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Media arrest by RCMP, defender of Wet’suwet’en territory

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On the morning before dawn Friday, Nov. 19, Sleydo Molly Wickham, a wing chief at the Cas Yikh house of the Gidimten clan, checks communications at a small house located near a GasLink coastal drilling site along the Wedzin Kwa (Morice) River.

Although light has not yet penetrated the small wooden structure, Wickham is already conducting media interviews. Her supporters in the one-room structure begin to sit as they hear Wickham tell a reporter that “several RCMP buses have been seen climbing the hill”.

By afternoon, an RCMP tactical team and officers specially trained with the Community-Industry Response Team are advancing on the small structure, with snipers and dog units on standby. Shaylynn Sampson, a Gitxsan supporter, has her ear to the door, listening when the action comes. She pulls back a few moments before an ax breaks the door, sending jagged pieces of wood flying into the crowded space. A police dog barks and groans incessantly and a chainsaw screams as the RCMP continues to knock down the door.

Inside, five peaceful land defenders await their imminent arrest. They do not resist. They do not carry weapons. An officer, armed with an assault rifle and wearing military-style clothing, pushes the barrel of his weapon through the broken door.

Lower your weapon! Wickham shouts. This is Wetsuweten sovereign land, you guys should leave right away. You have no authority here. Wickham asked the RCMP if they had an order to enter the apartment. The RCMP responded that they were entering under the authority ofand Offshore GasLink DIRECTION, secured against opponents of the 670-kilometer pipeline in December 2019.

The use of force by the RCMP on this day will be done criticized round as excessive as a response to a small group of peaceful indigenous pipeline opponents. More than 40 media and press freedom organizations have call Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, to investigate the arrest of journalists by the RCMP and prevent them from happening in the future.

In all, 15 people, including me and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano, were arrested that day and jailed by the RCMP for several nights under civilian contempt of court charges. More than 30 people were arrested throughout the week. Wet’suwet’en inheritance chiefs, who have resolutely opposed the construction of pipelines across their pristine territory in the north of BC, issued an eviction order against the company on January 4, 2020, but work on the pipeline is ongoing.

Following the media arrests, RCMP officers confiscated the recording equipment, so the public could not see the documentary photos and footage of Friday ‘s arrest until recently.

Gitxsan Wilpspoocxw supporter Lax Gibuu (Shaylynne Sampson), left and Sleydo ‘Molly Wickham rest in the small house at Coyote Camp in Gidimt’en Territory near Houston, BC, on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
The fireworks start from the heat of the fire on a barricade built on the road outside Camp Coyote on Thursday.
A barricade-built structure burned down Thursday, apparently to prevent police from entering as the sun was setting.
The small home residence in Coyote Camp where RCMP officers arrested seven individuals, including two journalists, on Friday, November 19th.
A Gidimt’en flag flutters in the camp kitchen as the sun rises on Friday.
Wickham gets up at dawn to check communications and get a media interview.
The media and supporters stand up for the day in the little house. Documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano, on the left, was arrested by the RCMP, despite notifying officers that he was a member of the media.
Wickham and Sampson start planning for the day at Camp Coyote.
Militarized police entered Camp Coyote on Friday, November 19, 2021. The Gidimt’en clan held Camp Coyote, adjacent to the Coastal GasLink pipeline and a training site, since September 25, 2021. Coastal GasLink has had an order since December 2019, preventing pipeline opponents from blocking access to their construction sites and public forest roads.
Wickham covers her face with a red hand stamp, to signify indigenous women and girls missing and murdered while waiting for police.
Militarized police run to cut off power, radio and internet supplies to the small house before breaking down the door and making arrests.
Wickham and Sampson look to monitor police activity prior to their arrest.
Sampson stands at the door just moments before police break him with an ax and a chainsaw.
Part of the door flies in the air as police break into the small house and arrest everyone inside.
Supporters hold hands up as officers enter the house.
An RCMP officer drags a woman into a small one-room hut in Gidimt'en territory
RCMP officers bend over an individual lying on the ground as they make arrests in a small one-room wooden structure in Gidimt'en territory
RCMP officers make arrests at Coyote Camp
A crowd of officers, including militarized police, wait in the yard outside the small apartment of the house as supporters and the media are arrested.

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