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Police block Canadian flag raising

Group wants its right to erect Canadian flag on public property ...but police can’t guarantee safety

Neil Dring, The Sachem
Published on May 29, 2009

There was hope Sunday afternoon that a few members of CANACE (Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality) led by Merlyn Kinrade would be able to erect a Canadian flag across from DCE. But that hope was squashed after OPP arrested a man carrying a Canadian flag for obstructing police according to police.

About 40 people gathered at the Lions Hall for a rally at 1:30 pm who intended to walk along Argyle St. and erect a Canadian flag across from DCE. Merlyn Kinrade told supporters he believed “the honourable people of Six Nations were tired of native extremists” and that he had asked the OPP for an escort to walk down Argyle St. as per his constitutional right to have police protection while walking peacefully on public property.

Haldimand County OPP asked Kinrade to limit his group to three persons. Kinrade asked for ten. An OPP officer said he would check with his superior and get back to him.

“It’s reasonable the OPP don’t want 50 people on the side of the road,” said Mark Vandermass, a CANACE member.

Meanwhile, about 50 native men, women and children gathered at the entrance of DCE concerned about the pending flag raising. One woman accused the CANACE group of inciting trouble. “Why would we hang a (native) flag in town (Caledonia). We would be instigating trouble. Why are they?” said Kelly Powless who considers DCE and the property across from it native land.

Further south on Argyle St, a yard sale was being held at the home of Dana Chatwell and Dave Brown beside DCE.

Tired of waiting for the response from OPP, Merlyn and his group left Lions Hall and headed out for DCE. At the edge of the Canadian Tire parking lot, they were met with an OPP line that would not let them go any further.

At this time, Randy Fleming, who was attending the yard sale, decided to walk north along Argyle St. carrying a flag to meet up with Merlyn and his brother, Doug Fleming. According to police, Fleming was advised not to walk down Argyle St. passing in front of DCE on his way.

Fleming did proceed and at that time about eight OPP officers approached Fleming saying “you’re under arrest” according to Fleming. Fleming then ran off the road and into the ditch adjacent to DCE where he was tackled by police and subsequently arrested for Obstructing Police. Fleming says he was not running onto DCE to plant a flag but merely running away from police. “They were not going to take my flag,” he later told the Sachem. Fleming was treated at West Haldimand General Hospital for injuries sustained during his arrest, notably torn ligaments in his elbow. He will appear in Cayuga court June 17 to face the charge.

When notified that Fleming had been arrested, Vandermass said, “oh, that’s not good.” Subsequently, police revoked their offer to allow three people to pass to erect a flag across from DCE. An angry Kinrade asked each officer in the line if he would be allowed to pass by and each officer indicated he would not. Haldimand OPP Inspector Phil Carter was at the scene personally Sunday afternoon supervising approximately 40 officers at the scene. It was estimated that another 100 officers were nearby and ‘on call’ if needed.

Police said it was their job to ‘keep the peace’ and that they couldn’t guarantee Kinrade and his group’s safety if they were allowed to follow through with the intentions of erecting a flag across from DCE due to native’s concerns.

Kinrade aitkened the situation to blaming a robbery victim for having money and he urged police to deal with the real trouble-makers, not his peaceful, law-abiding group.

During the rally, a police helicopter circled the area and police videographers photographed the proceedings.

After being turned away, Kinrade and his supporters drove to the garage sale where a Canadian flag was eventuallyraisedonahydro pole around 5pm, but not directly across from DCE as organizers had originally hoped. There was no incident.

Kinrade told the Sachem on Wednesday that the day was “a great event.” “We got what we wanted -officers refusing us our rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights.” He plans to charge police with private prosecutions for illegally denying his rights.