A front-end loader scraped gravel and rocks off Highway 6 Thursday morning, opening up a section of the road for the first time in weeks.
Demonstrators who began blocking roads near Caledonia, Ont., on Aug. 5 have begun to remove their barricades.
"Hopefully between today, tomorrow and the next day we'll see some movement on the bypass and Highway 6 barricades," said spokesperson Skyler Williams, early Thursday. But by Thursday at least 2 of the major barricades were gone.
"If the actions of the OPP are of deescalation we'll meet that in kind," he added. "As long as the police presence and police activity isn't one of enforcement, shooting and Tasering and dragging our people off our own lands."
OPP Const. Rod LeClair said the roads will need to be inspected and, if needed, repaired, before they can officially reopen, noting he didn't have a specific timeline for when that would happen.
"Debris on the roadways is currently being removed by demonstrators," he wrote in an email to CBC Thursday morning.
LeClair said the OPP's provincial liaison team is continuing to communicate with demonstrators and community members "who have voiced their concerns."
Asked about the situation Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said he'd met with Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill at Queen's Park and stressed the importance of dialogue.
"It's always better to discuss these things, work them out, make sure there is no violence as we move forward because it doesn't benefit ... Six Nations, it doesn't benefit the Indigenous community as a whole and it's better to sit down, talk about it and work things out. That's what we plan on doing."
Tires and vehicles cleared from road
One of the first barriers to be pushed aside was near 5th Line, including a large piece of cement with the words "GO HOME OPP" written in orange spray paint.
As heavy equipment was used to clear the road, people were already driving through the newly-reopened section, kicking clouds of dust into the air.
The Highway 6 bypass was cleared, but the rail line remains shut down.
Demonstrators also began dismantling a much-larger blockade on Argyle Street. Two men tossed dozens of heavy tires, loading them into the bucket of the front-end loader which carried them away. A crushed car was dragged away around 1 p.m.
The blockades went up following arrests at the nearby McKenzie Meadows residential development. Demonstrators set up camp and began occupying the site 32 days ago, saying it's unceded Haudenosaunee territory and renaming it 1492 Land Back Land.
Williams, who was among the people arrested that day, said decision to remove the barricades was a difficult one for the community following the OPP raid.
Some fear it could lead to more violence and police enforcing a court injunction calling for the demonstrators to leave the development.
That's something they have no intention of doing, said Williams. In the meantime, they've reached out to the provincial and federal governments and asked them to sit down and discuss what's going on.
"If we are actively engaging in a negotiation process with the federal and provincial governments that we might be able to see some action moving forward," Williams explained.
His hope is that opening the roads back up will allow the conversation to focus solely on the land and its future.
"When we're spending all our time talking about road barricades and rail blockades and highway blockades it leaves very little time and space to be able to talk about the real issue here and that's the land."