Credits: Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/QMI AGENCY
Hundreds of First Nations protestors and their supporters brought their anti-Ottawa message to downtown Christmas shoppers Saturday.
A sudden eruption of Banging drums and chanting filled the air for 15 minutes at The Core shopping mall as protestors did a circle dance and brandished placards, one of which read “Harper needs a bannock slap and a moccasin kick.”
The flash mob of about 300 people targeted the Harper government’s Bill C-45 which they say runs roughshod over their treaty rights, sovereignty and threatens the environment.
It’s part of a nationwide movement dubbed Idle No More that’s also made waves internationally.
As bewildered shoppers scurried past, event organizer Autumn Eaglespeaker said the flash mob was meant to make an impression on Calgarians who wouldn’t normally be exposed to their message.
“They stopped, they were paying attention and thinking “what’s behind it?’” said Eaglespeaker, who hails from the Kainai First Nation south of Calgary.
She’d just returned from Ottawa where the day before, she joined 4,000 demonstrators as part of a national day of protest.
Aboriginal leaders, she said, have let down their people in fighting the encroachment on their rights.
“We’re tired of waiting for our leadership ... when you have the grassroots saying ‘enough is enough’ it makes a big difference,” said Eaglespeaker.
Ottawa’s violated its own laws by failing to consult with First Nations on the legislation, adding she hopes peaceful protest isn’t ignored — paving the way for violent militancy.
Some passersby, like shopper Joe Miller, said he welcomes the show of noisy defiance.
“Assertiveness doesn’t hurt, it’s something that’s a long time coming,” said Miller, 47.
But others couldn’t pin down the reason for the flash mob, dubbing it a nuisance.
The protestors — who gave no speeches — did a poor job of informing shoppers, said Brandi Copplestone, who manages the Jack and Elliot store.
“I was asking somebody what it was but nobody seemed to know,” said Copplestone, 35.
“It’s a huge audience here and they missed an opportunity — it was very disruptive.”
But Eaglespeaker said the Idle No More movement isn’t going away.
“It’s going to last ... it’s just going to get bigger,” she said.