Protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en blockade disrupts traffic in Burnaby
Police said the protest was having a significant impact on traffic well into Friday afternoon.
A few dozen people gathered outside Burnaby RCMP headquarters near City Hall Friday afternoon, before moving to block traffic on the Kensington overpass in protest of RCMP activity near the Wet’suwet’en pipeline blockade in BC’s north.
Just over a dozen people have been arrested for breaching a court injunction in recent days as police ramp up operations against protestors opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through We’suwet’en territory.
The conflict, which has been ongoing for several years, stems from a dispute over land rights. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the pipeline does not have their consent to pass through their unceded territory.
Videos posted to social media show a heavily armed police presence moving into the protestors’ campsite near Houston, BC.
“We’re here in protest against violent, military assaults from the RCMP on the Wet’suwet’en Nation and here in solidarity with holding their traditional laws, and protecting the sacred headwaters of the Wedzin Kaw (river),” protestor Corvin Mack told the Beacon Friday afternoon.
Mack was one of the protestors who showed up to Burnaby RCMP headquarters Friday morning around 9:30.
He said the people who showed up were focused on keeping spirits and morale high.
Police resources during flood crisis
But he and fellow protestor Rita Wong say police resources up north would be better spent in the south of the province, responding to the historical flood crisis which has devastated many parts of BC and shut off most major highways since the weekend.
“It is especially outrageous and reprehensible that they’re doing this when BC’s in a flood, in a crisis situation. Why are they sending RCMP up there when there’s all this stuff going on down here that needs attending to?” Wong asked.
“They could be saving lives instead of harassing Indigenous peoples and threatening them with assault rifles.”
In press releases, RCMP characterized their enforcement action as “rescue missions” necessitated by the fact that the protestors were blocking in several hundred workers at the Coastal GasLink camp, preventing the movement of essential supplies including water.
Police said protestors were also illegally cutting down trees and unsafely blocking roads to the camp. They claimed allegations that they are preventing food and medical supplies from being brought into the protest camp are false, as are allegations of excessive force.
Limited information on “interaction” between citizen and protestors
In Burnaby, Mack said there were six to eight police cruisers blocking off the exit of Highway 1 where the rally was taking place.
Mack and Wong also told the Beacon that there had been a heated “incident” between a driver and protestors, but didn’t provide further details.
“We can confirm there was an interaction between a citizen and demonstrators. The nature of the incident is currently under investigation, but at this time police have no information to suggest anyone was hit by a vehicle,” Burnaby RCMP said in a statement.
Police said the protest was having a significant impact on traffic well into Friday afternoon. The Kensington overpass was ultimately reopened just before 4pm.
Wong, meanwhile, was firm that police resources were being wasted on enforcing a court injunction on Indigenous land in a time of climate crisis.
“The Wet’suwet’en people up there are doing the best and the most to protect us from the climate crisis, from the kinds of things we’re seeing: heat waves, floods, storms and all of that. They’re actually the leaders we need to be following and respecting right now,” she said.
“And that’s why we’re here. I’m really appalled that the RCMP is making the climate crisis worse by enforcing this injunction that actually has no bearing Wet’suwet’en land and no right to be there.”