Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique says protesters falsely blamed officers for escalating tensions related to an indigenous land dispute at the McKenzie Meadows development site in Caledonia.
Carrique released a video on Twitter that shows demonstrators with their faces covered approaching a parked police cruiser with two officers inside it. One demonstrator walks up to the driver’s side and starts to hit the door and window with a lacrosse stick. Another throws a rock at the windshield, cracking it, while another is seen throwing something at the car.
The video, recorded on Oct. 22, rebuts what Carrique called "false claims" being made on social media that the OPP was responsible for initiating violence at the protest site.
“Extremely proud of my officers for their professional and measured response to keep the peace & preserve life while under attack," he wrote on Twitter on Oct. 25.
In a separate statement, the OPP said comments made by the protesters were “inaccurate and inflammatory.”
The statement said that as police tried to arrest those who were damaging police vehicles, additional protesters began throwing rocks and pieces of lumber at police, who responded by firing rubber bullets.
Demonstrators at the site, dubbed 1492 Land Back Lane, said Carrique's post takes the confrontation out of context.
“I think it's really despicable content that you show a one-minute clip out of context,” spokesperson Skyler Williams told reporters Oct. 26.
Williams said in a statement that the demonstrators had erected barricades as “a protective action meant to keep us safe from police violence. Police continue to threaten arrest and it's up to us to keep ourselves safe from these oppressive police tactics. Police have no place in dealing with land disputes.”
The demonstrators are trying to stop a housing development from going ahead on the McKenzie Meadows that the Six Nations Elected Council allowed.
The clash comes after a judge on Oct. 22 ordered the permanent removal of a blockade set up in July by members of the Six Nations of the Grand River to stop the development, which they say violates the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee people.
The council acknowledged in a statement that the accommodation agreement that it made for the development is “one of the concerns.” The council said they thought the development would benefit the community, and told the members that they are bound by the agreement that is already made.
“We don’t condone the violence or destruction of property and we are calling for calm to refocus our minds,” the statement said.
“We hope in the days ahead we can work in unity to focus on the common goal of our Six Nations Land Claims. It’s time for the federal and provincial governments to right the wrongs.”
The OPP said they’re their investigations are ongoing, and a total of 33 arrests have been made so far.
“We will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with demonstrators and members of Caledonia in efforts to keep the peace and preserve life. We ask everyone affected by these demonstrations to also have patience as the process progresses,” Carrique said in the statement.