Time for arrests, says frustrated judge to Muskrat Falls protesters
Judge puts 3 protesters into custody, says sheriffs and police must enforce court orders
Three Muskrat Falls protesters were taken into custody Friday after refusing to promise they will obey a court injunction ordering them not to interfere with the project.
"This court has been extremely patient," said Supreme Court Justice George Murphy. "But there is a limit."
He pointed out that some of the accused have been subject to court orders since November.
"This matter has gone on far too long," Murphy said, calling on Nalcor to report all breaches to the sheriff's office and telling the sheriffs to arrest anyone reported to them.
'Sticking up for my rights'
Jim Learning was applauded by spectators as he was led out of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay courtroom. Some pumped their fists in the air, clapped and stomped, offering words of support.
Marjorie Flowers was also taken into custody as the hearing continued into the afternoon, with the judge pointing out that she was a repeat offender, breaching the injunction several times.
A third protester, Eldred Davis, refused to sign an undertaking and was also remanded into custody.
At Supreme Court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay where 5 people are accused of breaking a court injunction by protesting at Muskrat Falls <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcnl?src=hash">#cbcnl</a> <a href="https://t.co/bnFnWZWKwi">pic.twitter.com/bnFnWZWKwi</a>—@baileywhite
Learning, a member of NunatuKavut, blocked traffic at the Muskrat Falls gate on Tuesday, July 18, and is accused of trespassing on June 24 and 25.
He told Justice Murphy he did not have a lawyer and did not intend to get one.
"I'm not here to defend myself," he said. "I'm hiding nothing, I'm sticking up for my rights."
Murphy warned Learning he was in danger of being held in custody.
"Of course I'm going to jail," Learning replied. "I didn't start this to back away."
Another court appearance for the protesters taken into custody is set for July 31.
Spectators disrupt court
A number of people were removed from the courtroom after a series of outbursts Friday.
One member of the Labrador Land Protectors group, Tracey Doherty, was dragged out by sheriffs after shouting that the company building the Muskrat Falls project should also be in court.
Another person was escorted out after lunging at sheriffs following the arrest of Flowers.
"These are peaceful people," said Jim Learning's friend Roberta Benefiel. "They care about that river. That river is a symbol of our life here … and what Nalcor is doing to the river is doing it to every soul that feels that."
But an exasperated judge told the Muskrat Falls opponents that he is running out of patience.
"The terms are very clear," Murphy said. He asked Nalcor lawyer Chris King to relay a message to Attorney General Andrew Parsons that police resources are needed to enforce the orders of the court.
Learning made headlines in 2013 with a hunger strike after being jailed for demonstrating against the hydroelectric project. He refused to sign the legal papers needed for his release.
Watch the video below to hear what Learning had to say during the July 18 protest.
Jim Learning says the group came out b/c of environmental concerns, and b/c transformers are on the way (bg: <a href="https://t.co/tESbHyhgdZ">https://t.co/tESbHyhgdZ</a>) <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcnl?src=hash">#cbcnl</a> <a href="https://t.co/6YuJftEiHM">pic.twitter.com/6YuJftEiHM</a>—@baileywhite
With files from Bailey White