Two demonstrators at the B.C. legislature were arrested Thursday morning after allegedly spray-painting messages in what was reportedly water-soluble chalk on and around the building.
According to Allen Mullen, chief of staff for the Office of the Speaker, the two were arrested by Legislative Assembly Protective Services for mischief.
Mullen said the two people were taken into the building to be processed. They were released without charges, according to Victoria police. They are banned from returning to the property indefinitely.
Mullen said at around 10 a.m., the Legislative Assembly Protective Services saw protesters spray painting the B.C. legislature driveway.
“That is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada so those arrests were made for mischief of two individuals,” Mullen said.
Mullen said it is unconfirmed whether the paint was water-soluble but Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en said it was chalk paint that was used. Some of the messages have been washed away. The messages included “Reconciliation is Dead,” “Shutdown Canada,” “Land Back” and “Honour UNDRIP.”
Chalk paint is a type of paint that can be used on furniture or other items to create a chalky, aged appearance. It is a water-soluble paint.
It was about 20 minutes before “Honour UNDRIP” & other messages were washed away.
— Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en (@IY4wetsuweten) February 27, 2020
“It makes no difference whatsoever whether it was water-soluble or not. It is a clear mischief charge if you are spray painting public property or government property, which they were,” Mullen said.
Mullen said everybody at the legislature supports peaceful protest and the democratic right to protest.
“But when you go into the realm into what is a clear criminal offence i.e. spray painting a public building or a government building, our protective services officers who are all special provincial constables, they’re all peace officers, they will act on criminal offences. And that’s what we saw and that’s what happened this morning,” Mullen said.
Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C., began occupying the B.C. legislature steps on Monday.
The group said that reconciliation is a “colonial facade” of the Canadian government and they intend to remain on the property.
“It’s pretty alarming that they’re so fragile in what they’re doing that they’re willing to take away our supporters for doing things that are not criminal.” said Indigenous youth Shay Lynn Sampson.
“We have friends and relatives who are getting assault riffles pointed them and like this is the exact same thing we’ve seen all throughout history since first contact. It’s just ongoing genocide of our people and we’re not going to stand down until that stops,” added Danielle Guerrero, who is also an Indigenous youth.
In a release, Victoria police said they assisted Legislative Assembly Protective Services(LAPS) with arresting the two protesters Thursday morning and a mischief investigation is ongoing.
Police said the protesters began “began applying a substance to the building, driveway and walkways just after 10 a.m. this morning. This occurred simultaneously at multiple locations around the Legislature building. Some of the messages include profanity.”
Victoria police said the two demonstrators that were arrested were escorted from the grounds.
“Efforts to determine what the substance is and how to clean it are underway,” the release said. Victoria police said legislature staff will determine the cleaning costs.
Legislature staff are working to determine what the substance is, as well as what clean costs will be.
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) February 27, 2020
Victoria police said they will remain at the B.C. legislature to ensure that the protest is safe, peaceful and lawful.
There is an injunction in place obtained by the province on Feb. 13, two days after Wetsuwet’en supporters blocked the entrances to the B.C. legislature. The injunction states protesters are restrained from blocking or physically obstructing the access to the legislature, including public roadways.
But Victoria police say while the protesters are contravening the regulations of the Legislative Assembly area, they are not currently in violation of the injunction.
While protesters are contravening the regulations of the Legislative Assembly area, they are not currently in violation of the injunction. That’s why we’re not conducting enforcement. #F208353
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) February 26, 2020
On Thursday, RCMP in British Columbia said an agreement has been reached with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that will keep Mounties out of the chiefs’ traditional territories at least while talks are underway with the federal and provincial governments.
A statement issued by the RCMP says senior officers have been “actively engaged” in discussions with the chiefs over the last week.
Police say the chiefs have agreed not to interfere with anyone using a remote logging road southwest of Houston, B.C. that leads to the construction site of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.
In exchange, RCMP have agreed to stop patrols along the road while the chiefs hold talks with senior federal and provincial ministers.
And Coastal GasLink, the company at the centre of a dispute over construction of a natural gas pipeline across northern British Columbia, said it has agreed to pause activities for two days along a remote road over the traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
Hereditary chiefs have been demanding Coastal GasLink workers leave the area as a precondition for talks with federal and provincial politicians.
A statement from Coastal GasLink says its pause in construction is expected to begin when talks begin between the hereditary chiefs, Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, and her B.C. counterpart, Scott Fraser
Coastal GasLink says it fully supports the efforts of all parties and is committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the current issues.
With files from The Canadian Press and Roxanne Egan-Elliott, Times Colonist