Arrests started with nine demonstrators being removed and charged, clearing the McKenzie Meadows site for a few hours until demonstrators returned. Later arrests have been made off site as far away as London.
“I’m taking notice that the police at the arena are somewhat diminished. Curious as to that decision,” said Williams in an interview. “Police using bail and release conditions to stem the flow of support is certainly a tactic they are using.”
Everyone who has been arrested was released soon after, but with conditions to not return to the site. Demonstrators believe the arrests are meant to deter people from bringing in supplies, such as food and building materials, and from visiting them to learn more. Williams said there are various court dates for groups of people who were arrested, starting on October 20. Meanwhile, the next court hearing on the injunctions, which are the court orders that specifically criminalize demonstrations on McKenzie Meadows and any blockades in the area, is set for October 9.
“We are responding. We’re in the process of that,” said Williams. Their legal team has yet to be revealed but will be in court for the first time at the October 9 hearing. As of press time, over $122,000 had been raised by about 1,700 donors to go towards the 1492 Land Back Lane legal fund.
Williams noted that musicians have been attending the site for “weekly Six Nations Unity Jam Sessions”; their kitchen building has now been insulated and Williams thanked those involved in the project, which is one of many meant to help the group stay during winter: “It’s all coming together.”