Protesters block intersections in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs
VANCOUVER -- Protesters blocked an intersection in East Vancouver near the entrance to the city's port Thursday afternoon, calling their actions a "blockade" of the port in response to arrests along the planned route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline near Houston, B.C., Thursday morning.
Those arrests were the result of RCMP enforcement of an injunction against Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who have set up camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road where the liquefied natural gas pipeline is to be built.
Approximately 100 people gathered on East Hastings Street in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and marched to the intersection of Hastings and Clark Drive, where one of the port's main entrances is located.
Protester Natalie Knight said groups were also blocking the port's entrances near the Pacific National Exhibition and near the intersection of Powell Street and Heatley Avenue.
Knight said the protesters had been at Clark and Hastings since 1 p.m. and planned to stay as long as possible.
"We're in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people," she said. "We support Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous law, and we want the RCMP to stand down immediately and to cease enforcing the injunction."
Coastal GasLink has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations governments along the pipeline's proposed route, but the company does not have the support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.
While the elected leaders have authority over reserve land under the Indian Act, hereditary chiefs in many First Nations, including the Wet'suwet'en, have responsibility for a broader traditional territory.
Knight said the port protest served two important purposes.
One is to show those camped out in the pipeline's path that they have support around the province. The other is to show the provincial and federal governments, as well as the RCMP, that people are paying attention to their actions and are not supportive of the pipeline.
Protesters say they have already disrupted Coastal GasLink's office, staged sit-ins at local MLA offices, led a march of more than 800 people in Vancouver and shut down the port twice. They plan to continue protesting in the coming days, Knight said.
"There will certainly be (more protests)," she said. "So keep your eyes and ears open."