Drop the lawsuit against the Rooster Town Blockade defendants

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We, the undersigned, demand that the two numbered companies owned by the private developer Andrew Marquess drop the lawsuit against the peaceful protestors who, along with their supporters, protected the Parker Wetlands in the summer of 2017.

We further demand that the City stop any current or future projects with Marquess until the two numbered companies he owns drops the lawsuit against the peaceful protesters, given that his actions are not consistent with City values, including the Indigenous Accord that was unanimously adopted by City Council on March 22, 2017.

Background

A total of 49 people who allegedly participated in the peaceful Rooster Town Blockade at the Parker Wetlands between July and September 2017 are currently being sued for “millions or tens of millions of dollars” by two numbered companies owned by the private developer Andrew Marquess.

Mr. Marquess is the owner of Gem Equities and related companies, who acquired the Parker Wetlands in 2009 pursuant to a controversial land swap that is the subject of significant public scrutiny and formal reviews. The Parker Wetlands had long been used as a place to walk, meditate and relax, and was once designated by the City as an ecologically sensitive natural heritage area.

Those who participated in the peaceful blockade were greatly concerned about respect for Métis and First Nations sovereignty, the destruction of pristine animal habitats, the elimination of a vital wetland, and the loss of a significant and extensively used green space. Although Fort Garry residents fought for a decade to keep this green space, their clear mandate to the city was ignored.

The defendants in the lawsuit include university students, low-income workers, Indigenous land defenders, retirees, environmentalists, local dog walkers, and others who were erroneously named even though they did not set foot on the property.

The occupation was called the Rooster Town Blockade after the nearby Métis community that was expropriated and demolished in 1960 to build Grant Park Mall.

During the blockade, Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman issued the statement: 'We’re hopeful the developer can pause cutting trees down until such time as the development plan is approved. We think right now it’s in everyone’s best interest to pause.' According to Bowman, the developer had agreed not to remove trees until the development plan was in place. That was apparently ignored.

Participants respected the court injunction to dismantle the blockade and leave the site, and have not returned. Almost all of the wetlands and aspen forest have since been destroyed.

On April 9, 2018, the City of Winnipeg rejected a development plan by Andrew Marquess' company Gem Equities to construct a residential community called Fulton Grove on the Parker lands.

This situation is fundamentally about the democratic right for citizens to express their convictions, and we believe that members of Winnipeg City Council should advocate for that right to be maintained by requesting that Mr. Marquess’ companies immediately drop their lawsuit.

You can donate the legal defense fund of the defendants here:

www.gofundme.com/481wbf4

Miigwetch/Marcii/Thank you

Here are some links to articles if you wish to learn more:

An Indigenous Blockade in Winnipeg Is Halting Deforestation Efforts:
https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/evdj3z/an-indigenous-blockade-in-winnipeg-is-halting-deforestation-efforts

Parker Lands consultations would give Métis a say on ancestral land:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/opinion-parker-lands-consultatioon-1.4221809

Métis-Anishinaabe land defender establishes Rooster Town blockade in Winnipeg to protect wetlands:
https://canadians.org/blog/m%C3%A9tis-anishinaabe-land-defender-establishes-rooster-town-blockade-winnipeg-protect-wetlands

Coverage of Winnipeg’s Rooster Town Blockade Reveals Media’s Anti-Indigenous Biases:
https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/coverage-of-winnipegs-rooster-town-blockade-and-medias-anti-indigenous-bias

Protesters quietly leave Parker lands: https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/protesters-quietly-leave-parker-lands-444778673.html 

Winnipeg Developer Sues Protesters Who Occupied Parker Lands Construction Site:
http://www.themanitoban.com/2017/10/winnipeg-developer-sues-protesters-who-occupied-parker-lands-construction-site/32553/

City rejects plan for housing on Parker lands: Proposal for homes and towers contravenes land-use rules, planners say; Developer Marquess launches appeal:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/parker-fulton-grove-marquess-appeal-1.4610533

Chilling public protest: Is a lawsuit against Winnipeg land defenders a new form of legal intimidation?:
https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/chilling-public-protest-rooster-town-slapp



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