Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Idle No More protesters block Portage Avenue near Perimeter Highway

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Idle No More protesters began blocking off a section of Portage Avenue near the Perimeter Highway just after 1 p.m. today.

Between 30 to 40 protesters participated in the blockade at St. Charles Street and Portage Avenue.

Police are rerouting traffic on both sides of the blockade. There are at least eight police cars on scene, with traffic backed up.

Police said at 2 p.m. the following road closures are in effect:

  • Eastbound traffic on Portage Avenue at Racetrack Road will be diverted either north or south onto the Perimeter Highway.
  • Westbound traffic on Portage Avenue will be diverted to northbound Buchanan Boulevard.

 The Winnipeg Police Service asks motorists to avoid the area if possible until the protest is over.

 The protestors are expected to remain at St. Charles Street until 3 p.m. today, according to a Facebook page for the event.

"We will be making a stand and a public statement as urban First Nations people by participating in a non-violent blockade," reads a Facebook page for the event, which has collected more than 150 followers.

The blockade comes after hundreds of protesters with the Idle No More movement took to the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street Monday afternoon.

Participants began to gather at Portage and Main at about 3 p.m. on Monday  for a traditional round dance. Many carried signs and drums and some wore traditional First Nations dress.

Police blocked off all intersections on Monday near the event beginning at around 2:45 p.m.

Rhonda Head, one of the organizers of the event, said they chose Winnipeg's famous intersection as they felt it would have a significant impact.

"What better place to make a big statement than a busy intersection in Winnipeg and get the word out?" she said.

Head had previously organized an Idle No More demonstration in The Pas and said she wanted to help keep the momentum of the Idle No More movement going in Manitoba.

"This movement's not going anywhere. It's going to continue to grow. It's just an amazing time right now," she said.

"I believe we're creating history, because I don't think there's been anything like this before."

Jasmine Parisian, 19, said she wanted to speak out against racism directed at First Nations people.

"For me, it's something that's been going on my whole life. Throughout high school, throughout childhood I've been affected by racism," said Parisian.

"In high school, when we'd get taught about residential schools, I'd get: 'Oh look, there you are on TV, There's your family.' "

Local community activist Louise May said she found it remarkable how social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have mobilized Idle No More demonstrators in massive numbers.

"It sure makes it easier than in the olden days, I can tell you. It's great to be able to get the word out fast and get feedback right away," she said.

"The momentum is huge, because there have been how many other rallies in a short period of time? Some people have been coming out to all of them, so it's obvious that people really want to gather."

Monday's demonstration lasted just under half an hour, after which marchers made their way down Main Street to Thunderbird House for food and a series of speakers.

Near the intersection of Higgins Avenue and Main Street, about 30 marchers refused to end the protest and stood in front of police cars with signs and drums just after 4 p.m.

Police asked the marchers to move off the road but they persisted. Eventually other members of the march negotiated with the protesters to move off the road without incident.

At Thunderbird House, Robert Animikii Horton, an activist and writer from Rainy River First Nation, Ont., spoke to about 30 to 40 attendees about the international attention the Idle No More has generated. He pointed to recent protests in Egypt, London and across the United States held in solidarity with the movement.

"The world is watching Canada right now," he said.

Winnipeg's Idle No More supporters are advocating for First Nations treaty rights and protesting Bill C-45, an omnibus budget bill they say infringes on treaty rights.

Rallies have been held across Canada over the last several weeks, including an Idle No More protest blocking part of the Trans-Canada Highway near Portage la Prairie last month.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2013 A4


Updated on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 9:14 AM CST: replaces photo

1:41 PM: Updated with blockade starting and new headline.

1:58 PM: Updated

2:06 PM: Updated with road closures.

3:16 PM: adds photo, removes old photo

3:48 PM: turned comments off

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