Protests, arrests continue in Vancouver Island old-growth logging fight
VANCOUVER -- More than two dozen people have been arrested during police enforcement of a court injunction against anti-old-growth-logging protesters on Vancouver Island this week, and more arrests were expected Saturday.
BC RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Chris Manseau told CTV News five protesters were arrested at what has been called the "Waterfall Camp" near Port Renfrew Saturday morning, and two more were arrested from tree shelters on the northern side of the old-growth forest that activists have been trying to protect.
Protesters said they planned to cross the police "exclusion zone" on Caycuse Main logging road late Saturday morning in a silent demonstration against the police checkpoint that has restricted journalists' access to anti-logging blockades in the Fairy Creek Watershed.
The demonstrators said they would be led by Indigenous elders and that they expected to be arrested immediately.
Instead, between 50 and 100 people breached the police line, according to Manseau, but none were arrested.
The RCMP spokesperson said demonstrators explained their intentions to officers at the checkpoint and those officers decided not to attempt mass arrests.
Manseau said the officers made the right decision and that mass arrests would be "no benefit to anybody." He characterized the interaction between police and protesters at the checkpoint as "respectful."
As of 4 p.m., the group had not left the checkpoint, and Manseau said it appeared they were attempting to block the road and prevent police and logging vehicles from leaving the area.
Protesters have been camped out in the Fairy Creek area since last summer with the goal of protecting what they call the last intact, unprotected, old-growth forest on Southern Vancouver Island. On April 1, the B.C. Supreme Court issued its injunction prohibiting activists from obstructing the work of logging company Teal Jones.
The company has said in the past that about 200 hectares of the 1,200-hectare watershed is harvestable, with the rest is either protected or on unstable terrain. It has also said that it plans to harvest about 20 hectares from the harvestable area.
RCMP said in a news release Friday evening that they had made a total of 26 arrests since enforcement began on Monday. Twenty-one of those arrests were for alleged breaches of the court injunction and five were for obstruction, police said.
Police said they're also recommending charges of obstruction against two of the people arrested for breaching the injunction, charges of possession of stolen property against two others, and charges of obstruction and assaulting a police officer against another.
The RCMP also referenced "claims being circulated online" about police treatment of the people they arrested, and encouraged anyone with a complaint to submit it to the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.
"Ultimately, our officers are equipped with video recording devices and we are prepared to submit all footage as evidence in the court of law," police said in their release. "Body-worn video provides increased transparency, while also providing a first-person view of what a police officer encounters, oftentimes in highly dynamic and tense situations."
As protests continue in the forest, supporters of the blockades planned to hold a rally and hang banners from a busy highway overpass in Saanich on Saturday.
The gathering was scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the pedestrian overpass on the Pat Bay Highway at Mackenzie Avenue.
Meanwhile, supporters of loggers who feel their jobs are threatened by the old-growth protests planned a rally of their own near Mesachie Lake Saturday.
With files from The Canadian Press.