Mohawk leader

Mohawk Indian leader Shawn Brant is seen at a railroad line blockade near Deseronto Ontario, June 29, 2007.

Mohawk leader Shawn Brant

NAPANEE, Ont. — The man who led aboriginal protests that snarled traffic on Canada’s busiest highway and blocked a major rail line is in custody after turning himself in to Ontario Provincial Police today.

“I am handing myself in,” Mohawk protester Shawn Brant, 43, told reporters who had gathered outside the provincial police station in this eastern Ontario town for the scheduled surrender.

“It’s tough on people. It’s hard on the family, it’s hard on the kids.”

Brant appeared calm as he arrived at the station in a convoy with fatigue-clad supporters and his lawyers, taking questions from reporters before heading towards the detachment.

Accompanied by his lawyer Peter Rosenthal, Brant was arrested at the doors on a warrant stemming from a blockade of Highway 2 near Deseronto, Ont., last Friday during the national aboriginal day of action.

He has been charged with mischief and breach of his bail conditions. Brant had been out on bail on previous charges related to a 30-hour blockade of the CN rail line near Deseronto in April. One of the conditions of his being granted bail was that he not incite or be involved in any type of unlawful protest.

However, his supporters, who have staged a number of demonstrations to protest an outstanding land claim in the area and poor conditions on native reserves, blocked the rail line again last Friday.

Brant has served jail time before for trashing the offices of politicians.

He is also facing a second lawsuit by CN stemming from his group’s most recent blockade of the rail line, Rosenthal said.

Brant is expected to appear in a Toronto court on Friday. He was denied bail at a hearing in Napanee today.

“We’re just happy that he’s here and we’re dealing with the issues and we’ll move on,” said Const. Jackie Perry. “We’re pleased that things were peaceful. Nobody got hurt.”

Perry declined to comment on reports that police had tried to arrest Brant before he turned himself in, saying it was part of an ongoing investigation.

While Brant may wind up behind bars, he said a 20-year-old successor is waiting in the wings to continue efforts to raise awareness about aboriginal land claims and poverty.

He said no more protests are imminent, but he hopes his actions thus far will be a catalyst for change.

“We came out clearly that we wanted a new direction on First Nation issues and the crises facing our kids, and we can only hope that our actions cause that to happen,” he said.

Before entering the police station, Brant embraced a woman and shook hands with other supporters.

A charge of mischief carries a range of sentence between two and 10 years under the Criminal Code

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