More than one hundred protesters gathered at the train tracks outside of Kingston’s VIA Rail station on Sunday to protest the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline that is set to run through Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C.
The protest was one of many over the weekend that have forced train cancellations across Canada. The Kingston demonstration drew a crowd of all ages, who chanted their support for the Wet’suwet’en people from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
“There was a call-out in terms of solidarity action to more or less interrupt or disrupt business as usual,” said Natasha Stirrett, a Queen’s PhD candidate. “There [are] important things to pay attention to in terms of […] Indigenous sovereignty, but also the fact that we need to think about what’s happening in terms of this global climate change issue.”
The protest was executed with the help of the AKA Autonomous Social Centre. Members from the Centre passed around materials, including a list of “spicy chants” and a guide of what to bring and do if arrested at a protest. They emphasized that protesters shouldn’t provoke police.
The Kingston protest was promoted through a Facebook group called “All out for Wet’suet’en.” The protest began in McBurney Park before buses arrived to transport protesters to the train tracks in front of the VIA Rail station.
Before the demonstration could move to the tracks, however, one counter-protester set up a speaker in the park, who said Indigenous people wanted the pipeline because it would bring jobs to their communities.
Protesters against the pipeline were quick to drown her out and chanted, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! This pipeline has got to go!”
“Queen’s talks a lot about Truth and Reconciliation, it talks about moving forward with Indigenous people, and this is what that looks like,” Sam Connolly, ArtSci ’20, a student who joined the protest, told The Journal in an interview.
The current protests against the pipeline have spread from province to province. Montréal protesters have disrupted commuter train services, Indigenous youth have camped out on the steps of the B.C. legislature in Victoria, and demonstrations on rail lines in Ontario have caused the cancellation of VIA Rail service between Montreal and Toronto since Feb. 6.
“[Reconciliation] looks like standing up for Indigenous justice, it looks like standing in solidarity with Indigenous people, it looks like them having agency over their lands, it looks like them having autonomy over their ways of life, and that can’t be accomplished if we’re going in with militarized police into their territories,” Connolly said.
On Feb. 6 the RCMP began to enforce the B.C. Supreme Court’s injunction order, which prohibits ongoing physical obstructions along a forest road in the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory, which were implemented to stop workers from constructing a natural gas pipeline. Since then, 21 arrests have been made near Houston, B.C., 11 of which were made at a contentious access control checkpoint.
Despite the frustration felt by protesters, there was still a strong sense of comradery at the demonstration. Adults brought their children, who played in the snow by the train tracks, snacks were passed among protesters, and volunteers brought extra handwarmers to share with the people standing with them.
Also present at the demonstration were a number of international students who said they felt connected with Indigenous peoples and their plight against colonialism.
“Contemporary India is also a settler colonial state, [and] as a mainland Indian, I feel complicit in the occupation of Kashmir as well,” said an anonymous Queen’s student. “So wherever there is a resistance against settler colonial occupation, I feel that it is important to raise voices even if you are not directly affected by it.”
Protests are scheduled to continue across Canada into the week of Feb. 10 to 15.
The story headline has been updated to reflect a more accurate number of protesters at the train tracks.
The Journal regrets the error
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