Young people express their support for Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs while blocking Vancouver intersection

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      Tonight, there are about 200 to 250 people continuing their blockade of traffic the corner of West Broadway and Cambie Street.

      They're ringing all four sidewalks in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters who oppose a natural-gas pipeline being constructed across their unceded traditional territory in northern B.C.

      Adonia Cormier-Sondraal, 17, is among the demonstrators. Some have been there since 2 p.m., peacefully blocking buses and other motor vehicles.

      The Grade 12 student is sitting on the eastern edge of the intersection with two high-school friends and another friend who's in her first year of university.

      "We're standing in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people, helping them protect their land—helping the people who have been here for centuries to continue to fight against the colonialism that is still affecting them," Cormier-Sondraal tells the Straight. "I'm here to show my support and to do whatever I can to make the government see that there are a lot of people opposing their decisions."

      She adds that it angers her that RCMP have arrested Wet'suwet'en people for being on their traditional territory.

      "I know this shouldn't be happening, not in this age when the government is talking about reconciliation and trying to fix things," Cormier-Sondraal says. "It makes me really mad. I know it shouldn't be happening so I won't just stand by."

      She and her friends then all start saying that it's time for settlers to stand up, for immigrants to stand up, and for Indigenous people to stand up.

      "It doesn't matter where you come from," Cormier-Sondraal says. "Queer people stand up. This is an issue affecting every single one of us. It's affecting everyone's children—even the RCMP's children, the police's children."

      Kisikaw Biyisew (standing with fist in the air), a Cree man from Saskatchewan, says his blood boils when he sees RCMP officers arresting Indigenous women on their traditional lands.
      Charlie Smith

      Nearby, a 23-year-old Cree man from Saskatchewan, Kisikaw Biyisew, says he came out tonight to try to keep the peace and make people feel good.

      But he admits that he felt "really pissed off" when he saw images of Wet'suwet'en matriarchs being arrested.

      "I don't want any violence to come out of this," Biyesew says. "But if it needs to be, we will....We are ready to give our lives for this. We are totally ready to spend our entire lives behind bars...so we can get our message heard."

      He points out that Indigenous people have been fighting genocide ever since Christopher Columbus made initial contact with Indigenous people.

      "They tried to wipe us out with smallpox—the first version of chemical warfare," he says.

      Charlie Smith

      Then he mentions how Indigenous people lost their languages after being sent to church-run residential school. "I cannot speak my Native tongue fully because of what happened, because of the churches," Biyisew says. "You can thank the pope for that. You can thank past popes for that."

      And he doesn't have anything nice to say about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom he holds responsible for the RCMP arrests on traditional Wet'suwet'en territory.

      At the same time, he says he's feeling so good being out in the streets on behalf of the Wet'suwet'en people.

      "Let's hear some jokes and do some chants about fuck Trudeau," Biyesew says. "Fuck Trudeau completely. That guy's a fucking goof, man."

      Then he poses for a photo with some of his warrior friends.

      The fire burned well into the night in the middle of one of Vancouver's busiest intersections.
      Charlie Smith

      The intersection at Cambie and West Broadway is buzzing with all sorts of activity. There are two groups of drummers, one female, one male. Various chants are heard, such as "we don't want your dirty pipeline" and "we don't need your constitution."

      In addition, a sacred fire burns in the middle of the intersection. And there are tents, a table with food, protest signs, and an upbeat vibe.

      But there are also reminders of the tragic history of First Nations in North America. Red dresses hang from the structure in the middle of the road—a reference to the multitudes of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

      Red clothing hangs from a structure created in the middle of the Cambie and West Broadway intersection.
      Charlie Smith

      Biyisew points out that in Saskatchewan, a farmer named Gerald Stanley was acquitted after shooting a young Indigenous man, Colten Boushie, in the back of his head when Boushie and his friends were trespassing on his property.

      Yet he says in B.C., Wet'suwet'en people get arrested when others trespass on their property even though they did not employ lethal force.

      "They're not shooting people in the head."

      Charlie Smith
      Charlie Smith
      Charlie Smith
      Charlie Smith

      Update

      Around 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday (February 12), the final group of protesters left the intersection, allowing traffic to resume. Some of them are planning to hold a demonstration outside B.C. Supreme Court at 10 a.m.

      Supporters of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs also ended their demonstration at the B.C. legislature.

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