A front-end loader scraped gravel and rocks off Highway 6 Thursday morning, opening up a section of the road for the first time in weeks.
Demonstrators who began blocking roads near Caledonia, Ont., on Aug. 5 have begun to remove their barricades.
“Hopefully between today, tomorrow and the next day we’ll see some movement on the bypass and Highway 6 barricades,” said spokesperson Skyler Williams, noting the work will take some time.
“If the actions of the OPP are of deescalation we’ll meet that in kind,” he added. “As long as the police presence and police activity isn’t one of enforcement, shooting and Tasering and dragging our people off our own lands.”
Const. Rod LeClair said the roads will need to be inspected and repaired, if needed, before they can officially reopen, noting he didn’t have a specific timeline for when that would happen.
“Debris on the roadways is currently being removed by demonstrators,” he wrote in an email to CBC Wednesday morning.
LeClair said the OPP’s provincial liaison team is continuing to communicate with demonstrators and community members “who have voiced their concerns.”
One of the first barriers to be pushed aside was near 5th Line, including a large piece of cement with the words “GO HOME OPP” written in orange spray paint.
As the heavy equipment worked to clear the road, people were already driving through the newly-reopened section, sending clouds of dust into the air.
Demonstrators began dismantling the much-larger blockade on Argyle Street a short time later. Two men tossed dozens of heavy tires, loading them into the bucket of the front-end loader which carried them away. A pair of crushed cars and a heavily-damaged trailer were still in place around 1 p.m.
The blockades went up following arrests at the nearby McKenzie Meadows residential development. Demonstrators set up camp and began occupying the site 32 days ago, saying it’s unceded Haudenosaunee territory and renaming it 1492 Land Back Land.
Williams, who was among the people arrested that day, said the hope is that opening the roads back up will allow the conversation to focus solely on the land and its future.
“When we’re spending all our time talking about road barricades and rail blockades and highway blockades it leaves very little time and space to be able to talk about the real issue here and that’s the land,” he explained.