More than 10 months after the RCMP enforcement of an interim injunction in Wet’suwet’en territory related to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, criminal charges have been laid against a Prince George, B.C., man arrested at the barricade.
Joseph Choken, 27, was among the 14 people arrested on Jan. 7 after police came to enforce an interim injunction against some Wet’suwet’en and their supporters who’d barricaded themselves in a camp built on the nation’s traditional territory near Houston, B.C.
Wet’suwet’en members had set up checkpoints on a remote stretch of forest service road and a bridge preventing people working on a pipeline project from accessing their traditional territory, which sits about 300 kilometres west of Prince George, B.C.
The Coastal GasLink project is run by TC Energy and is meant to move natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled for construction. The court injunction ordered people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink from gaining access to the road and bridge.
On Nov. 20, two criminal charges were sworn against Choken: one for assaulting a peace officer and another for wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer.
An RCMP spokesperson said it’s alleged that during the enforcement actions on Jan. 7 Choken “attempted to push an officer from a box he was standing on, and other officers while they were attempting to use a ladder to cross a barricade erected on a one-lane bridge.”
Video of the events on Jan. 7 shows Choken among several people at the barricade as police were making their way over the gate. Video also shows he was among the first people arrested after the police came over the gate.
RCMP said that after his arrest and before being taken into custody “Mr. Choken allegedly resisted.”
In the days following the arrests Gidimt’en spokesperson Molly Wickham and other Wet’suwet’en leadership alleged police used inappropriate force during the arrests.
Most of the people arrested were released the following day.
The B.C. Prosecution Service wouldn’t comment on why 10 months passed before charges were sworn against Choken. The service said it could not speak about the case because it’s now before the court.
Choken told CBC News he wasn’t prepared to speak publicly about the charges.
Choken’s first appearance is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2020 in Houston, B.C.