Indigenous activists confront drug dealers at downtown Winnipeg mall

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A group of Indigenous activists are fighting against drug trafficking they say is causing trouble around Portage Place Shopping Centre.

"The women and the children don't feel safe. The elders don't feel safe walking through the back [of the mall] so we decided we're going to shut all this down," said Vin Clarke, a member of a group called Urban Warrior Alliance.

Clarke said drug deals outside the back entrance near Ellice Avenue have gotten out of control, and the recent robbery of an elder who took a photo of an alleged drug deal has sparked the need to protest. 

"My wife can't even walk my baby into the mall through that back area without being accosted for drugs and pills," Clarke said.

The Urban Warrior Alliance and members of the Crazy Indians Brotherhood gathered Saturday near the back entrance and plan to demonstrate again Sunday.

Vivian Ketchum, a frequent shopper of the mall, found a drug baggie, a needle and a pill on the ground just steps outside of the back steps of the mall while a CBC camera was rolling.

She said she's regularly offered to buy drugs by dealer who lurk around the back doors.

"I was in here this morning and then within half an hour of sitting down I had someone ask me if I wanted to buy percs (sic)."

Denny Wood, another activist with the Urban Warrior Alliance, said the groups are trying to send a message to drug dealers.

Wood said they have talked to dealers who try to sell pills like Tylenol 3 and Xanax. He said once activists have the pills in their hands they confiscate them. "We dump it right in front of them."

In a video circulating on Facebook, one member of the alliance is seen taking a pill bottle, dumping it in a puddle and then crushing the drugs.

In another Facebook video, Winnipeg police officers can be seen talking calmly to the group's members, asking them what they are doing and reminding them to read up on their rights and the Criminal Code.

Cindy Gilroy, the city councillor who represents the Daniel McIntyre ward, said she's concerned about what's happening in the area. Gilroy said she thinks a community approach is needed.

"A mother should be able to come to the mall with her child. An elder or a senior should be able to come and enjoy a cup of coffee in the food court without feeling like they're being attacked or having to go through the criminal elements that are around," she said.

CBC News has contacted both the Winnipeg Police Service and Portage Place Shopping Centre for comment.