Occupy protesters block entrance to Port Metro Vancouver
Published Monday, December 12, 2011 4:24PM PST
Vancouver Occupiers blocked two access routes to Canada's biggest port Monday, acting in solidarity with U.S. protesters' efforts to shut down West Coast ports from Alaska to California.
The protest at Port Metro Vancouver began with roughly a dozen demonstrators blocking the Clark Drive entrance before 8 a.m., disrupting traffic and preventing employees from getting to work, according to police who arrived on scene.
At about 1 p.m., dozens more gathered to block the Commissioner Street entrance but were met by a heavy police presence as they approached port property.
Vancouver police arrested a 22-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman for breach of the peace at the Clark Drive entrance at around 3:30 p.m. after officers say they were asked to leave the roadway. Three more men were arrested a half hour later in the 400-block of Clark Drive.
All five have been released without charge.
The port, which handles $200 million per day in cargo, hired extra security in anticipation of the protest and executive Peter Xotta said the port was "prepared to do anything necessary to see port operations continue."
U.S. Occupy groups say they are fighting for the rights of longshoremen and port truckers exploited by greedy corporations, but have so far received no official support from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Occupy Vancouver protesters claim to have widespread support from dockworkers, but garnered a cold reception from the BC Federation of Labour, which issued a statement Thursday opposing the action.
The federation did declare its continuing support for the Occupy movement however, encouraging protesters "to find a means of protesting that highlights the disparity in economic wealth without preventing our members from working safely and earning their incomes."
Trucker Dave Saunders, who was briefly blocked from using the Commissioner Street entrance, said he couldn't understand the purpose of the blockade.
"Some people say they are fighting the docks, but the dock workers are making $40 an hour. How much is enough?" Saunders said.
Vancouver Occupiers say they are also protesting a proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan's facility on Burrard Inlet they warn will increase oil tanker traffic.
Demonstrators dispersed by 2 p.m., far short of the 12 hours originally planned for the protest. Organizers acknowledged a poor turnout, but said they expect the movement to build more momentum in the spring.
Another demonstration was planned at the BC Ferries terminal at Departure Bay in Nanaimo, but Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said only two people showed up to hand out leaflets.
"We asked them to leave and they did," she said in an email.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lisa Rossington