Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New demonstration shuts part of Portage Avenue

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THE local momentum of the Idle No More movement continued Wednesday afternoon as protesters blocked a portion of Portage Avenue for close to three hours.

Thirty to 40 demonstrators formed a blockade at the intersection of Portage Avenue and St. Charles Street, causing traffic delays for most of the afternoon.

Supporters of the Idle No More movement are protesting against Bill C-45, the federal omnibus budget bill they argue infringes upon indigenous treaty rights.

Protesters against Bill C-45 have argued it may change the way reserve lands are managed, as well as weaken environmental protection and reviews for lakes and rivers.

Hoisting a Mohawk flag, Deborah Smith said she attended the demonstration at Portage and Main on Monday afternoon and wanted to continue to support the local Idle No More movement.

"I'm attracted to this movement because it's a grassroots movement. There are a lot of young people involved," she said.

"We are here to make a statement about protecting our Earth and making sure that our children and our grandchildren have an environment to inherit, a healthy, clean environment."

Police diverted traffic on Portage Avenue from Racetrack Road to Buchanan Boulevard during the demonstration.

Nathan Felix, another protester, said he was somewhat annoyed with the distance police created between protesters and motorists but didn't think it would detract from the impact of the demonstration.

"I think they did that on purpose, to be honest, or to bypass traffic in a way. Still, even if they blocked it off three or four blocks back, people can still see what is happening," he said.

Felix said he thought the blockade was an effective way of raising awareness about the impact of Bill C-45.

"It's not just a First Nations issue, it's a Canadian issue. Other people will want to know why this is happening and why they had to go out of their way and bypass traffic," he said.

Some drivers were visibly frustrated, honking horns and yelling at police as they were redirected.

Clayton Belton said the blockade put a kink in his plans to visit family outside the city.

"This made us rethink the plan because my wife's pregnant and we were thinking of not doing it anyways because she's pregnant, but we thought, God forbid if she goes into labour and we can't even get somewhere because of this," he said.

"I've got mixed feelings about it. I know they definitely have some points, and some things that they should be getting. This just isn't the way to do it."

Caroline Bercier said she felt creating some inconvenience for people was necessary to spread the message of the Idle No More movement.

"When you're not being heard, what is another way to get heard than to give a little annoyance and maybe people will start listening? It's not being violent, that's just how you get heard," she said.

The blockade appeared to have been spawned from a Facebook event page, and lasted from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The blockade was held just days after a flash mob demonstration at Portage and Main on Dec. 31.

That demonstration gained almost 400 participants, and involved several volunteers who led the group as street marshals and crowd wranglers.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2013 A3

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