RCMP remain on scene at the Williams Lake Indian Band administration office where at least four men forcibly entered the building just after 8 a.m. Tuesday morning and asked staff to leave.
It is unclear at this early stage what the group wants, however it is suspected their motive is political. Text messages from the group relayed to the Tribune indicate the men are unarmed, however that has not been confirmed.
As many as a dozen officers surrounded the building with high powered weapons, while concerned band staff gathered at the community’s resource building next door.
Some of the men inside have been identified as band members Edward Razor (Thomas), Arnie Jack, Darcy Kobelt and one other unidentified man.
Chief Anne Louie was not in the community Tuesday (May 24).
By Tuesday afternoon, Acting Chief Heather McKenzie said she would consider the occupation of the administration building a demonstration.
“Right now, (I would say) it’s a sit-in. We are working on how best to deal with it,” McKenzie said, adding that all parents in the community have been contacted by their schools to pick up their children rather than have buses come into the community.
“I don’t think at this point it’s a safety issue, but we don’t want any children brought into this situation because we just can’t say for sure,” she said.
Chief and council have been dealing with an increasingly active handful of community protesters in recent months, including in February when the treaty referendum vote was halted at Sugar Cane due to aggressive demonstrators who smashed a ballot box inside the Elizabeth Grouse Gymnasium.
Darcy Kobelt was arrested in relation to that incident.
In April during a re-vote the community voted in support of the chief and council to continue moving forward with the treaty process.
April Thomas, who has been an outspoken critic of the chief and council, drove between the police-surrounded administration office and resource building Tuesday morning raising her fist in the air in a show of triumph towards staff.
Last week, Thomas also lent support to Sheldon Wycotte who was evicted from his grandfather’s house by the band after he said he refused to sign a tenancy agreement.
Some members on scene Tuesday said prior to the take over, the suspects were going door-to-door trying to gain support for their latest protest, although Kobelt said through the Tribune’s website that wasn’t the case.
Kobelt said he thinks the chief and council are removing members who speak against them.