Demonstrators and supporters blocking a Hamilton rail junction that is one of the busiest in Canada as well as the Highway 6 bypass in Caledonia suggest they aren’t going anywhere soon.
Hours after the OPP dismantled the rail blockade in Tyendinaga on Monday that has garnered national attention in solidarity with the B.C. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the local demonstrations popped up.
“We’re not leaving as long as it’s possible to be here,” a group on Facebook called “Wet’suwet’en Strong: Hamilton in Solidary” posted Tuesday morning.
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Protesters remained blocking the railway off York Boulevard and on Highway 6 between Argyle Street South and Greens Road Tuesday, forcing GO Transit to cancel morning train service at its stations in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton and West Harbour and instead run shuttle buses between the stations.
At the Hamilton blockade, no one from the camp on the tracks spoke to the media before 7:30 a.m.
However, the group on Facebook posted an update, saying they burned a notice delivered to them by CN Rail.
The protesters are located near Bayview Junction, an intersection of major rail lines on the edge of Hamilton and Burlington often described as one of the busiest in Canada.
CN freight tracks — also used by VIA Rail and GO trains — run through the junction between Toronto and Niagara Falls, passing through Hamilton and by the West Harbour GO station.
Another CN line running through Dundas also intersects the junction, while a separately owned Canadian Pacific Railway line passes overtop the tracks in the area.
Protesters have suggested they are able to stop both CPR and CN freight traffic, along with VIA passenger and GO commuter trains.
The Spectator has reached out to CN Rail and Canadian Pacific Railway for more information. CP would not say Monday if the protest had stopped any of its trains, but vowed to “monitor the situation closely.”
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins confirmed GO trains will not try to travel to or from West Harbour station (which is on the CN line) while protesters remain near the tracks. Ongoing GO expansion work on area infrastructure is also paused.
Aikins said GO expects to post news about plans for afternoon commuter trains that would normally serve the station in the early afternoon.
The group’s Facebook post suggests the blockade is located near York Boulevard on the section of land separating Hamilton and Burlington between Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour.
Along York Boulevard, there is a cut fence leading to a brush-covered hill above where protesters are assembled.
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Around 9 a.m. Tuesday, several more people joined the group of approximately 10 protesters, walking in on the tracks and climbing down the hill.
On Monday night, police were preventing anyone — both media and members of the public — from getting much closer than a half a kilometre from the blockade. What appeared to be two fires could be seen from the location where police are preventing access. Police were also walking along the tracks with flashlights.
Supporter Sonia Hill, a Mohawk woman from Six Nations, was leaving the demonstration with three other supporters voluntarily around 7:30 p.m. Monday.
She would not say how many protesters remained at the site but said “a good amount” remained. More than 15 police officers were also on the tracks, she said.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said of the police presence Monday evening.
Her message to the public is that those gathered are protecting the land and standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en.
“Until RCMP are actually cleared out of Wet’suwet’en land … they’ll continue to stand here in Hamilton,” she said Monday. “I’m coming back tomorrow.”
The Hamilton in Solidarity Facebook group posted a video of a campfire, urging supporters to join them — but warning people to come in groups because “there are police!” The posting suggests people slip through a guardrail fence, possibly using a rope to go down a “steep embankment.”
CP and CN rail police were on the tracks near the blockade, while Hamilton police were securing a perimeter.
In Caledonia, police are asking the public to be patient if impacted by traffic delays.
“We are monitoring and assisting with traffic control,” Const. Rodney LeClair said Monday of the police’s role at the demonstration. “Our primary goal is to preserve the peace and maintain a safe environment for everyone involved.”
As actions against the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory continue, it is useful to understand the difference between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline, and the band council members who have supported it.