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BC Politics

More Arrests at Fairy Creek Blockade and Protest in Victoria

RCMP abandons plan to pause enforcement when old-growth protesters return to ‘cleared’ area.

Rochelle Baker 20 May 2021Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Canada’s National Observer.

RCMP unexpectedly arrested a number of old-growth activists with the Fairy Creek blockades inside the control zone near the Caycuse Camp early this morning.

Meanwhile, downtown Victoria was plagued by stalled traffic and orange smoke plumes as a result of a demonstration to support blockaders and protect ancient forests later in the morning.

Details of arrests are still emerging from the remote camp, which is out of cell range in the Caycuse watershed on southwest Vancouver Island.

The Rainforest Flying Squad, the coalition behind the various blockades in Teal-Jones’ tree farm licence 46 near Port Renfrew, said it is getting reports that some young Indigenous activists were arrested and more detentions are expected.

Originally, no RCMP enforcement was planned today in the Caycuse area, so a media convoy wasn’t organized, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Chris Manseau.

However, a police patrol early this morning encountered more activists at the site where people were arrested Wednesday, Manseau said.

“Officers hadn’t anticipated there was anyone in the area,” he said, adding that after police clear a zone, it’s typical they continue to hold it.

“But then, sometime between yesterday and this morning, protesters literally came out of the trees,” Manseau said. “They were encountered by members and our day of no planned enforcement turned into a bit of a scramble to get media into the area.”

A police-escorted media convoy into the control zone set out at 11 a.m., he added.

Manseau said he is trying to verify information about the arrests in the zone and will release more details as they become available.

At the same time, a protest in support of blockaders, and calling on government to end old-growth logging, erupted near the legislature buildings in Victoria mid-morning.

Dozens of protesters blocked an intersection on Superior Street outside the B.C. Ministry of Environment, said Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee, adding it seemed to be a spontaneous demonstration.

“I didn’t hear about the protest until just now and came down to check it out,” Coste said. “The anger is palpable, and people are literally calling on Environment Minister George Heyman and Premier John Horgan to come down and address them directly.”

People are increasingly frustrated with the province’s lack of action to protect old-growth forests and so are increasingly resorting to joining blockades or protests, Coste added.

“People come to us and ask, ‘What can we do?’” Coste said.

The Wilderness Committee typically advises people to contact their MLA or write to the environment minister, he said.

“But more and more people are telling us that’s not good enough, and that they need to take things into their own hands,” Coste said. “And we’ve been trying to communicate this frustration to the government for a long time.”

“The protests and the blockades we’re seeing on the logging roads just aren’t surprising to me.”

Police enforcement of the court order barring activists from blocking Teal-Jones access to the tree farm licence area began Tuesday.

RCMP reported Wednesday evening they had arrested 12 people and expected two more arrests before the end of day.

Nine people were arrested for breaching the injunction, while three others were detained for obstructing police.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics, Environment

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