B.C. RCMP make arrests at pipeline protest site following alleged 'swarming incidents'

B.C. RCMP make arrests at pipeline protest site following alleged 'swarming incidents'
B.C. RCMP make arrests at pipeline protest site following alleged 'swarming incidents'

Arabnews24.ca:Wednesday 29 March 2023 07:39 PM: Five people were arrested at a camp on traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in northwestern B.C. on Wednesday.

Sleydo', a spokesperson for the Gidimt'en checkpoint, said Mounties in multiple police vehicles arrived at the checkpoint around 10:30 a.m. PT, though she was not on site when it happened.

"They immediately began arresting people, as far as we know," Sleydo', also known as Molly Wickham, said in an interview with CBC News. 

According to a statement from Yintah Access, five people, most of them Indigenous women, were arrested, including Gidimt'en Chief Woos' daughter.

'Swarming incident' prompted search warrants: Police

Houston RCMP said in a statement they made the arrests following allegations of violence against people building the Coastal GasLink pipeline in the area.

However, there is no indication those arrested are suspected of having anything to do with that particular incident. Instead, they were arrested for refusing to "cooperate with police direction" and obstruction of a peace officer.

Police say they were attempting to carry out a warrant in relation to an incident that happened late Sunday night.

"On March 26, 2023, at 11:40 pm, the Houston RCMP responded to a complaint from Coastal GasLink security that one of their workers had been swarmed by a group of individuals wearing masks and camouflage at the 43 km mark of the Morice West Forest Service Road," the RCMP statement says.

"The group fired flares and gained access to the work vehicle when the worker left the area because of the intimidation."

The police say the group then allegedly poured liquid onto the vehicle and stole a chainsaw.

In response, police say they were granted search warrants for two locations on the Morice Forest Service Road, both of which were executed Wednesday morning — one at the Lamprey provincial campground site and another at the 44.5-kilometre point.

A photo of the search warrant provided by Yintah Access states that police said there were reasonable grounds to believe the commission of theft under $5,000.

Police confirmed that five people were arrested at the Lamprey provincial campground site for obstruction of a peace officer; police say four people refused to co-operate with police direction, and one attempted to prevent members from executing the warrant.

RCMP say the investigation is ongoing.

RCMP helicopter footage of a 2019 raid on Wet'suwet'en barricades. (CBC News)

RCMP under scrutiny

The arrests come as RCMP in the region are being scrutinized for past actions.

Last month, the RCMP's federal watchdog agency launched an investigation into the Community-Industry Response Group, a special unit policing protests against resource extraction in B.C.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC), which receives and oversees public grievances against the Mounties, said it would be examining whether the unit's operations are consistent with the Charter, legislation on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as well as the findings of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

In the statement addressing Wednesday's arrests, RCMP said they are supportive of peaceful protests but "criminal acts by persons under the guise of protesting, particularly the violence exhibited by the suspects in this instance, will not be tolerated."

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