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'We'll keep doing this': B.C. group behind highway blockades vows more to come


A Metro Vancouver tunnel and a bridge were blocked by protesters during Monday's morning commute, leading to several arrests. But the group behind the demonstrations says more are being planned.

Members of Save Old Growth, a group behind other traffic-disrupting protests in recent months, announced it would block the north entrance of the George Massey Tunnel Monday, halting southbound traffic.

B.C.'s Transportation Ministry confirmed the tunnel was blocked at about 7:15 a.m., saying drivers should "expect heavy delays and congestion."

Richmond RCMP said three people were sitting on Highway 99 and one person was "perched on a platform ladder" when officers arrived. All four were arrested, and one person was found to be breaching conditions from a prior protest, Mounties said.

"We respect the rights of individuals for lawful, peaceful and safe protests, however when blocking a major highway is neither lawful or safe, the police need to mitigate the circumstances. Police are mandated to assuring public safety and the safety of everyone including the protestors," Insp. Mark Baxter said in a news release.

Members of the group also blocked traffic on the Second Narrows Bridge Monday morning. At about 7:30 a.m., police were spotted smashing car windows and removing protesters from the vehicle and in the area.Five people were eventually arrested. Police said four vehicles were seized as well.

"Unlawful protests that clog vital pieces of infrastructure put peoples’ safety at risk," Sgt. Steve Addison said in a news release. "While we support everyone’s right to lawfully assemble and peacefully express their views, the Vancouver Police Department will continue to work proactively to prevent illegal protests and allow people to safely move around the region."

Addison told CTV News several vehicles were seized prior to the protest, limiting its impact.

By 9 a.m., protesters were cleared from both the Massey Tunnel and the Second Narrows.

Another protest blocked a highway on Vancouver Island and access to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.

A protestor perched on a ladder fell 15 feet according to organizers. Minutes before, a man was seen removing part of what appeared to be a makeshift support structure.

BC EHS said a man was taken to hospital in stable condition. An RCMP spokesperson said an investigation was underway into how the man fell and if a crime was committed. Five people were arrested at the scene.

Save Old Growth said it took a six-week break to recruit and train more protesters, adding it's resuming a series of blockades on highways and bridges across Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

Zain Haq with the organization, spoke outside a Vancouver courthouse Monday.

"We'll keep doing this, day after day for three weeks, until we win," he said.

The group is calling for an end to logging of old growth forests in British Columbia through legislative changes.

"They might not like our tactics, but they want to save old growth," said protester Sam Nguyen about the impacts the demonstrations are having on commuters.

"We've tried petitions, we've tried to talk to MLAs, it's been 30 years, nothing's happened … we don't want to be on the roads. We don't want to be stopping these people going to work."

Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, released a statement today, which read in part, "Approximately 80 per cent of the most at-risk old growth in B.C. is not threatened by logging because it is protected, deferred, or uneconomic to harvest."

Public Safety Minister, Mike Farnworth, praised police actions and told reporters there was no tolerance for illegal behaviour.

He went even further in criticizing the group, adding, "The public does not support what they're doing and if they think it does...they've got rocks in their head."

A group of counter-protesters, called Clear the Road, accused Save Old Growth of holding commuters hostage and plans to launch a class-action lawsuit against them.

“I’m very concerned that their actions are just going to escalate and escalate to the point that it is even more dangerous for commuters and for RCMP,” said Clear the Road organizer Tamara Meggit.

"Anybody who has been affected by these (protests), anybody who has lost shifts at work or anything like that, let us know your story. We are looking to document and a class action lawsuit will be in discussions with law firms."



With files from CTV News Vancouver's Shannon Paterson and Regan Hasegawa Top Stories

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