Gitxsan land defender Kolin Sutherland-Wilson to the RCMP: “We are still here, and you are still coming at us with guns!”
In the early hours of Friday November 19, Gitxsan land defenders set up a railway blockade in the town of New Hazelton (situated about 130 kilometres north of Houston) in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en under siege by heavily armed RCMP forces.
On Saturday November 20, Gitxsan land defender Kolin Sutherland-Wilson told journalist Brandi Morin: “We are here in solidarity with our Wet’suwet’en allies with whom we have a mutual defence pact going back millennia.”
Kolin further noted: “As a result of their incursions onto Wet’suwet’en territory, their invasion of a sovereign nation using the militarized RCMP, we have set up a railroad blockade here in New Hazelton.”
Significantly, he also highlighted: “As a result of that railroad blockade, Coastal GasLink personnel and equipment brought out RCMP units … to New Hazelton where they displayed assault rifles, tactical units, a swarm of RCMP officers, helicopters.”
CGL buses bringing RCMP officers to New Hazelton deepens concerns about the extent of operational collaboration between the company and police.
As noted in this article, the same make of white school buses photographed transporting police from the Smithers airport on November 17 were seen emerging from the Coastal GasLink man-camp on the Morice River Forest Service Road on Sunday November 21.
We will continue to ask questions about this.
That same day, Sunday November 21, RCMP officers violently tackled and arrested Kolin’s brother Denzel near the railroad tracks.
As the police piled on him, Denzel shouted: “I can’t breathe!”
In this interview with Brandi Morin, Gitxsan citizen Deto’ootxw says: “They proceeded to get quite violent, very quickly. One police officer actually grabbed him by the cuff of the back of his neck and twisted it and he started choking him while the other one jumped on him and put his knee into the back of his neck.”
I visited the site on Monday November 22 and met with Kolin.
He himself was arrested on October 27 on Wet’suwet’en territory along with Chief Dsta’hyl of the Likhts’amisyu.
His moving words, spoken while still in handcuffs, can be seen here.
You can also hear Kolin telling RCMP officers on the bridge over the rail tracks: “What you are doing to the Wet’suwet’en is unacceptable. Those are our family. That is the land we survived your genocide to protect. We are still here, and you are still coming at us with guns and that’s absolutely disgusting.”
When I asked Kolin what he thought of the green-garbed, heavily armed RCMP Emergency Response Team in New Hazelton, he replied: “It’s terrorism.”
He added: “It’s meant to frighten us, but we are still here.”
PBI-Canada affirms that defending rights is not a crime. We share the call that the criminalization of Indigenous land defenders must stop.
While the railroad blockade has now been lifted, the Gitxsan have maintained a presence on the highway bridge that goes over the tracks.