Hamilton: Report from Rail Blockade

Anonymous Submission to North Shore Counter-Info

On February 2, 2020 – before the RCMP began raiding Wet’suwet’en Territories once more – folks gathered in JC Beemer Park in Hamilton, ON for a “festive disruption” that promised both fun and effective action in support of the people risking their lives out west.

We’re happy to say it was a success!

After approximately 120 people of all ages gathered at the park, we started the day with a traditional Haudensaunee opening and blessing, and then briefed folks not to talk to police for everyone’s safety, or media as to keep messaging aligned with the messages coming from the Wet’suwet’en. We fired up the crowd with some stories and encouragement to challenge their own fears and discomforts – and then took all 5 lanes of an arterial road through the North end of Hamilton.

With good music propelling us, folks set off smokebombs, blew bubbles, chanted, and took space. Police were present, but remained hands-off. In a spot where we were no longer blocking hospital traffic and close to a main CN rail line, we paused.

As the MC for the march began to share knowledge about early settlers in the area and rail’s contribution to colonization, three other crews were hard at work establishing some safety groundwork. About one kilometre east and west of our location crews set up red flagging on nearby rail lines – the universal sign to signal trains to stop. Road flares were also used for additional visibility. In some spots, teams additionally activated the train automatic block signalling system which sends electronic messages to CN rail engineers to stop all traffic. A third team made an anonymous payphone call to CN rail’s emergency line informing them of people on the tracks, while a fourth remained on a nearby pedestrian bridge keeping a watchful eye in both directions, ready to radio in any issues.

When everything was set in place, the MC informed the group of 120 people that the state had positioned itself against Indigenous peoples, and that the only appropriate response was for us to position ourselves against the state. It was followed by an invitation for everyone to spend the afternoon blocking the rail line and a road artery that serves as an industrial trucking route.

As banners were hung across the road to interrupt police sitelines and filming, tables were set up on the tracks and there was a legal rights prep session. Coffee, hot chocolate, and hot chili was served as we set up sound equipment for live music. The afternoon was filled with energetic performances, poetry, drumming, and conversations around fear and overcoming fear to take action in solidarity. A heartfelt phonecall from Gidimt’en was received during the blockade and shared over the speakers.

As things came to an end, a hawk flew from the east down the rail line and positioned itself to watch over those gathered. It remained until we began to disperse, and continued its journey west down the rail line.

To disperse, everyone was directed to find buddies. Blasting music we moved back up the street against traffic. Even after being gathered in the cold for hours people were spirited, yelling and dancing for a few blocks before someone called for dispersal and we parted ways.

The day was a huge success in many ways – from plenty of strangers placing trust in rad organizers, to upbeat entertainment, to the daytime blockade of a rail line and trucking artery. No arrests were made that day or in the days following despite the blockade being a first-time for Hamilton, and a success. For approximately 3 hours after dispersal trains ran nearly non-stop through the area signifying trains were not able to be re-routed.

We were reminded yet again that there are many willing hearts ready to throw down against the state, and in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en. A good thing, since we will continue to increase pressure and disruption as the RCMP actively raids the territory.