Dozens attended the morning demonstrations on the Second Narrows Bridge, in the Massey Tunnel and on the Patricia Bay Highway, where one protester was injured after falling from a ladder.
That individual, who was perched on the ladder at the centre of the highway, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“The protest created frustration amongst commuters who attempted to bypass this illegal blockade,” wrote B.C. RCMP Cpl. Alex Bérubé in a Monday morning statement.
“Those blockades are simply dangerous for protesters and for others. … While we understand the commuters’ frustration, the RCMP does not condone the illegal actions taken to bypass blockades.”
Between 12 and 15 people attended the North Saanich demonstration around 6 a.m., bringing northbound traffic on the Patricia Highway to a grinding halt.
Police called in a specialized obstacle removal team to dismantle some of the “physical structures” protesters had attached themselves to. Five were arrested, including the person who fell from the ladder.
“Get out of the way!” one commuter shouted at the person on the ladder. Others cursed at them.
At least one vehicle left the highway and drove on the grassy shoulder to pass the blockade.
In Vancouver, police confirmed five people were arrested for blocking traffic on the Second Narrows Bridge, and four vehicles were seized.
In an interview, Sgt. Steve Addison said the Vancouver Police Department had deployed extra officers in advance of the protests and located vehicles “stashed” near the bridge for potential use in blockades.
“There was at one point, one vehicle that did drive onto the bridge with four occupants inside,” he told Global News. “That vehicle stopped and the occupants in the vehicle attempted to lock themselves, we believe, to the steering wheel.”
Officers intervened and arrested the vehicle occupants. Five were taken into custody altogether, and brought to jail, Addison said.
Mounties in Richmond arrested four people who blocked a portion of the Massey Tunnel just before 7:30 a.m. Three were sitting on Highway 99, and a fourth was perched on a platform ladder, splitting the north and southbound lanes.
One commuter initially tried to make him move by grabbing Save Old Growth signs and tossing them off the road, and attempting to move the ladder, but she was unsuccessful and drove away. Police were unable to coax the man down from the ladder either, and eventually picked it up and moved it to the side of the highway so cars could go around.
“The individual on the ladder was determined to be breaching his conditions from a prior protest in a different jurisdiction,” wrote police in a news release.
“Richmond RCMP is pursuing criminal charges in relation to all those who were arrested.”
The Save Old Growth movement aims to bring about an end to old-growth logging in B.C. by disrupting critical infrastructure to bring government attention to the issue.
The group argues that old-growth forests in B.C. make an invaluable contribution to fighting climate change by sequestering polluting carbon emissions.
“Protecting our last remaining old-growth forests is a complete no-brainer. We’ve been systemically lied to by the BC government,” said Zain Haq, Save Old Growth coordinator, in a news release prior to the demonstrations.
“Through our civil resistance efforts, we’ll create political urgency for the government to represent the will of the people rather than serve the forestry lobby.”
In an interview after the demonstrations were over, Save Old Growth coordinator Ian Webber said it was “quite difficult” to see one of their own — the protester on the ladder in North Saanich — physically injured in the course of their activities.
Everyone involved, however, accepts the reality that civil disobedience comes with some risks.
“Moving forward, we’ve learned a lot and we’re going to try and up the safety for the people involved in Save Old Growth,” said Webber.
“It’s inherently unsafe, but we’re approaching tipping points that may lead to economic and societal collapse. Really the alternative is so much worse.”
Webber said he’s willing to put his life on the line to save old-growth forests, because unless the government acts to curb the impacts of climate change, everyone’s lives are on the line.