Site C protesters who've been stalling dam construction in northern B.C. say they're packing up and ending their two-month land occupation so they won't be arrested.
Reached this afternoon at their remote Rocky Mountain Fort protest camp, Site C opponents told CBC News they are obeying Monday's B.C. Supreme Court order requiring them to leave the area and allow site-clearing work by BC Hydro contractors to proceed, southwest of Fort St John.
"At this time, none of us are going to be arrested, because we are law abiding citizens," said local farmer Arlene Boon, who has been camping in the snow at the protest site for 32 days.
We all would like to hold out, but we have chosen not to cross the line. - Arlene Boon who's been in protest camp 32 days
Yvonne Tupper, a land occupier with the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, said the protest's end was bittersweet. "We bought that small chunk of land another 62 days of life," she said. "When you understand your relationship to the land, it tells you where your place is."
Today, Boon said people in camp are crying and emotional, as they pack up and dismantle cabins, lean-tos, and tents and load supplies on to snowmobiles and boats.
Crying and helpless
"There's people pacing back and forth because they feel helpless," Boon said, choking back tears. "There's a lot of emotions going around here."
The court order to end the land occupation went into effect at midnight last night. But it gave RCMP discretion about when and how to remove protesters.
RCMP 'could have come at midnight'
Protesters said the RCMP gave camp occupants a few days grace to pack up and clear out.
"They could have come in and arrested us at midnight," said Boon. Instead, RCMP flew in by helicopter this afternoon to deliver the court order in person.
In an email to CBC News, North District RCMP Cpl. Dave Tyrman said police were reviewing their options for enforcement, but considered "direct dialogue" important to ensure a "safe environment" for all.
BC Hydro community relations manager Dave Conway said it has been "unsafe" for contractors to carry out site clearing with people camping nearby.
'Legal right to carry on with Site C'
"We have a legal right to carry on with the Site C project," said Conway, "and that's what the courts decided Monday. We need to get on with this work as soon as possible."
People at the protest camp in the remote Rocky Mountain Fort area have stalled site clearing work on the south side of the Peace River for more than two months.
But Site C construction at other work sites has been underway for months and was unaffected by the protest.
Last month, almost 5,000 people in northern B.C. lined up for a chance to apply for jobs on the $9 billion dollar hydro project.