Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Idle No More protest draws hundreds of participants

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Hundreds of protesters with the Idle No More movement took to the intersections of Portage and Main Monday afternoon with a rallying cry.

Participants began to gather at the centre of Portage Avenue and Main Street at approximately 3 p.m. for a traditional round dance. Many carried signs and drums, and some wore traditional First Nations dress.

Police blocked off all intersections near the event beginning at around 2:45.

Rhonda Head, one of the organizers of the event, said they chose the famous intersection as they felt it would have a more 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 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 Parisiam, a 19-year-old of Sagkeeng and Peguis First Nations, 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," Parisiam said.

"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."

The 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.

At Thunderbird House, Robert Animikii Horton, an activist and writer from Rainy River First Nations of Manitou Rapids, 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. Rallies have been held across Canada over the last several weeks, including an Idle No More protest blocking part of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg at Hwy. 16, earlier this month.


Participants in the Idle No More protest on December 31, 2012 closed the intersection at Portage Avenue and Main Street before moving on to Thunderbird House.

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Updated on Monday, December 31, 2012 at 4:16 PM CST: updates with duration of protest

6:21 PM: Corrects spelling of "protester"

7:07 PM: adds slideshow

8:12 PM: updates with full writethru

9:26 PM: removes duplicate text

12:00 AM: comments closed

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