RCMP have made another 25 arrests after hundreds of old-growth logging protesters broke through a roadblock leading the Fairy Creek Watershed on Saturday. The protesters claimed the roadblock is illegal and prevents transparency regarding what is happening on the other side.
“There are hundreds of people here that are showing up to show that this type of action taken by the RCMP, taken by Teal-Jones Group taken by industry,” said Kati George-Jim, an activist with Rainforest Flying Squad.
According to RCMP, protesters wanted to perform a ceremony past the checkpoint, and they were allowed to pass.
Sgt. Chris Manseau, media spokesperson with the BC RCMP told CHEK News on Saturday that with so many protestors appearing to be peaceful, the decision was made to let them passed the initial roadblock at Caycuse.
“It was a situation, where it was decided, at the moment that the benefits outweigh the risks. They weren’t causing any issues. They weren’t causing any violence or were causing any damage, so they were allowed to pass through,” said Manseau.
Ever since the RCMP began enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that was granted to Teal-Jones Group, they have established a number of roadblocks leading into Fairy Creek Watershed.
Protestors managed to march several kilometres down the logging road — known as the Hatton Forestry Service Road — before an incoming truck caused everyone to sit down on the road. The truck was forced to back away, which protestors celebrated as a win.
“This is an amazing accomplishment, no one has made it this far,” exclaimed George-Jim to a crowd of cheering protestors.
While protesters returned, RCMP said in a press release the large group stopped at the check point near the parked police vehicles and blocked traffic in both directions. They say the court-ordered injunction was read to the group of individuals blocking the roadway and were given the option to leave or be arrested.
About 25 individuals were arrested, according to RCMP. They say more arrests are pending as some are not following the injunction.
The blockade breakthrough and arrests come on the same day RCMP say they arrested seven more Fairy Creek protesters on Saturday — including two at Caycuse roadblock, although they weren’t in relation to the roadblock being broken.
“One of the trees that had two people in it, and they were arrested without incident,” said Manseau. “They are being transported to the Lake Cowichan and RCMP detachment.”
Manseau also said five others were arrested at an area called the Waterfall camp — closer to Port Renfrew — including one person who was wearing either a Sasquatch or a gorilla costume. Recent video footage shows a man in a bear suit that says “bear-icade” being arrested.
“That was a little challenging for our arresting team. But no issues there other than just being a little surprised by somebody wearing a costume,” Manseau said.
Saturday’s arrest total brings the total number of people the RCMP have arrested since they began enforcing the injunction to 59. Manseau said the RCMP are pleased with how events unfolded on Saturday.
“We’re very happy with how things went. Again, we’re continuing a slow, measured approach on this, we’re not rushing our way in that’s not going to benefit anybody,” he said.
However, activists claim shots have been fired at protestors still occupying trees in the area.
“One of our tree sitters yesterday was threatened with tear gas and rubber bullets with no one there to witness it,” said Elizabeth Waite, an activist with Rainforest Flying Squad. “This is abominable and almost inconceivable.”
Meanwhile, forestry families fighting feel their voices are being drowned out in all the noise.
“Logging’s very important in this community and feeds all these families and all these kids,” Kerri Magrin, a Lake Cowichan resident.
“We’ve been a forestry valley for over 100 years and those tax dollars have paid for hospitals, roads, schools,” said Tim McGonigle, a Lake Cowichan resident.
Protestors say clashes like this will continue and there are more fireworks to come.