SMITHERS, B.C. — RCMP say four people have been arrested in northern British Columbia for breaching an injunction related to opposition against a natural gas pipeline in the territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation.
Mounties say in a release that officers read a court-ordered injunction notice to two protesters on Friday afternoon and arresting another pair before attempts were made to transport them to the detachment in Houston.
Police say during a seven-hour period, several people refused to leave an exclusion zone and one climbed a tree while others secured themselves inside a bus and on a tower.
They say officers also noticed support beams on a bridge appeared to have been cut, making the structure unsafe for traffic and pedestrians.
The release says RCMP will be conducting a criminal investigation for traps likely to cause injury or for mischief.
Police say six people were arrested on Thursday and later released without charges or conditions.
Hereditary Chief Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, says one of the two people arrested Friday on the bus lives there and was taken into custody with another person.
He says those arrested were on their own territory, not blocking any construction, which hasn’t progressed in the cold weather since December.
“We were living there before the exclusion zone,” Na’moks says, adding police have asked residents of a cabin to leave. “You can’t abandon your home.”
“If somebody had an RCMP checkpoint at the edge of your driveway and you weren’t allowed to come and go from your home as you wish that would be stressful for anybody,” he says.
“There is no reason to arrest anybody if they’re not in the way, being an obstacle or an impediment.”
Enforcement began earlier this week after the provincial government and hereditary chiefs of the First Nation failed to reach an agreement in talks intended to de-escalate the dispute.
Jen Wickham, a spokeswoman for the Gidimt’en, one of five clans of the Wet’suwet’en, says she had joined others near a road awaiting the arrival of two people who’d been arrested Friday, about 40 kilometres away.
Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer has said the company has support from all 20 elected Indigenous governments along the pipeline path and would move forward with its construction schedule.
Amnesty International says in a statement it was deeply concerned about reports that RCMP officers threatened to arrest journalists for taking photographs and document police activity in the territory.
“These journalists had every right to be there, documenting the events in Wet’suwet’en territory without threat of arrest. In fact, at times of heightened tensions, concerns about human rights violations and the use of police force, the role of the media is essential,” says Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.
RCMP didn’t return requests for an interview on Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2020.
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