Protests across B.C. call out RCMP enforcement at Fairy Creek blockade
Video posted on social media shows police using pepper spray on protesters blocking logging access
Hundreds of protesters gathered at 15 RCMP detachments across British Columbia on Monday to bring attention to what they feel is escalating police aggression at anti-logging blockades on Vancouver Island.
The rallies came in the wake of video posted on social media over the weekend showing police using pepper spray on dozens of linked armed protesters trying to stop the logging of old-growth trees in and around the Fairy Creek watershed.
Protesters also say they have been assaulted and injured in earlier enforcement actions.
The video is age restricted and therefore only available to watch on YouTube. Some people may find the scenes distressing.
At a protest in Victoria on Monday, retired family doctor Joan Rosenberg joined a group of white coat-wearing physicians to show solidarity against what she described as "RCMP dishonesty and brutality."
"I'm here because the recent RCMP escalation has started to traumatize people who are caring individuals... who are non-violent and peaceful. And the RCMP is not sticking to their code of conduct," she said.
"I think our voices might help persuade the government to start listening."
Lawyer Patrick Canning, who is representing a number of demonstrators, said the RCMP's use of pepper spray was "beyond reasonable force."
"It's about way more than just the trees at Fairy Creek. It's about the rule of law," he said.
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Chris Manseau said pepper spray was used after protesters knocked an officer unconscious.
"Prior to that short video that was posted online there was some pushing and shoving from the protesters that actually knocked over an RCMP officer... into a ditch area where [the officer was] knocked down and knocked unconscious," said Manseau.
"Pepper spray was used and [the protesters] did disperse and that member was able to be removed from that area."
In Burnaby, a crowd of over a hundred gathered to oppose the RCMP action at Fairy Creek.
"The RCMP are basically doing whatever it takes to remove citizens who want to protect 1,000-year-old trees," said organizer Donna Clark.
Protesters have been blocking lumber company Teal Jones from accessing old-growth trees in the Fairy Creek watershed for a year.
Teal Jones received a court injunction barring the protesters from blocking roads or obstructing logging activities.
Police say 788 people have been arrested since they began enforcing the injunction in May.
Crowd has gathered to protest at the Burnaby RCMP detachment. Organizer tells me there is increasing excessive use of police force including use of pepper spray at Fairy Creek. This is one of a dozen rallies today at RCMP detachments across BC. <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcnewsbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cbcnewsbc</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCVancouver?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCVancouver</a> <a href="https://t.co/7D2VUajAp7">pic.twitter.com/7D2VUajAp7</a>—@IsabelleRaghem
The RCMP said people concerned about police behaviour can file an official complaint.
With files from Adam Van der Zwan, Deborah Wilson, Isabelle Raghem