CAYUGA – Assault charges were dropped Tuesday morning against land defender Kawaowene, but soon after the hearing, charges for breach of condition were filed by the Crown. Kawaowene had been facing assault charges following anti-native rights activist Gary McHale’s July 5 intrusion at Kanonhstaton, and had an existing condition to not be within 25 metres of McHale. In the hearing at the Cayuga Courthouse, the Crown lawyer announced that they were not in a position to pursue the assault charges, as there was not a reasonable chance of conviction.
The Crown stated that, having watched video footage of Kawaowene and McHale’s encounter, they could not deny that Kawaowene’s actions were in self-defense. But even though McHale had of his own volition entered the site of Kanonhstaton where Kawaowene lives, the Crown saw fit to file breach of condition charges against Kawaowene for being within 25 metres of McHale. “The OPP are still terrorizing Haudenosaunee on our own land. I have to wonder why Onkwehonwe get charged so quickly, while non-Natives do not,” said Kawaowene.
While the dropped assault charges are a cause of celebration, in addition to the new breach of condition charges, the ordeal of the court hearing was also felt. Having been told to present himself at 9am, Kawaowene was informed upon appearing at the court that the hearing would not take place until 2pm. After pressing court staff on the matter, the hearing was moved earlier.
In the court, the Justice of the Peace persisted in referring to Kawaowene as “John Garlow.” Undeterred, Kawaowene addressed the JP and Crown in Cayuga, while they commented that “there appears to be a language difficulty,” evidently considering this difficulty to be Kawaowene’s rather than their inability to understand Cayuga. Of note is the fact that the Cayuga courthouse sits on top of the site of a Cayuga longhouse, the Cayugas having been displaced by white settlers. The JP did however offer a translator for future hearings, though the delay that would have resulted from accepting this service would mean at least another trip to the court.
The decision to drop the charges was welcomed by Kawaowene and the group of supporters present, who remain optimistic about defeating the breach charge as well.