Police arrest Tynedinaga blockaders; Ontario bridge reopens

Posted by admin on Jun 12th, 2009

By Jorge Barrera, Canwest News Service June 12, 2009

The Skyway Bridge near Deseronto, Ont. reopened late Friday afternoon after a morning of “hand-to-hand” clashes between about 40 Ontario Provincial Police officers and protesters who had blocked the bridge, about 200 km east of Toronto. “These are some of the ripple effects we are feeling as a result of the federal government’s lack of action in entering into proper and adequate dialogue with the Mohawks of Akwesasne,” said Aboriginal Affairs Minister Brad Duguid, who added the province had urged the federal government to “enter into meaningful dialogue” to resolve the dispute.

The Canada-U.S. border crossing on the Akwesasne reserve, which straddles the Ontario-Quebec-New York State border about 100 kilometres west of Montreal, has been shut since May 31. The federal border agency shut the crossing after Akwesasne leaders said they would not allow armed guards at the border post on June 1.

“The way they are going about implementing their decision (to arm border guards) is having an impact on other communities in the province and we believe it’s an impact that is unnecessary,” added Duguid.

Near the Skyway Bridge early Friday morning police arrested about 13 people for blocking the span linking the Tyendinaga Mohawk reserve with communities in Prince Edward County.

With a police helicopter hovered overhead and an OPP boat patrolled the waters of the Bay of Quinte, a separate group of Mohawk protesters then retook the bridge and the standoff continued until about 5 p.m. when they left.

Among those arrested Friday morning was Shawn Brant, a well-known native activist behind several blockades in the area, according to police and protesters, and an Akwesasne man.

Two protesters were injured, one with a hurt shoulder and the other with a cut to their head, said the OPP. Three Tyendinaga Mohawk Police officers were also injured.

A Tyendinaga woman who was on the bridge after the morning arrests said a 66-year-old man suffering from cancer had been “sucker-punched.”

“They stormed the bridge and beat our people and there is blood on the road,” said Rhonda, who did not want to give her full name. “We are devastated, we are saddened. They have shed the blood of our people on the road.”

Deseronto Mayor Norman Clark said this was the third straight year the town had been hit by blockades and patience was wearing thin.

“I have seen more tension and fury from people in town than I have in a long time,” he said.

The bridge blockade had disrupted the lives of local businesses and residents who use the link to get to work and visit friends, he said.

Concerns over looming clashes between protesters and people from Tyendinaga or surrounding non-native communities over the bridge closure forced police to act, according to the OPP

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