Violence erupts at Caledonia protest

Protester Gary McHale and another person injured; OPP says charges are pending and every legal remedy will be sought 'to end this madness.'

Dana Brown
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Dec 3, 2007)

The OPP say charges are pending after a protest rally over a native-operated smoke shop erupted into violence.

Two people, including controversial figure Gary McHale, were injured during the melee on Saturday morning.

McHale suffered a bruised rib, black eye and head and feet injuries.

The protest was over a smoke shack that has recently opened at the end of Argyle Street South, where the road meets Highway 6.

"We went out with every intention of having a peaceful protest," said organizer Doug Fleming.

Fleming contends the smoke shack is on land not owned by Six Nations.

Six Nations say the land is theirs, as it falls into a claim for the roadbed of Plank Road.

The claim is one of several currently being discussed at ongoing negotiations between the provincial and federal governments and Six Nations.

Fleming has also sold cigarettes out of the back of his pickup truck to protest other smoke shops that are on band council owned land. The land is not currently part of the reserve, and as such, is currently under the jurisdiction of Haldimand County and the OPP.

The smoke shop which was contested on Saturday is about a kilometre away from the former Douglas Creek Estates, which Six Nations protesters have occupied since February 2006.

At one point during the more than hour-long incident, OPP formed a line to separate about 100 protesters from the natives that had gathered.

In a strongly worded press release, OPP said the protesters were "taunting and provoking those present."

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino said in the statement that the force "will seek every legal remedy possible to end this madness and to bring them (protesters) to justice."

It's unclear what sparked the physical confrontations during the event, although McHale said he was attacked twice.

Fleming said that at some point "there was some disagreement and people got pushing and shoving."

Protest organizers and natives alternately blocked the road during the incident, with Six Nations ultimately blocking Argyle Street South with a hydro tower just past 6th Line.

"If you are going to present us with a clear and present danger then we will take precautions so that nothing does happen like that fight," said Brian Skye, one of the heads of security at the former Douglas Creek site.

OPP also blocked a section of the road and turned traffic back about a kilometre away from the blockade.

Skye said the road, which he says Six Nations have jurisdiction over, was blocked, in part, for safety reasons.

He said when things like this happen, it's a "nuisance" to key negotiations, but that Six Nations reclaimed the land a long time ago and intend to maintain that stance.

The hydro tower was removed at 4 p.m., as promised.

On Saturday, OPP Sergeant Dave Rektor said charges are pending, but did not indicate whether it was for protesters or Six Nations.

"There's always a big issue for some of these people ... call it what you will it's somebody trying to push their own personal agenda to speed things up," Rektor said.

McHale said yesterday that after he left hospital, he went to an OPP station, where he was told he had been accused of assault.

He said the second man injured was treated at hospital and has since been released.

OPP did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Police have asked that anyone with pictures or video of the incident contact OPP at 1-888-310-1122.