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Jesse Jackson Compares Mohawk Standoff Site to Kuwait

September 25, 1990 GMT

MONTREAL (AP) _ Jesse Jackson made a quick one-day trip Monday to the Montreal area to gather material for a U S. TV report on the Mohawk land dispute crisis at Oka, and compared the standoff in Quebec to Kuwait.

″Military occupation is military occupation,″ he said.

He was referring to Canadian army control in Kahnesatake that includes limiting news media activities and allowing into a nearby drug and alcohol treatment center - where the army has penned in about 50 Indians - only as much food and supplies as deemed necessary.

Jackson, a civil rights activist and politician, mingled with locals at the Kahnesatake food bank, but was kept from talking to the natives at the treatment center there.

Maj. John Paul Macdonald of the Canadian Forces said Jackson was treated like any other journalist and refused entry to the compound, which has been sealed to reporters for two weeks.

Jackson complained, ″When the free press is cut off and denied access to all parties involved, then it undercuts the character of democracy. Both sides here are interested in face-saving, honor and dignity. But, somehow, face- saving has to give way to life-saving and communications must be resumed.″

The black activist wore a trenchcoat in the cold, rainy weather and carried a notepad, but spent much of his time shaking hands, kissing babies and signing autographs.

He was accompanied by Grand Chief Joe Norton of the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve and a dozen other people, including a production crew from his syndicated television show in the United States. However, he left many Canadians confused as to just what he hoped to accomplish in the confrontation between Mohawks and authorities.

Jackson visited the food bank in the Mohawk community after being turned back at the treatment center. He refused to say he was in the Montreal area in any negotiating capacity, but suggested his experience might be ″a factor in facilitating an end to this impasse.″

The dispute arose over plans by Oka community, 18 miles west of Montreal, to expand a golf course onto land the Mohawks claim as ancestral. Mohawks and police fought a gun battle on July 11 when police tried to tear down an Indian barricade. An officer was killed, but blame in the death has not been fixed.

Jackson’s credentials include a trip to Syria in 1984, where he persuaded President Hafez Assad to release an American navy pilot who had been shot down by the Syrian air force.

The American black leader also went to Premier Robert Bourassa’s office. However, the premier wasn’t there and Jackson ended up speaking to his chief of staff, John Parisella, and Native Affairs Minister John Ciaccia.