Thousands of protesters demonstrated against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline Monday in B.C., vowing to lie down in front of bulldozers if necessary.
When asked by a speaker whether they were willing to block machinery if the project is approved, thousands shouted «Yes!»
However, the demonstration in front of the provincial legislature in Victoria didn’t take the violent turn that some expected it to. Organizers had said demonstrators would be carrying out acts of civil disobedience during the protest and expected people would be arrested.
In fact, roughly 300 people had attended a day-long training session Sunday where they were instructed on the dos and don’ts of civil disobedience, including which actions would likely result in arrest and what to do once in police custody.
Instead, the demonstrations Monday remained peaceful and there were no such acts during a sit-in organized by First Nations, unions and environmental groups.
Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt, who called on demonstrators to lie down in front of bulldozers, told the crowd his organization has been fighting against the proposed pipeline for seven years.
«Let’s send a message to them that we have to make a difference,» he yelled.
Sterritt also warned that the federal Conservatives stand to lose their 26 seats in the province if the pipeline is approved.
While the protests were held in front of the B.C. legislature, the province itself has so far opposed the pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta’s oilsands to B.C.’s Pacific Coast.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has taken a stance against the project, saying B.C. is taking the majority of the environmental risk while receiving only a small percentage of the profits.
CTV News reporter Stephen Andrew said he spoke with B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake earlier Monday in Victoria.
«They set down five criteria they need the pipeline to meet and unless they’re met, B.C. is not going to support it, so really it seems this protest is going to be for the protesters, maybe not for the government.»
Molly Vanpoelgeest said she travelled from nearby Saltspring Island to participate in the protest, hoping to show the federal and provincial governments that the majority of British Columbians and Canadians are opposed to a pipeline project that threatens the West Coast environment.
«Despite the fact that (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper would give away the coastline for nothing and (Premier Christy) Clark would give it away for the right price, I’m not willing to give it away,» Vanpoelgeest told The Canadian Press. «I’m not willing to give it away.»
Many protesters carried signs telling Harper and Clark the B.C. coast is not for sale. One sign read, «Tanker Free B.C. For Me.»
On Sunday night, protesters shone lights on the B.C. legislature showing messages including «Respect Indigenous Rights,» «No Pipeline,» and «No Tankers.»