The RCMP says it expected to face a higher threat when officers moved in last week to clear barricades blocking the construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia.
Social media “rhetoric” from supporters of Wet’suwet’s hereditary chiefs – who say the Coastal GasLink (CGL) project does not have their consent to cross the territory – led planners to believe they would face tougher opposition, the RCMP said in a statement to CBC News.
“Our threat assessment … had been reinforced by publicly available rhetoric on social media by the protesters calling for ‘war’, which was a change from previous protests in the area,” the statement said.
It was the third such police operation in as many years. Tactical teams, helicopters and dog units met on the Forest Service Road – which originates from Houston, BC, about 1,000 miles north of Vancouver – in a two-day operation that resulted in about 30 arrests.
The statement was released in the wake of footage released by independent filmmaker Michael Toledano, which shows officers breaking into a cabin with an ax and chainsaw while others pointed assault rifles and a police dog barked outside. Toledano is making a documentary for CBC’s The passionate eye.
SE | Footage of the RCMP implementation:
The operation, like the two previous ones, met some physical resistance from the two groups of the Wet’suwet, the Haudenosaunee, and non-indigenous people.
Wet’suwet member Sleydo’s Molly Wickham, who has been a main spokesman for the land resistance, was in that hut, saying the moment left her traumatized.
“This was a huge invasion … it was pretty intense and really scary to have machine guns on you,” Wickham said.
“They were very violent in the way they arrested us without a warrant. They had no right to come in and remove me from my territory as violently as they did.”
The prominent grassroots leader of Haudenosaunee, Skyler Williams, said there was “a lot of arm swings, it was a bit of a blur when we hit the ground, our heads … were pushed into the ice.”
He said officers called him by name and charged him with arrest first.
The RCMP enforced an order preventing the blocking of any work on CGL owned by TC Energy.
The RCMP said the composition of its team remained largely the same during last week’s operation, involving tactical units with “standard-issued firearms” and dogs.
The area’s remote location, surrounded by heavy forests, and the “unpredictable nature of what we could face,” affected the equipment and the number of officers used, the statement said.
In court in underwear
Wickham, who was released Tuesday night, says she was kept in solitary confinement in Prince George for two days and that she and others went without brushing teeth and soap for most of their stay in holding cells.
She says they also sometimes went without food or water – some of the taps had broken – for 12-hour periods.
“Urban cells are not places where people should be for long periods of time,” Wickham said.
Williams and Layla Staats, another documentary filmmaker from Six Nations near Hamilton, say their ankles and wrists were chained and placed in separate, box-like compartments at the back of SUVs for transportation to their Smithers trial. , BC, on Friday.
Staats described them as “metal dog cages.”
Both said they were not allowed to put on their clothes and were instead forced to enter the courtroom in their underwear.
“It was a very disgusting feeling to be paraded around in such a way,” Williams said.
The RCMP flatly rejected allegations of ill-treatment, saying all were transported under normal conditions of transportation for prisoners.
“The allegations about how individuals were treated in a manner similar to canines are ridiculous,” the statement said.
“No one was placed in leg braces during this operation … All the detainees were given the opportunity to choose which single layer they wanted to wear while in custody. Individuals chose to wear their base layer or long underpants instead of their outerwear.”