Protesters erected the blockade late yesterday evening, Feb. 24, and have camped out overnight. Photo taken from @stopdisplacemnt Twitter handle.

Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters block rail lines in Abbotsford

Two dozen set up barricades between Riverside and Vye Roads

Over two dozen protesters set up barricades on two rail lines running through Sumas, Matsqui and Abbotsford on the evening of Feb. 24, as a response to the RCMP arrests on Wet’suwet’en and Tyendinaga territory.

The blockade was set up around 10 p.m. on Vye Road between Riverside Road and Sumas Way. The protesters camped out overnight, bringing supplies and lighting a small campfire to stay warm. The protesters have not shut down traffic along Vye Road.

Protesters, carrying signs reading “Shut Down Canada” and “We stand with the Wet’suwet’en,” represent several different organizations, including Red Braid Extinction Rebellion and the University of Fraser Valley’s Global Development Studies Club.

Darien Johnsen, a UFV student in the Global Development Studies Club, said the barricades are partly a response to the recent RCMP arrests.

“I think [the arrests] just made the situation worse, and it made a lot more people want to get out and let the RCMP and the Canadian government know that their response to the blockade was wrong. They’re just doing the exact same thing they are doing at the Wet’suwet’en camp,” Johnsen said. “The combination of all these arrests of these Indigenous land defenders… heightened the stakes.

“It’s spurred a lot more people to take direct action.”

RELATED: PHOTOS: Wet’suwet’en supporters gather in Abbotsford

A mix of around 10 Abbotsford police officers and CP officers were on site around 8 a.m. this morning, observing from across the street. But presently, only a couple police vehicles are on scene.

Police will continue to monitor the event, and provide updates on any developments, according to Sgt. Judy Bird, media officer for the department.

The group originally set up blockades on a CP Rail line in Maple Ridge along the Haney Bypass, but moved to Abbotsford after they were forced to leave after three hours.

Abbotsford MP, Ed Fast, said the protesters, while they are allowed to voice opposition to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, are acting illegally by setting up the blockade.

“I believe that one of the most important pillars of a free and democratic society is a commitment to respecting the rule of law,” said Fast. “Although all Canadians have the right to protest peacefully to publicly express their views on important public issues, deliberately defying the law is something I cannot and will not defend.

“I encourage the opponents of this project to protest in a safe and responsible manner and in accordance with the law. The residents of Abbotsford expect nothing less.”

But the protesters are taking action over the Canadian government’s incursion into Indigenous territory, according to Johnsen. She said the pipeline is a different, although connected, issue.

“The divide between the elected and hereditary chiefs, it’s not an easy decision… But this is really about respecting Indigenous sovereignty,” Johnsen said. “Respecting the fact that the Wet’suwet’en Nation is trying to reclaim their traditional form of government… that’s been stripped from them.

“This isn’t a citizen versus citizen issue. This is a human rights issue.”

Johnsen said people criticizing their blockade have misconceptions about the reasons behind the protest.

“People are underestimating how much we know about the situation. A lot of us have been following the Wet’suwet’en crisis for quite awhile now. I think we’re more educated on this than people think we are.”

The News has reached out to CN Rail and SRY Rail for comment.

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