More than 100 people set up shop outside the Nelson RCMP detachment Monday to protest police attacks on old growth forest defenders at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island.
The protest, dubbed the “Last Stand West Kootenays” was staged to express concerns over the recent escalating level of violence against Fairy Creek protesters by members of the RCMP.
The protest was one of 17 staged across the province Monday, including New Denver, Nanaimo, Vernon as well as in Calgary and Toronto.
One young Nelson resident and activist, Jamie Hunter, 21, sent organizers a written statement from the frontlines of the Fairy Creek Blockade where he is currently actively protecting an active old growth cut block the sitting NDP government did not protect, and is being logged.
“[RCMP] are violating the terms of the injunction, conducting enormously unsafe practices that if left unchecked, will result in serious injury or death, and targeting Indigenous and Black people, in a blatantly racist way,” Hunter’s statement said that read to the crowd.
Malin Christensson, of Last Stand West Kootenays, said the movement has expanded from just the protection of the old growth forests.
“We are now having to protest for our civil liberties and basic human rights, due to the documented reckless and malicious actions of the RCMP,” Christensson said.
Protesters are concerned that since the one-year anniversary of Fairy Creek movement on August 9, 2021, police enforcement has reached a new level, with officers using aggressive tactics, including pepper spraying activists.
Protesters rallied outside the Nelson RCMP detachment on the waterfront Monday afternoon. — Submitted photo
The rally began outside the entrance to Lakeside Park before marched onto the Big Orange Bridge holding signs and waving to traffic from the sidewalk.
Protesters then gathered outside the Nelson RCMP detachment, holding banners and signs, chanting messages and slogans, and peacefully requesting the protection of all the human beings who have been called to stand up for the last of the ancient forests.
Organizers attempted to garner a response from the local RCMP detachment — giving prior notice to police before the rally, and phoning and entering the building during the protest.
However, no one from the RCMP responded to the requests by Last Stand West Kootenays rally organizers.
“It’s crushing to see no accountability for the RCMP’s brutal, illegal, and racist actions on unceded Pacheedaht territory.” said John Alton, of Last Stand West Kootenay.
“There is no accountability within the RCMP force, there is no accountability within the courts system.”
Alton said he knows this because Justice Thompson has issued rulings calling police repression of the media ‘unlawful.’
“As well there is no accountability because our provincial government chooses to stay silent and support the brutality by funding the RCMP’s illegal actions with our own tax dollars,” Alton said.
“We have no other choice than to take to the streets for the protection of our citizens, our rights, our trees, and our future.”
Last Stand West Kootenays organizers said that more than 700 people have been arrested during the past year protesting at Fairy Creek, including several Nelson residents who attended Monday's rally.
In a media release Monday, RCMP said police enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction order in the Fairy Creek Watershed area continued August 22, 2021, after several individuals attempted to dig new trenches along the Granite Mainline Forestry Road and blocked officers from leaving the area by parking vehicles along the road.
RCMP said officers were able to stop the digging and quickly refilled the shallow trenches, and vehicles that blocked the road were towed away.
Police said eight individuals were arrested Sunday at Fairy Creek for breaching the injunction (contempt of court).
Several others who did not want to be arrested, voluntarily and peacefully left the Fairy Creek area.
Protesters gathered on the RCMP detachment lawn to listen to speeches from “Last Stand West Kootenays organizers. — Submitted photo