Another contemporary issue that goes unresolved, concerning our Relations to the north,the Mohawk.http://www.pressrepublican.com/homepage/local_story_152221246.html
By DENISE A. RAYMO
AKWESASNE — The Massena-Cornwall International Bridge was closed Monday after 400 St. Regis Mohawks camped out, protesting Canada's arming of its border agents.
Canadian Border Service Agency officials decided near midnight to close the Cornwall Island station, which is situated on Indian land in Canada.
Only emergency vehicles were allowed on the bridge Monday, although foot traffic can cross.
The eight to 10 officers working inside walked south from their customs house to the American customs station and were returned to Canada without incident.
"It was the agency that made the decision that it was more prudent, from a health and safety point of view, to close the office and continue negotiations," said Ron Moran, the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, told the Cornwall Standard Freeholder.
The U.S. Customs and Border Service also closed its station, and all travelers were being rerouted to either ports of entry in Fort Covington or Ogdensburg, Troop B State Police Capt. Mike Girard said.
"Everything's quiet," he said Monday afternoon. "I sent one patrol over the bridge to the end of the U.S. side."
Using binoculars, he said he could see only about 10 cars and no people visible.
"It was Canada's decision that the bridge be closed, and the Canadian authorities asked the U.S. side to do the same," Girard said.
"(State Police) will maintain a presence there until they tell us otherwise."
Troopers sending vehicles to the alternate crossings are fielding complaints, especially from the Mohawks living on the American side, who use the bridge frequently.
"It's the people of Akwesasne who this is really hurting because they go back and forth to see their family," Girard said. "The people are upset, but they understand that it's not our doing. It's Canada's."
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council offered its support for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs, saying that keeping the peace is the most important issue.
"Four peacekeepers have been appointed to monitor the situation and keep people calm," Chief James Ransom said. "They are all well respected community members who are level-headed and capable.
"Establishing a meaningful dialogue between the Akwesasne community and the Canadian government is going to be a key part of resolving the current situation," he said in a news release.
Plans to issue a sidearm to agents starting June 1 only heightened an already tense situation, where past allegations of racial profiling and intimidation of some Mohawk people surfaced.
"We have had a variety of problems between some border guards and community members when they are crossing the border," Chief Monica Jacobs said.
"Complaints have been filed about how community members have been treated, and these issues need to be looked at so we can move forward."
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Tim Thompson said his government considered declaring a state of emergency during the protest and continues to call for negotiations with Canadian representatives.
"It has been and it will continue to be a peaceful demonstration in our community in opposition to the arming initiative for border agents on Akwesasne Mohawk territory," said Brendan White, communications director for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne on the Canadian side.
"There is an operations center set up where people can make arrangements for their immediate medical needs and appointments they have scheduled," he said.
"No vehicles are being allowed to cross the bridge except for emergency-response vehicles."
He said pedestrians can walk north across the Canadian span between Cornwall and Cornwall Island, "but they cannot carry any packages or groceries," White said.
Canadian conservation authorities have launched two boats into the St. Lawrence River near the bridge to monitor the situation, he said.