Climate change activists to step up disruption in Vancouver

Zain Haq: ‘Our plan would be in June to escalate to a point where the cost is just too high for the police to consider it a public safety issue’

A spokesperson for a group of activists who have closed Vancouver intersections and bridges connecting the North Shore promises an escalation of actions in June with the deliberate intention of increasing policing costs to a point such that governments must step in and respond to demands. climate change.

Zain Haq, co-founder of Save Old Growth, said the organization’s fight was not with the police, although Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer has publicly stated in two recent meetings that he was concerned about rising costs to manage environmental protests and security concerns. of everyone involved.

“Our plan would be in June to escalate to a point where the cost is just too high for the police to consider this a public safety issue or a protest issue,” said Haq, a college student. Simon Fraser University who was sentenced to two years. weeks in jail in February for actions related to halting construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline extension.

“And past a certain point, if the cost increases too much, it becomes a political issue. The police must let the government know that this is a political problem, and that the police should not deal with it.

Zain Haq, co-founder of Save Old Growth. Photo courtesy of Save Old Growth

“Hold on to your seats”

Last year, Vancouver police spent more than $3 million of their budget policing protests, most of which were related to the environment and anti-vaccine movements, which disrupted traffic at major intersections and on the Lions Gate and Ironworkers Memorial bridges.

Vancouver Police budget statistics provided at Glacier Media last summer show a steady increase in recent years in money spent managing protests and demonstrations, with $478,460 in 2018, $1,033,297 in 2019 and $2,835,584 in 2020.

At an April 28 public safety forum at City Hall, Palmer warned the city council — which has spent the past two years battling with the VPD over its budget — to expect an increase in spending this year linked to the protests.

“The numbers are higher this year in 2022 than they were in 2021,” said the leader, who described Vancouver as the epicenter of the protests. “So hang on to your seats because we’re going for a ride with protests here in Vancouver.”

In discussing protests over the past year, Palmer made it clear that police respect legal protests and attend events to ensure public safety and only arrest people who break the law.

Vancouver had over 800 protests last year.

Protests and demonstrations related to the fight against climate change and opposition to pipelines have increased in Vancouver in recent years. Photo archives Dan Toulgoet

Stuck to the roads, chained to the hotel

Blocking bridges such as the Ironworkers Memorial is not legal and is dangerous for activists, motorists and police, the chief said, referring to recent incidents where frustrated motorists tried to drag people off freeways and bridges.

Some activists stuck to roads and tied themselves to barrels filled with cement in a bid to draw attention to their demands that the provincial government pass legislation to stop ancient logging in British Columbia.

Last month, several activists stuck and chained themselves to the doors of a Vancouver hotel hosting the BC Council of Forest Industries convention.

“We don’t want to see the general public fighting with protesters,” Palmer said at a Vancouver police board meeting April 21.

“We are here to deal with it. But it causes a lot of tension, and I think they’ve made it pretty clear that they want that tension and that disruption. They want to cause a lot of expense and resources for the police, and that is what they are doing.

Haq agreed that having activists run into traffic on infrastructure such as the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge is “extremely dangerous”. He estimated that Save Old Growth had temporarily closed the bridge five times.

“Rising Temperatures”

At the same time, he added, other means of drawing attention to climate change campaigns have been exhausted. He said most of the people involved in actions in Vancouver on bridges and highways are teachers, professors and retired firefighters.

“Personally, I almost got run over by a car in January, and other people found themselves in similar situations in April,” he said.

“But the reason we took that risk isn’t because we don’t recognize how dangerous it is, it’s just that we’re more terrified of what’s to come because of the rise temperatures. [of the Earth].”

Haq spoke about the history and how change has happened in some parts of the world due to protests and unrest.

He pointed to civil rights movements in the United States, including the famous 1965 event when hundreds of protesters crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, over concerns about racial injustice.

The events in Selma are believed to have galvanized public opinion and mobilized the United States Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the same year.

“It’s a game through history – you have to engage in transgressive nonviolence that unsettles the audience,” Haq said. “But that’s what you need to start a conversation about a really important issue.”

He didn’t give details on what kind of actions are planned for June, but said “it could most likely involve permanent occupation” in Vancouver and other cities across the province.

“We don’t know the details yet, but it’s going to be much more disruptive than what we’ve done,” he said, noting the aim is also to clog the courts, with 90 activists arrested in Colombia. British for their actions since January.

“So it’s about doing a lot of different things at the same time.”


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