At approximately 7am on Wednesday morning police entered a protest camp dubbed "Swamp Line 9" and rapidly began making arrests. Protesters had occupied the site since Thursday, June 20, in order to block construction at an Enbridge Facility in Hamilton that will be crucial in a plan by the company to pump oil from Sarnia to Montreal.
The initial arrests took place at the front gate of the camp where the bulk of the protesters were gathered. Approximately 300m away, a smaller group of activists had locked themselves to a barricade that they had constructed immediately outside the construction site. However at the time of the police raid it was impossible to see what was happening at this barricade from outside of Enbridge's property.
At 7:20 am, shortly after the front gate was cleared, a convoy of vehicles drove in the direction of the barricade. The convoy was made up of police vehicles, (including one or two vans that had already been loaded up with arrested activists), a backhoe, several work trucks, a portable crane and other machinery.
At 7:23 several activists who had not been arrested were allowed to leave by car.
As a freelance journalist reporting for the Media Co-op, I had already made my way to a nearby baseball diamond where I could see the front gate of the site. At 7:50 I was approached by two police officers who asked me to join other journalists who were cordoned off in a more out-of-the-way location. Theses journalists had almost no information on what was going on at the site and I was interviewed by both CBC and CHCH.
I have since received unconfirmed reports that many of the protesters received trespass tickets. (Ed: confirmed reports that protesters have been released with trespass tickets, 6 people are still being held in custody. Police liasons not on the property itself were also arrested. Alex Hundert tweeted that "All 5 yet to be released will be getting non association charges with the other 15 arrestees")
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I had arrived at the site by bicycle the previous evening, and was invited to spend the night at the protest camp. At the time a few dozen people were sitting around the front gate. Most were leisurely enjoying the beautiful evening. Others, on security detail, were talking on walkie-talkies and monitoring the space. The entire group had a meeting.
Many supporters stopped by the gate to bring food and supplies, although it became clear to me that the immediate neighbours from the town of Westover did not support the protest camp.
I spent the first few hours of the night sitting in a lawn chair talking with members of the camp. I had agreed that I would only interview and quote designated media relations officers, however neither of them were available for interviews at the time.
At 11:20 the protestors were severed with an injunction that ordered them to vacate the sight. It was actually the second injunction they had received that day. The previous injunction had included the wrong address, and authorities were forced to re-serve the injunction to the protestors.
Around midnight I was escorted to the rear of the camp to meet the activists decided to lock themselves to the barricade. I asked one of these activist, Trish Mills, why she had decided to take this sort of action?
"I think the question should be why aren't more people taking a stand," rebutted Mills. "This is going to end in my arrest, and I am okay with that. I am not going to unlock. But this is not the last action. The organizing will continue"
She rejected the injunction, noting that a part of the reason for protesting tar sand and pipelines is to be in solidarity with Indigenous groups.
"If we recognize that we are on stolen land, then why are we letting a court, that is than illegitimate, order us off this land?"
Another activist (who chose not to be identified) took me on a tour of the Enbridge facility. We circled the facility on the outside of the chain link fence that enclosed the pump station and construction site. Some signs adorned the fence warning of a "sealed radioactive source", and "explosive gas inside".
He pointed out to me several excavation pits inside the fence. In some old rusted pieces of pipe were visible. In others new white pipes had already been installed, and green pipes that were awaiting a treatment that would turn them into white pipes that would be ready to be put underground.
At the only entry inside the chain link fence was where the barricade had been built. It made up of wooden spindles, pallets, barbed wire, and other debris from the site. A shelter inside the barricade had been created to house the activist.
At 2am I was back at the front gate. As I settled into a tent to sleep, a dozen people were still awake.
I would be woken the next morning to receive a warning that police were on their way. Just moments later I looked up to see officers handcuffing people. I was asked by a police officer if I was willing to leave and I moved to a baseball diamond across the road. (Ed: It has been confirmed that not everyone at camp was given this choice to leave) And although I could see from a distance that several people were being arrested, and that convoy of police cars and machinery had entered the site, I could only speculate as to what was going on.
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Tim Groves is an investigative researcher and journalist based in Toronto. He can be reached at timgrovesreports [at] gmail.com and tweets@timymit. For more information on his work, visit http://timgrovesreports.wordpress.com.