UPDATED: Demonstrators settle in ‘for the long haul’ at BC Legislature, RBC bank

Demonstrators gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Demonstrators gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Demonstrators gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Feb. 7, 2020 – Demonstrators gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Demonstrators gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
The intersection of Belleville and Government streets filled with supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
The intersection of Belleville and Government streets filled with supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Demonstrators gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Demonstrators gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Demonstraters gathered at the BC Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

The intersection of Belleville and Government streets in Victoria closed Friday morning as supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs came out in numbers.

Starting at approximately 8 a.m., supporters gathered in Centennial Square outside City Hall before heading down Douglas Street towards the Legislature to meet other demonstrators who had been on the steps since noon Thursday. Douglas Street was temporarily closed for the march.

By mid-afternoon, a portion of the demonstration had split off and was occupying the entrance way to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) at Fort and Douglas Street, a location chosen for the corporation’s involvement in managing the sale of TransCanada Corp.’s Coastal GasLink stake.

The day prior, demonstrators also walked out of classes at the University of Victoria with demands that RCMP dismantle the exclusion zone and withdraw from Wet’suwet’en.

Speakers at both Friday demonstrations said they won’t leave until RCMP are removed from the Wet’suwet’en Territories.

This comes after at least six people were arrested at a Coastal GasLink protest camp in northern B.C. on Thursday. RCMP began enforcing an injunction order against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and supporters blocking the liquefied natural gas project that goes through their traditional territory.

“We all gathered together to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation, there’s so many injustices happening up there,” said Shaylynn Sampson, who traveled down from northern B.C. to be part of the recent demonstrations, including at the 18-hour sit in at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources building on Jan. 21. Sampson and several others camped at the Legislature overnight. “Indigenous youth are not going to stop defending their land we’re standing up against hundreds of years of genocide that is still ongoing.”

“Don’t let Canada tell you that this is an issue of division within our communities, because we have made it very clear from the get go that we still exist and that our laws our still our authority on our territories,” said Kolin Sutherland-Wilson. “This is not a pipeline issue… this is not a group of dissonance within the Canadian state that are attempting to halt a project, this is an entire nation of people that are being invaded with the military force of Canada.”

In the afternoon, a number of demonstrators – about 20 young activists, according to organizers – held a sit-in in the RBC lobby at Fort and Douglas Street, a location chosen for the corporation’s involvement in managing the sale of TransCanada Corp.’s Coastal GasLink stake.

The bank was locked from the inside.

The youth at the bank said they were acting in solidarity with Indigenous demonstrators locked down at the Legislature building. The group said they are “planning to risk arrest” and won’t leave unless the demands of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are met.

“The main purpose of [us being] here is we are in solidarity with the We’suwet’en action happening down at the Legislature…so we are here purely in solidarity with them,” said Grace Sinats, the designated spokesperson for the youth at the RBC bank. “Right now we are blockading, in solidarity, until the We’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ demands are met.

Sinats, who is 14 years old, said the group will stay “until their demands are met.”

“Obviously, like the Jan. 22 action, the intent is not to get arrested. We are just here peacefully protesting until the Wet’suwet’en chiefs’ demands are met.”

Sinats, like many of the other youth occupying the bank, took the day off school to show her support.

“We’re here for the long haul,” she said.

READ ALSO: Six arrested as RCMP enforce injunction at Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline camps (video)

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