Ta’Kaiya Blaney (front row, left to right), Tsartlip First Nation Chief and Union of BC Indian Chiefs vice-president Don Tom, Shay Lynn Sampson and Kolin Sutherland-Wilson spoke about the arrests of the young Indigenous land defenders on Jan. 21 while other supporters looked on. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

UPDATED: Indigenous protesters arrested during sit-in at Ministry office file police complaint

A dozen Wet’suwet’en supporters were arrested in Victoria

The 12 Indigenous protesters arrested for holding a sit-in in support of the Wet’suwet’en in Victoria last week have filed complaints against Victoria police.

The young land defenders blocked the entrance to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on Blanshard Street for about 18 hours, starting at 11 a.m. on Jan. 21. The group was asking that the demands of the hereditary chiefs regarding stopping work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline be upheld, observed and respected.

On Wednesday, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said that several people in attendance were injured, despite Victoria police claims that no one was hurt.

READ MORE: Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Those arrested sent a formal complaint to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and held a press conference at the student union building on the University of Victoria (UVic) campus on Wednesday morning.

Shay Lynn Sampson, a Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en UVic student who attended the sit-in, said the fallout has been “intense” and has taken a toll on her community. She noted the protest was peaceful and focused on prayer and solidarity with Wet’suwet’en.

“When police arrived, that’s when violence ensued,” Sampson said.

READ MORE: 12 Wet’suwet’en supporters arrested by VicPD

Tsartlip First Nation Chief and Union of BC Indian Chiefs vice-president Don Tom also spoke at the conference, noting that he was proud to stand with the young Indigenous protesters and rebuke the VicPD statements about what took place.

“If we look at the recent history of RCMP not allowing hereditary chiefs past the checkpoint and we have the VicPD here in Victoria giving misinformation regarding the arrests and the treatment of the youth who were peacefully defending Wet’suwet’en rights, it’s very concerning,” Tom said. “They have to be held accountable.”

Ta’Kaiya Blaney, an 18-year-old Tla’amin land defender, was the last to be arrested at the sit-in. At the Jan. 29 press conference, she emphasized that she feels police “went beyond their duty” and treated the Wet’suwet’en supporters at the Ministry office with “hatred and racism.”

“It was heartbreaking to hold ceremony, to sing, to pray with these Indigenous youth and see the way that they were treated by police that night,” Blaney said.

VIDEO: Wet’suwet’en activists say Victoria arrests a ‘perpetuation of violence’

Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, a Gitxsan UVic student arrested during the sit-in, pointed out that this defence of the land is an ongoing effort to protect the it from destruction for future generations.

A legal observer, Alexia Manchon, attended the sit-in and monitored interactions between the protesters and police. Manchon, an Indigenous Law student at UVic, said the protesters occupying the ministry office experienced violence despite explained to the some 30 armed officers on site that “they had no weapons on them and would not be using violence at any point.”

Manchon is also filing a complaint about the police action she witnessed on Jan. 21.

Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Andrea Spindler confirmed that the OPCC has received “several” complaints regarding police conduct during the Jan. 21 sit-in. She could not confirm how many had already been filed but noted that each complaint will be reviewed and investigated by the independent civilian organization.

Black Press Media has reached out to VicPD for comment.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Coastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City gives no response to homelessness concerns

City demands shelter close, but no response to pleas from shelter to open Jim Ciccone Civic Centre

Landlords are panicked

Risk is real for April rent and greater challenges are foreshadowed for May

Parade of welcome and love in Prince Rupert

Friends welcome new baby in drive by visit

Wage Subsidy up to 75 per cent announced

Businesses who have had a 30 per cent decrease can apply

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

World COVID-19 update: Six million U.S. jobless claims; Russia sends medical aid to U.S.

Comprehensive update with COVID-19 news from around the world

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Most Read