Security personnel presence on protest site ‘intimidating’ to campers

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN FORT CAMP, B.C. — Down at the Rocky Mountain Fort camp, protesters don’t camp alone during the day.

One of the protesters, Helen Knott, told Energetic City the security personnel come twice a day to engage with protesters. However, she says they always have a video camera with them.

“I think what they’re trying to do is catch things, they film all of the interactions,” she said, adding that she’s not sure if they film from outside of the camp.

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“At the beginning, there was always three men and all of them holding video cameras. I don’t know what the necessity of all the males at the same time, and coming in twice daily on a routine schedule.”

I've often said that the destruction of indigenous lands and the violation of indigenous women's bodies are intertwined. It is not a surprise to me that most of us that are standing up and saying no to this dam, facing -25 weather, and sometimes 2-4 security men with cameras, are women. It was said before that decisions were not made until the women were consulted because they also knew what was needed for the families and communities. That has not happened here. We are saying no. We have been saying no. Enough is enough. The earth and the water gives life, as do we women. The colonial laws and systems that be continue to displace and devalue both indigenous lands and women. What is this? Buying into it for a few weeks of work, or short term dollars when so much more to lose is at stake. We are a strong people, our ancestors were fierce and knew that being able to provide and have access to land was important to preserve. That is what we are trying to do, we have your grandchildren in mind everyday and in our prayers too. #thewomenhavespoken #keepthepeace #knowledge #nositec #selfie #nature #ontheland #solidarity #decolonize #strength #power #firekeepers #nativewomen #indigenous #rise

A post shared by Helen Knott (@helenknott05) on

Knott says they have asked the guards to talk to the protesters closer to their fire, and further away from the area where they sleep and eat. However, the guards seem to insist this is ‘what they have been tasked to do,’ according to her.

“Yesterday, I was out from where my fire is out in the bush collecting deadwood, and the guy had his camera on me.”

Knott says the guards will ask questions, and one time, she get upset because she didn’t seem to be answering the question the way the guard wanted.

“At that point, I had someone else with me, so that was fine, but when you think: You’re in the bush, which is 20 minutes from our camp as well, where we usually are, and you’re alone with no cell service..”

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These kinds of instances, paired with the filming and constant presence of the guards, have made Knott and other protesters — especially the women — feel intimidated.

BC Hydro was contacted for a comment on this situation, but did not respond.

In the face of the discomfort experienced so far as protests continue at Rocky Mountain Fort, where it feels like an ‘alternate reality,’ Knott says the support has been overwhelming for her. Locals even drop off frozen food donations for protesters to take to the camp.

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The days, especially at the peak of winter, are long and cold. The protesters just got a new bunk house full of beds, so the shifts will be easier for them. Already, they take shifts to camp, both because the weather is unforgiving, and because, as Knott bluntly put it, ‘you need to shower.’ She spoke to Energetic City just as she was leaving from her shift and coming back to Fort St. John.

Of the Prophet River First Nation, she was never a ‘protester’ before this, she says. She recalls doing an indigenous grassroots camps where the Halfway River meets the Peace, and took part in Peace Valley events, taking part in a variety of smaller events. But nothing compared to camping for days on end in the middle of winter.

“Sometimes, people are out there for longer. Some are out for two nights, three nights, some as long as five,” she remarks. “It’s long, I come in and will stay a few days.”

On the north bank of the river, three protesters who were arrested for mischief, after blocking the roads into Hydro work sites earlier this month. One of which was former PRRD director Arthur Hadland, who is a vocal opponent of the project. Hadland, like Knott, had never done something like this, but told Energetic City the Peace River doesn’t have a voice and someone has to speak up for it.

“It’s always been this peaceful movement of people, and this is the first time that I’ve done something like this … it’s becoming more clear that there’s a lot of people who have been not heard,” says Knott.

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“These last few weeks, with Suzuki and Grand Chief Phillip coming up, people feel a little hopeful. It’s finally being highlighted that this is real. A lot of national organizations are taking note.”

On Monday, First Nation members today called on the Canadian and British Columbian governments to embrace a three-point plan ‘that will protect lands at imminent threat of destruction as preparatory work continues to build the Site C dam.

The three-point plan calls for the suspension of construction until court challenges initiated by First nations are determined, until a review by the BC Utilities Commission is finished, and for the Federal government to suspend all permits.

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