A pair of traffic-disrupting protests at two crucial crossings in Metro Vancouver Monday morning resulted in nine total arrests and several vehicle seizures.
Protesters with the Save Old Growth group blocked traffic using the Massey Tunnel and the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge during the busy Monday (June 13) morning commute.
At the Massey Tunnel, which crosses beneath the Fraser River and connects Delta and Richmond, four protesters positioned themselves in lanes and blocked traffic moving in both directions.
Richmond RCMP officers responded shortly before 7:30 a.m., arriving on scene to find three people sitting on Highway 99 with a fourth person perched on a platform ladder.
Southbound traffic was fully blocked and the northbound counterflow lane was blocked as a result of the protest, according to DriveBC.
Three people were arrested without incident, while a C-IRG (Community-Industry Response Group) officer assisted in the safe arrest of the fourth individual on the ladder. The individual on the ladder was determined to be breaching his conditions from a prior protest in a different jurisdiction.
Authorities note that a commercial truck driver provided assistance on scene.
Richmond RCMP is pursuing criminal charges in relation to all those who were arrested.
“We respect the rights of individuals for lawful, peaceful and safe protests, however when blocking a major highway is neither lawful nor safe, the police need to mitigate the circumstances. Police are mandated to assuring public safety and the safety of everyone including the protesters,” states Inspector Mark Baxter, Richmond RCMP.
Protest leads to arrests on Ironworkers Memorial Bridge
Meanwhile, more Save Old Growth protesters were preparing to set up a blockade on the busy Ironworkers Memorial crossing, connecting Vancouver and North Vancouver. There, participants had left three vehicles unoccupied, which the Vancouver Police Department ascertained had been intended for blocking bridge traffic.
VPD officers also intervened and arrested four people who attempted to lock themselves to a steering wheel inside a car on the bridge deck.
The VPD says it deployed officers Monday morning when the environmental protesters announced plans to blockade infrastructure throughout the region.
All told, Monday's protest led to five arrests and police seized multiple vehicles.
“Unlawful protests that clog vital pieces of infrastructure put peoples’ safety at risk,” says Sergeant Steve Addison. “While we support everyone’s right to lawfully assemble and peacefully express their views, the Vancouver Police Department will continue to work proactively to prevent illegal protests and allow people to safely move around the region.”
“Our officers worked quickly to prevent a prolonged blockade on the bridge and to keep traffic moving,” adds Sergeant Addison. “Although we avoided major delays, many people were still impacted while we worked to restore order. We thank everyone for their patience and support during this challenging situation.”
Opposition mounts to traffic-blocking old-growth protests
Save Old Growth has been blocking traffic at major locations across B.C., in particular in Metro Vancouver and in the Victoria area, since the start of the year.
On top of the two Metro Vancouver protests Monday morning, the group shut down roads at two locations on Vancouver Island.
In recent weeks, the group indicated plans to escalate its actions.
“Our plan would be in June to escalate to a point where the cost is just too high for the police to see this as a public safety issue or as a protesting issue,” Zain Haq, co-founder of Save Old Growth, told V.I.A. in May.
Meanwhile, opposition to the group's protest tactics is mounting.
A group opposing the road blockades meant to draw attention to old-growth logging in British Columbia says it is considering a class-action lawsuit for “disrupting highway users.”
The group, calling itself Clear the Road, said it’s asking anyone who has their commute disrupted “to document the harm they suffer.
With files from Mike Howell and Stefan Labbé