Filed under: Action, Indigenous, Ontario, Solidarity
Report on recent shutdown and blockade of Canada’s second-largest rail yard in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en struggle.
On Saturday February 15th about 400 people showed up in Vaughn, ON to blockade the tracks in and out of MacMillan Yard – Canada’s second-largest rail yard – for 7 hours. This action was just one amongst a wave of solidarity actions in response to Canada’s invasion and violence towards the Wet’suwet’en people on behalf of private industry.
Around 10am 50 trusted folks converged in a parking lot nearby. As the first wave of people to blockade the tracks, they made a phone call to CN rail and had crews 1.5kms east and west to put red flagging on the tracks. Red flags are a universal indicator for rail crews to stop. After calls and flags were confirmed, folks cut through fencing and threw down large wooden boards so people could easily cross deep ditches filled with icy water and made their way past a (previously) stored train onto the rails. This first wave of people effectively shut down traffic on CN lines headed west out of Macmillan to Kitchener, London, Hamilton, New York and Michigan.
Police liaisons were immediately put to work as CN workers arrived, but the initially tense situation de-escalated as the situation out west was discussed. Workers confirmed all rail traffic had been shut down – including more unintentionally the Brampton Intermodal Yard west of our location.
We quickly made ourselves comfortable, hanging banners, lighting fires for warmth and getting some sound going as we waited for police.
Meanwhile, in downtown Toronto, a public rally had been called. The callout stated that the rally would be traveling to a second location and the crowd showed up game to be brave and take a risk together. After a few minutes of speeches and chants, an update was shared that the rails had been taken and the response was enthusiastic. Hundreds took the street and marched to the subway, and then filled an entire platform, waited for the whole group to join and hopped on the subway. The subway ride ended up being a great place to get pumped up for the action, fill out legal forms and discuss legal information and meet other attendees. Eventually the crowd made it to Vaughan and was able to join the team holding it down on the tracks.
As numbers increased, organizers made a strategic decision to split the group in half and send one to the east entrance/exit of Macmillan yard. The action successfully shut down traffic headed North to Sudbury (and then westward to the coast) out of the yard, and south into it. Traffic that was normally heading east had already been shut down by the blockade in Tyendinaga; together we were impeding or affecting all CN rail traffic in south, southwestern, north, and eastern Ontario!
Police grew in numbers throughout the day. By mid-afternoon we were served an injunction – the same injunction served to Tyendinaga, which apparently applies to all CN lines throughout Ontario. Following the lead of Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk land defenders, it was promptly tossed in the fire to rowdy cheers. Throughout the day more fires were lit for increasing numbers, dance parties broke out, inciting speeches were given, and hot food delivered. The energy remained high despite an increasing police presence, who eventually pulled out a surveillance drone – and then had a police helicopter circle overhead. We left together around 5pm.
Police, of course, took the opportunity to stop and harass individuals who they thought might have been at the blockade. Without citing any traffic violations, they pulled over 5 or 6 vehicles demanding ID and then allowed people to proceed.
While no charges have been laid this is an obvious abuse of police power, so we want to take this moment to remind folks that the police are not our friends! Don’t talk to them, don’t work with them: they represent and work for the state which has positioned itself against not only the Wet’suwet’en, but Tyendinaga and every Indigenous Nations fighting to protect the land and water. And should repression hit; step together, not apart.