Hundreds of protesters cross Seaway International Bridge

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Several hundred protesters crossed the Seaway International Bridge into Cornwall Saturday, shutting down traffic at the crossing and hoping to draw attention to issues concering native rights.

The "Idle No More" protest was generally peaceful, though witnesses said there were some scuffles with the press involving demonstrators.

But by the time First Nations protesters reached Cornwall Island on their trek northwards to the base of the bridge in Cornwall, it was all smiles and chanting as deomnstrators marched in unison.

"Our rights are very important to us," said Veronica Thompson, an Akwesasne woman who was out supporting protesters. "We want justice and respect for our people."

The bridge was shut down in stages, as protesters made their way north into Cornwall. After protesters left Cornwall Island the south span of the bridge was reopened to southbound traffic.

Cornwall police closed access to the north span of the bridge while demonstrators made their way into the city. Motorists were also barred from the traffic circle in Cornwall at the base of the bridge.

"I think it`s important to be here looknjg on with our grandchildren and our next seven generations," said Thompson. "I think it`s a way of showing (solidarity) right across our nation."

The protesters included natives and non-natives, young and old. Many natives were dressed with traditional head-dresses and the like.

Idle No More protests continued throughout Canada on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to meet with First Nations leaders to discuss aboriginal treaties.

Both federal and aboriginal leaders are hoping the meeting planned with Harper for next week will mark the beginning of an ongoing dialogue with the government on issues including First Nation development and land treaty rights.

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