A few hundred people amassed on Queen’s University campus on Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2020 as part of the National Student Walkout for Wet’suwet’en.
The event was host by approximately 10 local organizations, including Queen’s Native Students’ Association, Queen’s Coalition Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, Ollin.ca, and OPRIG Kingston. The large group gathered at the intersection of University Avenue and Union Street at 12 noon after students walked out of their classes and were joined by supporters from across the city.
Two students from the Queen’s Native Students’ Association (QNSA) addressed the crowd over a megaphone.
“Today I’m not here in the capacity of my student leadership or associations, but I stand here today as an indigenous woman,” said one of the two women, who had red handprints painted over their mouths, a symbol that represents outrage regarding the number of missing and murdered indigenous women across North America.
“Greed, exploitation, and the drive for profit is not in our nature. As indigenous people, we have lived on this land for thousands of years. Although we do not believe in land ownership, we must now assert our rights to sovereignty,” she continued. “Today we stand with the hereditary chiefs and we amplify the voices of land protectors.”
A groundswell of support for those in the Wet’suwet’en territory of BC has occurred since the RCMP moved in on the anti-pipeline camp on that territory on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Beginning that day, multiple demonstrations took place across Canada, including two near Tyendinaga Territory, which sits between Kingston and Belleville. Those demonstrations remain in the form of camps, as the proposed agreement between the federal and provincial governments and the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs has yet to be approved by the Wet’suwet’en people, or disclosed to the general public. A number of the demonstrations and blockades shut down rail traffic across Canada for well over a week.
“We are still here and we are resilient!” the students from the QSNA proclaimed over the large crowd, who brought signs and drums, and began drumming and dancing prior to marching across Queen’s campus.
Organizers then handed out flyers, and urged those in attendance to attend a presentation by Ellen Gabriel, who was speaking at the University Club later in the day on land rights. The flyer was designed to be filled in by those in attendance and sent to members of parliament, and on the back side had “Spicy Chants” listed such as “Wet’suwet’en/got your back/Close the roads and block the tracks!” and “History repeats itself/land back and nothing else.” The group then began to march through campus.
While Kingston Police did follow the group as they marched along the streets of Queen’s campus, the demonstration was very peaceful, but delivered a strong message.
“Settler Canada must respect our existence or expect our resistance!”