British Columbia

Climate protesters arrested after blocking Burrard Street Bridge for hours

Climate protesters convened on the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver on Monday, blocking traffic between the Kitsilano neighbourhood and the city's downtown core as part of a coordinated international demonstration demanding urgent action from world leaders to fight the world's climate crisis.

More than 100 activists occupied the bridge for more than 12 hours

Climate protesters gather at the centre of the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver on Monday. Ten people were arrested for obstruction of justice after refusing to leave the bridge more than 12 hours after the protest began. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

More than 100 rain-soaked climate activists took over the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver for more than 12 hours Monday, blocking traffic throughout the day in order to draw attention to a global demonstration demanding world leaders take urgent action to cut carbon emissions and prevent environmental disaster.

Demonstrators settled in for the long haul at the centre of the bridge from around 9:30 a.m. PT, hanging rows of pennants from the stone arches overhead and setting up tents to take shelter from the downpour. Some fired up a cooking station for lunch and some began a game of ball hockey in the middle of the four-lane road.

Organizers with Extinction Rebellion, the group heading the demonstration, demanded that Canada and the provinces bring in policies that will see the country's carbon emissions reduced to net zero within six years.

Protesters began packing up and leaving the bridge by 9:30 p.m., after the evening traffic rush. Police moved in shortly after, warning protesters to leave or be arrested.

Police officers moved in later at night, telling protesters to leave or face arrest. (CBC)

Ten people were arrested between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. "after they refused to leave the bridge despite receiving several requests, and then warnings, from officers," a police statement read, bringing the protest to a close.

Similar protests swamped bridges and viaducts in Edmonton, Halifax, Kitchener, Ont., and Toronto Monday, forcing thousands of commuters to find another way into the cities' downtown hubs. Eighteen people were arrested in Halifax after refusing police orders to leave the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge after 3½ hours. Several protesters were also arrested in Toronto.

Another group also gathered on the Victoria side of the Johnson Street Bridge from 3:30 p.m. through the end of rush hour.

A protester sets off a smoke bomb on the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver as demonstrators with Extinction Rebellion rallied to demand global leaders do more to combat climate change. Bridges and viaducts in half a dozen other Canadian cities were also blocked by protesters as part of a coordinated, worldwide effort. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Uniformed police officers monitored the protest. Barricades were in place at either end of the Vancouver bridge, with traffic between the downtown core and the Kitsilano neighbourhood diverted by police.

The Canadian demonstrations were part of a coordinated international movement that has also seen crowds flood Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Madrid and Vienna, among other major cities, since dawn on Monday.

Police in the British capital said officers had arrested 135 activists from Extinction Rebellion by 11:30 a.m. local time.

The Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver was adorned with protest banners on Monday morning. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Extinction Rebellion was founded in the U.K. in October 2018 but rose to prominence in April when the group disrupted traffic in central London for 11 days. More than 1,000 activists were arrested, of whom 850 were prosecuted for various public disorder offences. So far, 250 have been convicted.

The group says it has three key objectives: to see governments communicate and act with urgency around climate change; engage citizens through an assembly which will determine policies to stop climate change; and ensure carbon emissions are reduced to net zero by 2025 — a deadline 25 years shorter than that proposed by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A protester stands at the foot of the Burrard Street Bridge before protestors moved to block the bridge on Monday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The Extinction Rebellion demonstration Monday marks the third worldwide climate protest with Vancouver's participation in as many weeks. Students and workers inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg abandoned schools and offices on Sept. 20 demanding urgent action from global leaders gathering for the UN Summit in New York City.

A week later, the Cambie Street Bridge, the second arterial bridge into downtown Vancouver, was completely shut down as 100,000 people, mostly teenagers, marched for the same cause.

With files from Andrea Ross and Susan Bradley

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