OPP Clash with Tyendinaga Mohawks

Posted by admin on Apr 26th, 2008

 OPP clash with Mohawk protesters; Police make several arrests near disputed quarry north of Deseronto

Several Mohawk protesters were arrested here yesterday following a wild skirmish that ended in a tense, armed standoff. Dozens of heavily armed Ontario Provincial Police officers clashed with Mohawk protesters just north of the Thurlow Aggregates quarry, which Mohawks have been occupying for more than one year. The standoff began peacefully with officers and Mohawks talking quietly after the arrest earlier in the afternoon of Mohawk protest leader Shawn Brant on charges unrelated to yesterday’s melee.

But the scene erupted in violence about one hour after the encounter began, with police wrestling with protesters who began swinging punches at the officers. Several arrests were made before police radios crackled a message that an armed individual inside the quarry was spotted taking aim at police and police jumped for cover behind cruisers, drawing automatic weapons and sidearms. No shots were fired, however, and protesters who had been arrested and handcuffed were taken away to waiting vehicles.

The wild turn of events began shortly after a protest spokesman agreed to answer questions for reporters.

Mohawk spokesperson Jerome Barnhart said the standoff unfolded after Brant was pulled over by OPP on Deseronto Road earlier in the afternoon. The routine traffic stop, Barnhart said, resulted in “a couple of charges. One was with a weapon – a spear – which is just blasphemous as this is our [fish] harvesting season here.

“We feed our families for the year at this time and to confiscate that as a weapon is outrageous,” he said. “If Mr. [Julian] Fantino, [OPP commissioner], wants to go about it this way. … Well, we have a lot of reinforcements coming. Bring it on.”

Barnhart said the OPP were only trying to “put the screws” to the Mohawks to prevent those reinforcements from arriving.

Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte band council convened an emergency meeting yesterday evening to discuss the turn of events, but Barnhart dismissed the authority of the band.

“This is Mohawk business. It has nothing to do with Mohawk band council. It’s the Mohawk people and the nation,” he said. “This is Mohawk nation business and we mean business.”

As Barnhart was meeting with reporters, OPP Staff Sgt. Steve Flynn informed the Mohawks that if they remained on Deseronto Road, they would be arrested. He advised them to return to the quarry or be charged and taken into custody.

“If you stay here, you’ll be arrested. If you go back to the quarry, you’ll have sanctuary,” Flynn said.


Flynn’s comments saw many Mohawks making their way slowly toward the quarry, though some remained behind and hollered at the approximately 20 officers gathered at the intersection of Deseronto Road and Bridge Street.

“I can’t guarantee your officers safety if they come on Mohawk land,” bellowed Dan Doreen, who led the blockade earlier this week on the outskirts of Deseronto.

As one woman walked past the officers, north to where her vehicle had been left parked, she looked toward police and said, “Get your guns ready.”

Moments later, officers wrestled a number of protesters to the ground amid shouts of “stop resisting.” In a cacophony of shouts, jeers and orders, protesters told their family members to leave the scene, OPP officers shouted directions and protesters argued as they were handcuffed.

Just as quickly as the violence erupted, Mohawks who had remained at the quarry responded. An all-terrain vehicle carrying two individuals raced toward the scene and, seconds later, word spread among the officers that someone had a gun.

After the radio message warning of a gun, officers with sub-machine guns took aim at protesters both to the south and to the north where a motorhome was parked at the intersection of Deseronto Road and Lower Slash Road. Officers said they believed there was an individual with a gun inside the battered RV.

By nightfall, a tense calm had descended on the scene as police widened a secure perimeter back some 500 metres from the quarry.

Article ID# 1003443

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