Shut Down Canada movement comes off the rails

Protesters from Shut Down Canada blocked Albert Street Friday afternoon.
Protesters from Shut Down Canada blocked Albert Street Friday afternoon. Sarah Kraus / Global News

REGINA – It was a movement designed to unite activists around the country towards a common goal – stalling the Canadian economy.

But Shut Down Canada flopped, especially here in Regina.

The plan was simple: trigger the railway arms to drop and block traffic on Albert Street. The authorities, however, were one step ahead.

Organizer Daniel Johnson was shocked to learn CN Rail police closed off the track and disconnected the signal arms before he could hack them.

“This is probably my most embarrassing moment as an activist ever,” Johnson said. “We thought we had it planned, but apparently we did not.”

When the railway blockade failed, protesters unrolled their banners, using them to stop vehicles.

A few drivers honked in solidarity, but the vast majority did not appreciate being held up on their commute.

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At one point, police became concerned about the activists’ safety, and asked them to stay off the street. The handful of remaining protesters cooperated.

“There are certain laws under the highway traffic act if we needed, but it didn’t get to that point,” said Staff Sergeant John Walker.

What the protesters lacked in numbers, they also lacked in focus.

“My reason for doing this was to stop the economic system that’s endangering our planet’s ability to support life,” said Johnson.

Another man, who wanted to remain anonymous, voiced his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline.

Wendy Lynn Lerat, meanwhile, was protesting continued greenhouse gas emissions, “We’re at the beginning of a crisis, with climate change.”

Overall, Lerat felt let-down by the turnout, “I’m really disappointed… I came here today, hoping that other people would be willing to stick their neck out a little bit, just to say, let’s draw attention to something together.”

She hopes in the future, movements are more disruptive, so as to attract more attention.

“What we did here today was nothing. We should’ve been able to go to the Ring Road or Highway 1 and blocking it for half a day. People would be honking, calling us names,” Lerat said.

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Rallies in other Canadian cities also drew lower turnouts than expected.