Vancouver police are defending their approach to a climate change protest that took over the Burrard Street Bridge for more than 12 hours on Monday.
About 200 demonstrators with Extinction Rebellion occupied the bridge around 9:30 a.m., and remained on the deck until around 10 p.m. when officers moved in and arrested 11 people.
On Tuesday, a Vancouver police spokesperson said the force had opted to deal with protesters in a different fashion than in other cities holding similar protests.
Police moved in to arrest more than a dozen protesters in both Halifax and Toronto after just a few hours, while police in Edmonton negotiated an end to a protest there without arrests, within hours of the protest beginning.
“Our deployment levels and how we deploy our officers is different, and every situation merits its own response,” said VPD Sgt. Aaron Roed.
“Our officers decided to allow this protest to happen, which it did peacefully for the most part of the day, and at the end of the day we did have to make some arrests as they did refuse to leave the bridge.”
Roed said police spoke with protest coordinators around 9 p.m., and that the majority of them agreed to pack up. The 11 people arrested, he said, will face charges of obstruction of justice.
“Our officers did monitor the situation, we were there for public safety as well as the safety of the protesters,” he said.
Roed said police were not concerned that their tolerance of the day-long protest would encourage future acts of civil disobedience.
He said he could not speak to the cost of policing the demonstration.
Demonstrators who occupied the bridge issued an apology to motorists for any disruption the protest caused, but said it was necessary to raise the profile of the climate issue.
Protesters said they have three demands of government, including “telling the truth” about the urgency of climate change, cutting greenhouse gasses to near zero by 2025, and creating a citizens’ assembly to lead climate action.
Protesters with Extinction Rebellion are also mounting a two-week campaign targeting downtown London, England.