Indigenous Protests Lead To Violent Arrests In Vancouver

An internal review is being promised by the Vancouver Police Department following the release of a video that captured the violent arrests of four Indigenous people by the police at the downtown headquarters of the Bank of Montreal on February 19th.

This review will, however, not be truly independent as it will be conducted by internal sources and monitored by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which is led by a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

These arrests occurred on the third day of a protest against the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, a protest led by a group called the Braided Warriors which consists of mainly Indigenous youths. These protests were one of many as earlier that month. Similar protests were held at the downtown offices of other insurers in the Trans Mountain Pipeline projects, offices which included the Liberty Mutual Group and Chubb Insurance Co. of Canada. Protesters hung red dresses as a symbol for the numerous missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as banners that read “Indigenous Youth Say No Consent,” as they stood in the main entrance doors singing, drumming, and performing ceremonies within the building.

“Approximately 70 VPD officers, many of whom were not wearing masks, all came in at once,” the Braided Warriors said in a statement. “We were given no warning or any time prior to being violently assaulted and removed from the property.” According to the police department, while the department claims to respect the right to peaceful protest―as shown by their presence at previous protests earlier that week in which no arrests were made―in this particular instance, the protest had become unpeaceful, and that numerous occupants within the building had expressed concern for their safety.

The video which has received immense attention on social media displays numerous members of the Vancouver Police Department pushing protesters and handling them in a violent manner. One police officer is even seen pulling an individual by their hair. One of the arrested Indigenous youth stated that he was slammed to the ground and then dragged across the floor, which was covered in broken glass, before being slammed into the wall of the police van, leading to a concussion.

In the wake of this aggressive display of violence by the police force, a protest was held on March 3rd by a group of Indigenous youth from the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories called the Braided Warriors in support of Indigenous elder Stacy Gallagher who was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to a 90-day jail sentence on March 2nd. Gallagher was arrested while protesting the Trans Mountain Pipeline and violating an injunction that prevented people from protesting in sites in Burnaby, which is the end destination for the Trans Mountain Pipeline system. Indigenous youth came out in droves, temporarily shutting down one of the major intersections within the city. The protest eventually ended peacefully on March 5 following the arrest of four of the demonstrators, all of which were adults.

There is a long history within Canada of denying Indigenous peoples their right to self-determination and sovereignty, particularly in cases of land rights, natural resources, and development. From the moment colonization began within Canada, the system has consistently worked against Indigenous peoples in an attempt to undermine their self-determination and sovereignty through denial of land rights, upholding European constructs and unbearably long delays in the implementation of Indigenous rights. Despite all this, Indigenous communities refuse to let themselves be suppressed and silenced by the current establishment.

Peace Olanipekun
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