A gathering across the highway from the main gate of the Muskrat Falls hydro project quickly turned into a partial blockade of the site Saturday when a truck entering the site made contact with two land protectors, according to one of the people involved.
After gathering in the designated protest area across from the main gate a group of land protectors defied Nalcor’s Supreme Court injunction and moved across the street to stand in front of the gate, where multiple blockades took place in October and earlier this month.
Land protector Amy Norman told The Independent the group had not intended to block traffic entering or leaving the site, until one truck driver intentionally hit her with his vehicle.
“We didn’t really have anything planned,” Norman explained. “But then the first truck that tried to pull in was really kind of dangerous and aggressive at us. He turned in and we thought we would just slow him down for a few minutes, but he just kept coming at us, inching closer and closer, [and] he eventually hit me.”
Norman, a university student who recently moved home to Happy Valley-Goose Bay while working on a Master’s Degree in Indigenous community health, said the driver’s actions were intentional.
“I was standing there, standing still, and he just kept inching forward, closer and close and closer…and I yelled out at him, and he kept coming at me, super gently but he still hit me. He still had no regard for any of us or our safety.”
Norman said when the truck made contact with her, another land protector joined and and positioned herself in front of the vehicle.
She said police officers had been watching, and when the second person “got pushed” by the truck police “intervened and got the driver stopped completely.”
Norman said police indicated to her and the other land protector that they will be invited to give statements on the incident and that the driver is “probably going to be charged,” though Norman said the police did not say what the charges could be.
The Independent asked Nalcor to comment on the incident and to explain the corporation’s policy when it comes to such matters, but spokesperson Karen O’Neill responded only by saying, “Given you were told that the RCMP were present you should contact the RCMP to verify your information.”
The Independent followed up with a second request for information on Nalcor’s policies that would be applicable to the incident but O’Neill did not respond by the time of publication.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Trevor O’Keefe told The Independent Sunday morning that “there was an incident involving a truck and demonstrators at the Muskrat Falls main gate yesterday,” and that “there were no injuries.”
O’Keefe said RCMP in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are “investigating the matter,” and that “no charges have been laid at this time.”
The story will be updated if Nalcor responds to explain how they are handling the situation and whether or not they have policies in place to deal with such incidents.
Norman said the truck driver was turned away and forced to continue southward on the Trans Labrador Highway, before turning around and returning a short time later, then continuing on toward Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The incident marks the second in as many months when people demonstrating outside the Muskrat Falls main gate reported dangerous behaviour by workers driving trucks to the project site.
In mid-October land protectors reported an incident when a truck driver drove at an allegedly unsafe speed toward the blockaded main gate and allegedly almost struck an individual.
Land protector Beatrice Hunter told The Independent that following Saturday’s incident the group delayed traffic entering the site for several hour, admitting only one vehicle in each direction through the gates every 45 minutes.
“We just wanted to show that we were still fighting and in control,” she said. “We haven’t given up the fight yet.”