Argyle Street barricade removed

The four-month-long closure of the main artery through Caledonia moved toward re-opening on Tuesday after Six Nations land rights supporters agreed to remove barriers put in place on the road last October.

The move is being welcomed by Caledonia residents, as well as Six Nations residents, who say the detours around the road caused inconveniences and hurt local businesses.

Skyler Williams, a spokesperson for the Land Back movement in Caledonia, said the group decided to remove the barricades for the convenience of both Six Nations and Caledonia residents.

“We wanted to make sure we were doing what we could to listen to the community,” said Williams, adding that there is still a minority who did not want to re-open the road. “We’ve made a decision that their convenience is important.”

Land Back Lane is the moniker for a former housing construction site in Caledonia known as McKenzie Meadows. In July 2020, a small group of Six Nations people and allies stopped construction of the 200-home subdivision, saying it sits on unceded Six Nations land. A number of Six Nations people and allies continue to maintain a presence at the site.

Land Back Lane supporters shut down Argyle Street and the Highway Six bypass in October 2020 after Ontario Provincial Police attempted to arrest a Land Back Lane supporter. It was the latest in a string of arrests targeting Land Back Lane supporters for defying an injunction barring anyone from “trespassing” on the former housing development site. Dozens of supporters face numerous trespassing and mischief charges in relation to the injunction.

After the attempted arrest, Williams said police used rubber bullets against unarmed land defenders, who shut down the roads around the town in response and as a measure to protect them from further police violence.

Williams said the removal of barricades is not a capitulation to the heavy OPP presence that remains around the town, nor continued pressure from politicians and townspeople, who are calling for them to vacate the Land Back Lane property on McKenzie Road.

“Our resolve has never been stronger,” said Williams. “But we are under no misconceptions. There is still a permanent injunction in place and we are doing all we can to fight that. But we are acutely aware that the police are going to mess with the peace that we’ve strived for since day one.”

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