Over 100 protesters took to the streets of downtown Vancouver during rush hour Friday evening to highlight the urgency of climate change action.
Members of Extinction Rebellion began their “snake march” from Queen Elizabeth Plaza just after 4:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., the protesters made their way west down West Georgia Street further into the downtown core.
In addition to the marchers holding banners and signs, a truck also pulled some protesters on a trailer while blasting the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” on loudspeakers.
At Georgia Street near Howe Street, the protesters staged a “die-in,” lying down in the middle of the road.
By 6:30 p.m., protesters began gathering at the Vancouver Art Gallery, leaving Georgia Street and allowing traffic to resume shortly afterwards.
The march impacted traffic on one of the main arterial routes connecting downtown to the rest of the city, forcing many commuters to detour in order to make it back home for the evening.
Organizer Joy Cozens said the group understood it would cause a disruption and apologized to drivers, but that it was necessary to get their message across.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been standing outside Environment Canada (offices), outside of buildings, lobbying and holdings signs for 30 years and nothing’s working,” she said. “So civil disobedience is where we’re at now.”
Transit was also affected. Gouya Thahmasebi told Global News she waited nearly half an hour along the protest route before realizing her bus was not coming to take her to North Vancouver.
“It was up to me to call TransLink and find out where to catch my bus,” she said. “There were no notices, nothing.”
Thahmasebi says she had to call out to her fellow transit riders to follow her to the proper stop blocks away. She finally got home two hours later, forcing her to be late for another job.
“These people (the protesters) are creating more emissions by forcing traffic to detour, they say they’re fighting for the children but they’re wearing clothes made by children overseas,” she said. “I’m pissed.”
Vancouver police were on hand to monitor the protest and help redirect traffic. They said no arrests were made.
Extinction Rebellion has been engaged in protests in cities around the world, including a weeks-long initiative in London, England.
Members of the group also shut down traffic on Ottawa’s Laurier Avenue Bridge on Friday. A day earlier, they slowed down traffic on the Burlington Lift Bridge in Hamilton.
Protesters say they have three demands of government: “telling the truth” about the urgency of climate change, cutting greenhouse gasses to net-zero by 2025, and creating a citizens’ assembly to lead climate action.
The International Panel on Climate Change’s latest forecast says the world needs to limit global warming to 1.5 C to prevent the most severe impacts of rising sea level and temperature, as well as species loss and extinction.
Extinction Rebellion has staged similar protests in Vancouver this month. On Oct. 7, about 200 protesters massed on the Burrard Bridge for most of the day.
Police eventually moved in around 10 p.m. that day and officers arrested 11 people who refused orders to clear the deck.
The VPD said those demonstrators would face obstruction of justice charges.
—With files from Jordan Armstrong and Simon Little