The 20th anniversary of Oka and the continuation of unearthing human rights at the G8/G20

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Video after video, photo after photo, story after story came pouring in this weekend telling us about another friend or another relative who had been unlawfully arrested, beaten, spit on, psychologically, physically, and emotionally abused and relentlessly harassed by the police in Toronto. All this and more unearthing of human rights happened to the people for demonstrating, protesting, taking action and speaking out against one of the most undemocratic and unethical convenings of the world’s largest superpowers – the G8/G20.

Counts of the number of arrests that took place this past weekend are at some 500 or more – with some having now been released – but so many others remain cramped and overcrowded in the mass jails that were erected in what we know were government and state plans to throw people in and violate their human rights – which is of course in line with the entire theme of the G8/G20. Rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray were deployed by police at will and used against people of all ages who yes – were peacefully protesting (and I’m not going into the less than 100 who were not because they were the very small minority) but more importantly, YES IT IS our civil liberty and fundamental right to do so.

Reports also came rushing in about police keeping people cornered outside in the heavy rain for hours, as well as further accounts of violent police brutality directly inside and outside the jails – and I don’t owe them any benefit of the doubt to believe otherwise. This also occurred two intersections down the street from my house in Toronto.

Now I owe who I am today because of activists and communities of people who wouldn’t shut the f#$! up for the last few hundred years. In fact I don’t think I would be alive today if they hadn’t. I am a descendant of people who fought in Kanasatake, Oka, Quebec which might have started out as the plight of our people, the Kanionke:haka/Mohawk people, taking a stand against the unsanctioned building of a golf course on our traditional lands and burial grounds – but in actuality it was the plight of 500+ years of colonization and genocide towards us and on Mother Earth. The manifestation of it all brought things to a head in Oka, but it also brought Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples from all over the world to our territory to be in solidarity with us. This year marks the 20th anniversary of when it all happened.

Video footage, news reports, and Elder stories from this time at Oka show things that still make my heart sink, my eyes cry, and my voice fill with rage. Effigies of our people being burnt by so-called local non-Native “neighbours”, rocks being thrown into the passing cars of women and children who were supposed to be guaranteed safe passage by authorities but who instead stood by silently as projectiles crashed through their windows, and some of the most horrendous police brutality and severe violence that has ever transpired on Indigenous land.

However it’s not as if the struggle has ever really stopped. It hasn’t. The actions that have taken place around the G8/G20 from Indigenous people, women, people of colour, the poor, the working class, queer and trans people and disabled people have decades, if not centuries, of baggage that lead up to this point of where we are at with zero accountability from governments for the continuation of oppression.

It is essential that we remember Oka and never let it be forgotten because it is times like this where we are reminded of the ominous presence of colonialism and malice from the fear-mongering state – but perhaps even more importantly than that – what it means for peoples to come together and fight back, because WE ARE STILL HERE.

What I want to say to the people whose human rights were violated to the extreme at Oka, as well as these past weeks at the G8/G20, is that I love you. My love is contained in the full support for everything you did and continue to do. I will not allow your work to be obliterated now or ever. Please know that I stand with you for speaking the truth from your heart which no government, police, or jail can silence.

Images courtesy of Reuters and BlogTo