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c̓əsnaʔəm—Members of the Musqueam First Nation and their supporters shut down all traffic on the Arthur Laing Bridge in South Vancouver this morning. The action was an escalation after weeks of camping out and a series of pickets and events dedicated to guaranteeing the protection of ancient burial grounds at the foot of the bridge.
"It's not about us here, it's about the ones who are resting there," said Alec Dan, who identifies as a cultural ambassador of the Musqueam people. "If it wasn't for them, us Musqueam and Coast Salish people wouldn't be here today."
About 200 people gathered at the site at 7am, first blocking the on ramps to the bridge and eventually taking the entire span. Drumming, singing, and carrying signs, the crowd set up chairs at the north end of the bridge and settled in, while police rerouted traffic.
"Late for work? Blame your wonderful premier!" said one woman's sign, referring to the province's refusal to back the Musqueam in their bid to end the conflict through meaningful negotiations. Spirits were high as normally heavy bridge traffic fell silent. Some of the frustrated morning commuters honked and waved in support of the protesters.
Dan said they first found out about about plans to build condos on top of the remains of their ancesters in January, and in March, the bodies of two infants were discovered in ancient graves. He said the Musqueam have engaged in negotiations with the developer of the proposed condo site, even offering him other land, to no avail. "We have maintained a permanent presence since the first day of the protest," said Dan. "There are band members and non-band members camping here."
The bridge closure came after a 100-person delegation to the legislature in Victoria, and a 12-hour day of actions on Tuesday, which began at Mountainview Cemetary, then Christy Clark's office, and ended at the Vancouver Art Gallery. These actions failed to generate the support Musqueam need in order to ensure their ancestors are protected. Today's action proved that the Musqueam people will continue to strengthen their stand against the further desecration of their heritage.