Akwesasne Mohawk takeover of border post ends with arrest
By Todd Hambleton, Cornwall Standard Freeholder, March 22, 2014
CORNWALL ISLAND – Akwesasne Mohawk Police defused a potential showdown just before noon on Saturday, arresting activist Stacey Boots.
Boots, of Akwesasne, had announced to media outlets his plan to march with other activists on the former Canada Border Services Agency customs house, but it never happened.
Boots was alone in the Akwesasne Peoples’ Fire building across the roadway from the customs house and about to be interviewed by the Standard-Freeholder.
Three officers with the Akwesasne Mohawk Police entered the building at about 11:55 a.m. and told Boots he was wanted on a previous warrant and that they were obligated to arrest him.
“Hey, I’m peaceful,” Boots told the officers. “No trouble with me. . .I understand what you have to do, I kind of figured this would happen.
“It’s just a shame it would come to this.”
Boots was attempting to organize a group that was to gather at the Akwesasne Peoples’ Fire site, then walk across the road to the customs house “and take it over”.
Boots before being arrested said the Saturday morning snowfall didn’t help his plan, but he was still hopeful supporters would show up early in the afternoon, and that it was still his intention to go into the former customs house.
“The weather has kept people away, and (the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne) scared a lot of people,” Boots told the Standard-Freeholder.
The MCA in a press release late in the week said its Emergency Measures Program was preparing for the Boots-led event and that public safety was its top priority, and it advised the community should be prepared for a possible disruption or possible bridge closure through Cornwall Island at some point on Saturday.
It was almost five years ago when the Canada Border Services Agency abandoned the customs house due to community opposition to the proposed plans to have armed border guards at the site.
The union for the CBSA border guards has indicated it doesn’t intend to return to the island, and the MCA has been in discussions with the bridge authority to tear down the building.
Boots earlier in the week said he and his group would “enter the building, (and) from that point forward it is our building.”
Boots had said that it was his great-grandfather, Paul Caldwell, who decades ago “sold the land under false pretenses” and was pressured into signing a deal with Canada.
“I’m putting myself out there because my grandfather sold that land, and who better to fight for this than me?” Boots said.
He said the group’s motivations for taking over the building includes “the wrongdoings that they’ve done to our people in Akwesasne. . .we’re going to push on, we’re going to self-determine what’s going to happen in Akwesasne.”