A sharp increase in police presence and movement seemed like overkill given all the police already at the intersection at the Clark Drive and East Hastings, where a port entrance was being blockaded in East Vancouver earlier this week, starting on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021. Although the protest was peaceful, police shut down the blockade just over 24 hours after it began.
Indigineous youth, community members, and supporters gathered to show support for Indigenous land defender Stacy Gallagher and were demanding his 90-day jail sentence, decided by judge Shelley Fitzpatrick on Tuesday, be dropped. Indigenous youth group the Braided Warriors set up the blockade after the sentencing of four land defenders charged in 2020.
21-year old Filipino youth Laurel Fermina was with the community of the peaceful protests when the brutal arrest happened on Wednesday, March 3rd.
“I was brutalised, arrested, held in a dark and cramped paddywagon while handcuffed and having panic attacks”, Fermina shared in an interview, “Then I was taken to jail where they treated me as per usual how BIPOC are treated.”
Earlier this year, reports of police brutality bombarded the news as a 37-year old Filipino man was shot and killed by police in the Vancouver DTES after a mental health distress call. News of police presence and abuses have been rampant in 2020, although police brutality has been an ongoing problem in the city, all over Canada, and the world affecting Indigenous, Black people, and racialized people.
A year ago, in February 2020, RCMP unjustly raided and arrested land defenders in Wet’suwet’en Territory. The news gathered global criticism and support against the expansion of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Peaceful protests have been met with brutality and by colonial court systems that strive to criminalize Indigenous peoples and supporters who stand in opposition to these dangerous resource extraction projects.
As more people, Indigenous communities, and concerned individuals oppose TMX and other mega-projects, B.C.’s use of police and military tactics to subdue protesters have been concerning. However, Canada, led by the Trudeau government, has been unwavering in its decision to continue the TMX project that threatens lands, water, and communities. TMX continues construction each day.
“I want the Filipino community to know that one of their kasamas (companions) got arrested for protecting what is sacred,” said Fermina, who grew up in Cavite, Philippines and has Ifugao and Bicolano roots.
Fermina, who was never arrested before, was served charges of mischief and intimidation, and was eventually released the next day from jail with body aches and sores, exhaustion, and hurt wrists.
The crisis brought by Canadian extractive corporations to Indigenous lands, water, and territories locally and globally remains controversial, and protests are happening to oppose such plunder of resources.
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