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Photo Essay

Showdown on the Bluffs

Protesters arrested. A public's attention captured.

By Christopher Grabowski 26 May 2006 | TheTyee.ca

Christopher Grabowski's photographs and photo-essays have appeared in various European publications as well as the Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, Financial Times, El Mundo, Utne Reader, Neue Zurcher Zeitung, MacLean's, Ottawa Citizen and Geist. He has received several awards in photojournalism. Among them, the Michener-Deacon Fellowship, Canada's premier award encouraging the pursuit of investigative journalism that serves the public interest.

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Photo by Christopher Grabowski.

A small environmental group, The Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs at Horseshoe Bay opposes the construction of 2.4 km of the new stretch of Whistler highway. The construction would destroy two rare, diversified ecosystems. The Coalition says that the viable alternatives are either tunnelling under the ridge or widening the existing highway.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon repeatedly told media referring to the Coalition and its members that they "have failed in the courts, they have failed in the election and they have failed in the public relations campaign." At least the last part of this statement is no longer true.

In the morning, on Thursday, May 25, 2006, the police moved in to remove protesters. (For images of the protest and arrests, click the gallery feature at the top of this story.) The concentrated presence of the media and helicopters buzzing above the ridge gave the event a dramatic choreography and the Coalition a new megaphone for voicing its arguments. In fact, the spokespersons were in such demand that the channels arriving late were hard pressed to find informed interviewees. It didn't help that the official spokesperson for the Coalition, Dennis Perry, was arrested together with Betty Krawczyk, Squamish elder Harriet Nahanee and twenty other protesters.

Minister Kevin Falcon, who days before had joked that he envied the power of the Chinese government to build whatever it wishes unimpeded by dissent, appeared in the afternoon CBC broadcast with a new argument against the tunnel. He said that it would actually be unsafe for drivers. He didn't sound convinced himself and looked more than little surprised by the renewed vigour of the debate. According to Dennis Perry, the Coalition's web site is now linked to thousands of other web sites and is receiving 20,000 hits a day. The Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs may have been silenced in the courts so far, as Kevin Falcon said, but regarding the public relations campaign...it's not over until is over, and it seems to be far from over.

Widely published photojournalist Christopher Grabowski is a regular contributor of words and images to The Tyee.  [Tyee]

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