Police arrest 43 Wet'suwet'en solidarity protesters at Port of Vancouver
VANCOUVER -- Protesters demonstrating in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to a major natural gas pipeline in northern B.C. were arrested by the dozens Monday morning after blocking access to the Port of Vancouver.
The Vancouver Police Department confirmed 43 people were taken into custody as officers enforced a court order to clear three entry points at the port.
"They refused to abide by the court order and did not clear access to the port after requested by police. All 43 people have been released with conditions to abide by the injunction," the department said in a news release.
The port entry points were cleared "without any major incidents," according to police.
Protesters who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project began blocking both the Port of Vancouver and Deltaport over the weekend. They were served with an injunction on Sunday.
The situation remained fairly quiet outside the Vancouver port overnight, however about two dozen officers arrived at about 5 a.m. Monday and protesters were warned that they needed to move off the road or face arrest.
“What they’re doing is standing up for us,” said protestor Jordan Hollarsmith. “What everyone here is defending is the right to a clean, and healthy, and safe future.”
After the warning was issued by police using a loudspeaker, dozens moved to the sidewalk to continue their demonstration, while a handful remained in the middle of the road around a fire.
Arrests were made slowly over the course of several hours, with some protestors being carried away by VPD officers to a waiting police van.
While the protest remained mostly peaceful, at one point glass was smashed near a VPD officer and fireworks were shot into the air from the crowd.
By 7:30 a.m, only one protestor, identified by the crowd as an Indigenous elder, remained at the sacred fire in the intersection. A Vancouver police officer spoke with the woman for several minutes as the crowd shouted and chanted at police.
She was eventually put into a police vehicle and driven away.
“Watching someone defend this land and being arrested for it by the police was really difficult and really upsetting,” said environmental activist Kristin Street. “We are very angry. We are very upset. We are going to do anything to make sure the marginalized voices in this country that continue to be ignored are upheld in whatever way we can.”
By 10 a.m., police had cleared the protesters and the intersection was open again.
Another dozen protesters blocked Deltaport in Delta on Sunday and the injunction was issued in response to an application from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and B.C. Maritime Employers Association after more than 250 employees were unable to get to work.
Red Braid, a group that has associated themselves with the protests outside Deltaport, posted on social media that arrests were happening there as well on Monday morning.
Delta police confirmed with CTV News Vancouver that arrests were taking place, adding that officers spoke to protesters "and offered them the opportunity to protest at another, safe location nearby." Fourteen people were arrested in total, police said.
The Metro Vancouver protests continued in conjunction with demonstrations elsewhere across the country. Indigenous youth and supporters continue to camp overnight on the front steps of the B.C. legislature in Victoria, and VIA Rail passenger train service was cancelled on Sunday between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa because of a blockade in Belleville, Ont. in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.
Local protestors are meeting Monday afternoon not talk about what comes next, but say this likely won’t be the last time people in Metro Vancouver feel the impact of the controversial project.
Later Monday afternoon, a group of several hundred protesters regrouped near Main and Hastings streets to continue their demonstration. Vancouver police said the moving protest was impacting traffic on the Downtown Eastside.
“No one is backing down,” Street said. “We are in it for the long haul.”
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ben Miljure