Demonstrators have abandoned a blockade along the Canadian National rail tracks west of Winnipeg, roughly an hour after saying they would defy court orders and remain at the site until their demands were met.
Vin Clarke, one of the organizers, said they were served an injunction Wednesday night and told arrests were impending. They subsequently decided to dismantle the blockade Thursday and regroup.
"The warriors made a call out for support in the way of bodies on the ground so that the blockade could gain a momentum, and this ideology has not changed. In the coming days, there will be an announcement made regarding the next steps to be taken and there will be a great need for physical support," Clarke stated on social media.
Messages left Thursday afternoon were not returned by deadline.
Earlier, when the Free Press spoke to Clarke around 11:30 a.m., the blockade organizer was defiant, saying protesters weren’t worried about Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s announcement the province planned to seek a court injunction to put an end to the demonstration.
(Pallister said Thursday the province did not move ahead on the issue as CN had already filed one, which was approved.)
"They want us to play their games, but they’re going to have to play ours. No, we are not concerned about (the injunction) at all. What we are concerned about is the treatment of our women and our elders in our territory and the invasion of the RCMP," Clarke said.
"That is what we should be concerned about. Everything else doesn’t matter."
Roughly an hour later, when a Free Press photographer arrived at the site, the demonstrators were gone.
Clarke said the group had to go to Winnipeg for an "emergency," but members would return. He did not provide further information.
By 1 p.m., the only people at the scene were journalists from various media outlets.
As temperatures dipped to -29 C, a group of 10 protesters had erected the rail blockade Wednesday morning in the ghost town of Diamond, roughly 25 kilometres outside Winnipeg, on the CN rail line running along Wilkes Avenue, west of Provincial Road 334.
The action was taken in response to the RCMP enforcement of a court-ordered injunction in northern B.C. last week, and the subsequent arrest of community leaders from Wet’suwet’en Nation.
A spokesman for CN Rail confirmed Wednesday train movements on the line had halted, due to the Manitoba blockade.
In response, Pallister said blockades are difficult for police to deal with, but said Manitoba doesn’t have "two-tier law."
"We’re never going to restrict free protest, but when it gets over the line into illegal activity, that’s when an injunction is necessary," the premier said Wednesday.
Before the blockade was abandoned, Clarke said there were roughly seven people on site, and their spirits were high.
"The Great Spirit looks after us when we do these things. We’re hungry and we’re tired and we’re cold, but that’s not important. What’s important is what we’re doing for our people," Clarke said.
"Our people need to see us stand up and do this. They need to see us use our voice. It’s just sad that it had to come to this point, that this is what it takes."
He also criticized comments this week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on how Canada was a nation of laws. It was hypocritical, Clarke said, because the government and police had not respected traditional Wet’suwet’en law.
"It’s convenient to ignore those laws when it doesn’t suit their agenda. That’s hypocrisy. They’re not going to respect the rule of law, so we’re not going to respect the rule of law," Clarke said.
"Their laws aren’t our laws. We follow natural law, not laws made by our oppressors."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Friday, February 14, 2020 at 4:32 PM CST: Updates to final