On October 22, under the stewardship of several BC First Nations, close to 5,000 people from all over BC came together to demand that the planned Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines be stopped. For the last few months, individuals all over BC had been recruiting people to join the rally and to engage in peaceful civil disobedience.
Over 4,000 pledged online to risk arrest either at the Victoria rally or at local events in their community. Protesters put up a 245 m long banner on wooden posts, representing the length of one of the proposed supertankers. By staking the posts into the ground on the lawn of the legislature protesters were breaking the law and risking arrest. But the Victoria police department allowed this to go unmolested and no one was arrested.
Jolan Bailey of one of a host of event organizers, had this to say:
“This is about demonstrating that British Colombians are willing to do anything to stop these projects. To me this was never about getting arrested, it’s about showing Premiere Clark and Prime Minister Harper just how far regular Canadians are willing to go to stop tanker and pipeline expansion.”
“The power in a movement is at that moment when people are willing to get arrested,” Bailey went on. “We’re putting the politicians on the defensive. What happened today was a powerful thing – people from all walks of life came together and committed to taking a stand … everything that usually divides us didn’t today.”
The protesters, speakers and MCs represented a diverse cross-section of the people of BC. In addition to the First Nations people were members of the BC Federation of Teachers, the Communication, Energy, and Paper workers union, the Canadian Auto Workers, and other unions had their banners and flags there.
From the stage, Art Sterritt, a Coastal First Nations leader asked “Who is willing to lay down in front of the bulldozers to stop the pipeline?” The crowd replied “WE WILL”.
He asked “Who is going to change the BC government if they don’t stop putting our coast up for sale?” The crowd replied, “WE WILL”
Some of the speakers included: Chief Rueben George (Tsleil Waututh), Art Steritt (CFN), Chief Jackie Thomas (Saik’uz), Chief Karen Ogen (Wet’suwet’en), Susan Lambert (BC Teacher’s Federation), Dave Coles (CEP), Kaitlyn McDougall (BC CFS), Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians), Zoe Blunt (Forest Action Network), Rex Weyler (No Tankers BC), Rob Fleming (BC NDP Environment critic), Elizabeth May (leader of the Green Party).
There were additional provincial NDP MLA’s present including Carole James, Nicholas Simons, John Horgan, Maurine Kauragianis, Gary Coons, and Lana Popham.
The speakers talked about the incredible solidarity that brought together so many First Nations, environmental groups and trade unions. They talked about the devastation facing us when these pipelines and tankers have a spill. But they also noted the climate damage we are already experiencing and that will only get worse if we don’t stop oil extraction in the tar sands.
For more information visit defendourcoast.ca