Protesters beat hide drums and sang coastal tribal songs during a flash demonstration Wednesday in the Tacoma Mall to support First Nations peoples who are lobbying Canada’s government.
Many of the dozens who participated in the 2 p.m. demonstration near the food court held signs that read “Idle No More,” the name of a larger movement related to treaties and land use in Canada. Rallies have been held throughout North America, demonstrators said.
“We’re trying to stand strong in solidarity in support of our First Nations people,” said organizer Cathleen Lombard of Puyallup, a member of Washington’s Cowlitz tribe. “We don’t see a border; we’re all like one people.”
Tacoma’s demonstrators were showing solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence, Lombard said.
The Attawapiskat First Nation chief began a hunger strike Dec. 11. She has said she will starve herself to death if Canada’s prime minister doesn’t take steps to improve what she says are impoverished living conditions for many natives in the country, Canada’s National Post reported.
Idle No More organizers worry that Canada’s omnibus budget legislation would allow natives to sell plots of land to non-natives, which they say would end reserve lands and traditional practices, according to the National Post.
Lombard spread the word via social media about Wednesday’s protest about three days prior, and said the group called elders who couldn’t access the Internet.
The mall was chosen as a central location for Western Washington protesters, who have also had some demonstrations in Seattle, she said.
The date also was strategic.
“We knew the mall would be crowded, because it’s the day after Christmas,” Lombard said.
Mall security workers tried to keep traffic flowing around the demonstrators as onlookers stopped to record the demonstration on cellphones.
A Tacoma Mall official was not available for comment Wednesday.
Officers were called to help remove the group, which they estimated to be between 80 and 100 people, Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.
Participants were banned from the mall for one day.
“They were asked to leave the mall by security, and they didn’t want to leave, so police asked them to leave, and they did,” Cool said. “Whenever we trespass someone, it’s for a minimum of 24 hours.”
Some officers remained at the mall in case the group came back, she said, adding that it did not.
The demonstration was peaceful, Cool said.
“We wanted a peaceful protest,” organizer Lombard said. “We prayed about that.”
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8688