Up to a hundred protesters occupied the crossroads of Clark and Hastings Thursday afternoon, in response to the arrest of several Wet’suwet’en protestors made earlier in the day at a work site in northern B.C. for the Coastal GasLink pipeline construction.
Protesters stood quietly in the rain, blocking access to the Port of Vancouver.
“Every 15 minutes that goes by, we’re delaying tens of thousands of dollars of goods that go through this port,” said protester Herbert Varley. “What we’re here to do is put a strain on the economic system of what we now call Canada because the only thing that the government understands is economic pressure.”
The protest came hours after RCMP officers near Houston, B.C. moved in to enforce a court injunction ordering members of the Wet’suwet’en and supporters remove a blockade stopping access to a natural gas pipeline work site. Six people were arrested.
In Vancouver, protest organizers distributed muffins and cups of coffee to the cold, wet activists. Varley sipped from his coffee as droplets of rain ran through his long moustache.
“The RCMP have no jurisdiction, period. Wet’suwet’en land is unceded, it’s never been taken over by conquest, the land has never freely been given as a gift, the land has never been sold. So, they literally have no jurisdiction,” he said. “One thing that’s easy to forget if you’re not indigenous to these lands, is that colonization isn’t something that happened 150 years ago; it’s going on today. It’s going on in Wet’suwet’en.”
As protesters blocked the intersection, a black sedan slipped past the police perimetre and accelerated towards the crowd before screeching to a halt, narrowly avoiding a collision with the human blockade. People quickly surrounded the hood of the car and began yelling at the driver, before turning their anger on nearby police officers, screaming “I thought you were here for our safety!” and “He almost hit a baby – are you just going to let him drive away?”
An officer directing traffic a block away on Hastings shrugged and said: “Yeah, the car just snuck through. What am I gonna do – jump in front of a moving vehicle? We’re just here to keep the peace.”
According to Const. Tania Visintin, media relations officer for the VPD, the protest started breaking up around 7:30pm and there were no arrests made.
She said police are not currently investigating the incident involving the black sedan. Visintin said police have not received any official complaints about it, but if they do, they will investigate fully.
This story has been updated since it was originally posted.