The Indigenous land defenders regrouped outside of Serious Coffee after being released by VicPD on Jan. 22. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Wet’suwet’en supporter ‘heartbroken and terrified’ during arrest at Victoria sit-in

Gina Mowatt was one of 13 arrested for occupying a ministry office

Gina Mowatt says she was “terrified” when police told her to leave an 18-hour demonstration in support of the Indigenous fight against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, but her beliefs made her stay.

Several days after the Jan. 22 sit-in at the offices of the Ministry of Energy in Victoria, the Gitxsan doctoral student at the University of Victoria described the events in a calm voice, though her face told another story.

Mowatt said she felt distressed and upset – not just about the interactions with police, but about how the demonstrators were portrayed as “pipeline protesters.”

“We were there in peace, we were there in prayer, we were there in solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en,” Mowatt said. “We’re not protesters. We’re land protectors.”

READ ALSO: Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Living by Indigenous law means having a “respectful, reciprocal relationship with the land” and protecting it at all costs, she said. “It’s not about a pipeline, it’s not about politics – it’s about the survival of life on Earth.”

Mowatt said the sit-in began after Michelle Mungall, then the energy ministry, did not comply with their request to ask Premier John Horgan to meet with the Wet’sutwet’en hereditary chiefs over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

READ ALSO: 13 Wet’suwet’en supporters arrested by VicPD

After several hours, police told them to leave or be arrested, Mowatt said. She said she and 12 others stayed.

Early the next morning, after hours of negotiation, police began removing the demonstrators from the building. They were arrested, loaded into vans and driven to the Victoria Police Department.

Mowatt said the arrests were carried out in an excessive manner, saying she felt bullied, “shocked, heartbroken and terrified.”

READ ALSO: Police say ‘misinformation’ spread after arrested protesters file police complaints

In a video statement later, VicPD Chief Del Manak addressed the “misinformation being shared” about the event. Police “were acting in the lawful execution of their duties,” he said, and officers had been pushed, kicked and targeted with racial slurs.

Manak spoke of “active resistance” from the group and others. “I’m quite proud of the officers [for] maintaining a very high level of professionalism and restraint in carrying out duties in very difficult circumstances.”

Following the arrests, several complaints were filed to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner and Manak said VicPD will “fully cooperate” should there be an investigation.

While it’s important to follow through with the complaints, “all eyes need to be on Wet’sutwet’en,” Mowatt said. She encourages people to learn not only about what’s happening on Wet’suwet’en territory, but what’s happened to Indigenous people throughout Canada’s history.

READ ALSO: One-sailing wait from Swartz Bay ferry terminal after morning protest


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

IndigenousIndigenous peoplesLand disputePipelinepipeline constructionpipeline politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Town grants Chamber $20K

Chamber estimates up to $65K in lost revenue, turns to council for help

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

New Salt Boutique the realization of a vision for owner Caroline Marko

Marko combines the rough and the soft in a minimalist, clean airy space

Coastal GasLink pipeline work ramps up

With spring thaw ending, workers start to arrive for summer season

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Most Read