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Pipeline protest draws duelling groups to downtown Calgary

Last Updated Jan 8, 2019 at 3:21 pm MDT

Michelle Robinson leads indigenous supporters at a rally held in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people of British Columbia in downtown Calgary. Tuesday, January 8th, 2019. (Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

Dozens gather in front of TransCanada HQ in the wake of arrests made in British Columbia

Indigenous supporters demonstrated for anti-violence and increased dialogue

Pro-pipeline demonstrators call on protestors to respect the rule of law and allow projects to go forward

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Another pipeline protest drew dozens of people to downtown Calgary on a chilly Tuesday afternoon.

The event was first organized by supporters of Wet’suwet’en First Nation after some of their people were arrested at a protest camp in northwestern British Columbia on Monday.

Pro-pipeline groups Rally 4 Resources and Canada Action also showed up to try to get their message across.

There was a large police presence, as officers formed a protective line next to the indigenous supporters, to prevent confrontation between the groups.

Michelle Robinson, one of the organizers with Wet’suwet’en supporters, says she was upset to see the events happen in B.C.

“It’s not okay in the middle of a missing and murdered indigenous women inquiry, where we’re facing violence all the time, to be talking about what is the root cause of violence against indigenous people when we literally have RCMP hurting indigenous people right now.”

READ MORE: RCMP planning to enforce court injunction over anti-LNG pipeline protest in B.C.

They were largely demonstrating on a platform of anti-violence, as Robinson said she recognizes many indigenous groups and other Canadians support oil and gas projects but opposes actions taken by authorities at peaceful protests.

Demonstrators were hoping to show solidarity.

“It takes all of us to stand up for each other,” said Russ Baker, whose spiritual name is Wabistim Whitehorse. “I don’t care what nation you come from — if you’re European, Asian, black, white, whatever — we need to start standing up for each other. And especially when communities say no, it needs to be no.”

There was a significant amount of confrontation on the part of the pipeline supporters, who shouted at the indigenous activists and repeating the oft-heard chant of “build that pipe.”

The message from that side was mainly around demanding respect for the rule of law.

“I am very concerned about the fact that people don’t understand the necessity,” said Judy Johnson. “I have no sympathy for them. As a mother and a grandmother, I would not take my children into that situation. And I really don’t think the RCMP are violent, by the way.”

“We’re hoping that people understand, first of all, that all the elected first nations that are involved across the route for LNG Canada are in support of this pipeline. The provincial and federal governments support this pipeline. This is good both for our economy as well as creating jobs,” said Lynn Ellis with Canada Action.

WATCH: RCMP attend anti-pipeline protest

Bridging the gap in a way was Stephen Buffalo, with the Indigenous Resource Council of Canada. He understands both sides of the argument but calls on indigenous people to support oil and gas projects because it means prosperity for all of their communities.

“It’s just unfortunate that we have to go through instances like this. No one wants to see RCMP haul away some of our people like that. But at the end of the day, we have to find a way to create that national energy strategy so that we can deal with these infrastructure projects that Canada is going to put forward on our traditional territories.”

But while there was no need for police action at the demonstration, some of the language from the pipeline supporters was upsetting to the other group.

“You definitely feel a lot more love and empathy on one side, and you sense a lot of bitterness and anger on the other side,” said Frank.

“They’re people that are lost,” added Benji Hunter. “They don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t know how to be one with the creator.”