Climate change protesters shut down Burrard Street Bridge
VANCOUVER - Protesters shut down the Burrard Street Bridge to traffic Monday for an "all day" protest calling for action on climate change.
The protest was organized by a group called Extinction Rebellion, which co-ordinated similar events across the country, including in Halifax, where 18 people were arrested, then later released after a demonstration on the MacDonald Bridge.
Another demonstration was held in Toronto, where the Bloor Street Viaduct was closed by protesters.
Despite heavy rain, organizers in Vancouver said they were expecting between 300 and 500 protesters to take part.
"We have a planetary emergency, we need to take dramatic steps to reduce carbon emissions and try to save the planet," protester Kimball Cariou told CTV News Vancouver when asked why he was attending.
While traffic was blocked, with activists setting up tents and playing street hockey on the bridge deck, bike lanes and sidewalks were expected to remain open for the duration of the protest.
About 150 people have set up in the middle of the Burrard Bridge for a climate change protest. Some have said they plan to stay until 5:00 p.m. and others say maybe 11:00 p.m. @CTVVancouver pic.twitter.com/dLkfWmVbJH— Ben Miljure (@CTVNewsBen) October 7, 2019
"There will be disruption for sure, but we have tried to minimize it as much as possible," said Extinction Rebellion Vancouver volunteer spokesperson Edison Huang, who added transit officials and police were aware of the demonstration plans.
TransLink posted services notices for three different routes: the 2 Downtown/MacDonald, the 32 Downtown, and the 44 Downtown/UBC.
#RiderAlert Update: 2 Macdonald/44 UBC detour now regular route to Burrard & Nelson, then Nelson, Howe, continue Granville Bridge, 4 Ave, MacDonald, resume regular route due to march. ^LA— TransLink BC (@TransLink) October 7, 2019
Extinction Rebellion did not give details ahead of the event on how late the protest will go, only saying it was expected to last "all day." An online signup sheet for the event indicated some protesters may be willing to stay on the bridge into Tuesday.
"It's going to depend on the passion of the protesters. Due to the severity of the climate crisis, we will try to go as long as possible," said Huang.
Vancouver police said in a message on Twitter that the department expected the bridge closure to last at least through the evening commute.
The Vancouver Police Department declined an interview request, but in an email, a spokesperson said the force respects people's right to protest and that officers would monitor the situation for public safety concerns and impacts to area residents and businesses.
Some drivers told CTV News they were annoyed by the protestors decision to block the bridge.
"It's not helping their cause and this is just creating more pollution so I really don't see the point," said one man as he waited for a light to change at Burrard and Pacific.
"They've got their right to do what they want to do and demonstrate but shutting down the bridge might disrupt traffic so it's not the best," added another.
Extinction Rebellion said some protestors are willing to be arrested. A training workshop with lawyers was offered over the weekend for those who might end up in custody.
The group calls itself "a nonviolent, peaceful, and disciplined movement." It says the protest is about demanding "meaningful action on the climate and ecological emergency."
A large group of protestors now heading to the middle of the Burrard St. Bridge. They expect this to be an “all day” protest despite the rain. Sidewalks and bike lanes still open. Buses detouring. https://t.co/B80Du2jVrA @CTVVancouver pic.twitter.com/J4eERsv51B— Sheila Scott (@Sheila_Scott) October 7, 2019
Although rain Monday likely hampered turnout, Huang said he thought the number of people that did come out in the damp weather is a "testament to how passionate people are ... It's clear Vancouver people care deeply about the climate crisis."
"This is the moment. It's an emergency and we really need people to listen," protester Evie Mandel told CTV News. "If 30 years of science and petitions and policy papers haven't worked, then civil disobedience is the next step."
Extinction Rebellion is urging people to keep momentum going in the wake of the Sept. 27 climate action strike that took place worldwide, including in Vancouver where an estimated 100,000 people marched from city hall to downtown Vancouver.
Vancouver police said they had a plan in place for Monday's event and would be monitoring the protest and traffic disruptions. They have not indicated if arrests are possible.
#VanTraffic we are expecting traffic delays on and around Burrard Bridge later this morning. Please plan accordingly.— Vancouver Police (@VancouverPD) October 7, 2019