January 14, 2013

Supervisor: Idle No More is "pointless"

Two Officials Bash Mohawk Idle No More Protest; One Apologizes

By Gale Courey ToensingMassena Town Supervisor Joseph Gray has apologized for calling an Idle No More protest that shut down the Seaway International Bridge between New York state and the Province of Ontario on January 5 “pointless” and “foolish.” Protests are legitimate, he said in an apology in a new blog entry; he just wishes that future protests won’t shut down the bridge and inconvenience people.

Gray’s apology may be too little, too late to the countless Mohawk Indians who posted responses saying his comments were racist and insulting. Gray shared his thoughts three days after the January 5 Idle No More protest that closed the International Bridge between Massena, New York, and Cornwall, Ontario, for five hours. His blog entry is called Pointless Bridge-Closing Protests Must Stop. The protest drew 300-400 exuberant Mohawk Indians from both sides of the St. Lawrence River onto the International Bridge for several hours of marching, singing, drumming and a round dance at a highway roundabout on the Canadian side of the imposed international border. Dozens of Idle No More protests have swept across Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East and as far away as New Zealand and Japan over the past month in support of indigenous rights.
The conclusion of Gray's posting:Then, in a display of mind-reading ability, Gray wrote that “Most people can't tell you what any of these protests are about. In fact, some of the protesters probably don't really know why they are closing a bridge and what they hope to achieve. I don't make these comments out of hatred or because of any bias. I am simply appealing to reasonable adults in our communities to do the right thing and say we will not tolerate these disruptions in the future. There are plenty of other means of expressing your viewpoint.”

Gray’s blog posting had the buoyancy of a lead balloon. Within two days, it drew more than 160 comments, many of which were critical of him. Ron LeFrance, one of the three chiefs of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, posted a comment a day after Gray’s blog appeared. “It’s too bad you know so little about your neighbors and the struggles we face to survive as Mohawk people,” LaFrance wrote. LaFrance and Sub-Chief Eric Thompson attended the Idle No More protest. “The foolishness you refer to is what we refer to as STANDING up for our rights, something that has been taken away from you without you even realizing it,” LaFrance wrote. “These foolish people you are referring to keep your little excuse for a town afloat. If it wasn't for the people and businesses of Akwesasne, Massena would have dried up a long time ago. I don't know why we keep your economy from drying up when we hear and read crap like this. Malone is not that far away, think about it blow hole!”
Comment:  The Idle No More protests certainly have a point--several of them, in fact. And they're definitely not foolish. The attention they've drawn to Native issues in a short amount of time is a public relations triumph.

But Gray also has a point. Blocking traffic probably violates the law. Several people, including some Indians, have noted that blockades may make the protesters seem aggressive, violent, even criminal.

Right now, Idle No More is generating more good than bad will. The protesters don't want to lose that advantage. They may want to save the civil disobedience tactics for when they've run out of other options.

For more on Idle No More, see Harper Meets Chiefs and Idle No More = Occupy.

Below:  "An estimated 300-400 people took part in an Idle No More solidarity march across the International Bridge in Mohawk territory between New York and Cornwall, Ontario, on Saturday." (Lorraine White)

1 comment:

dmarks said...

"But Gray also has a point. Blocking traffic probably violates the law. Several people, including some Indians, have noted that blockades may make the protesters seem aggressive, violent, even criminal."

Yeah, they need to be very careful with that. Harassing uninvolved individuals who are just trying to get from Point A to Point B can generate a lot of bad feeling.