There were some tense scenes at the Trans-Canada Highway intersection at Victoria Road in Revelstoke as old-growth logging protesters blocked the highway on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 14.
A group of about 22 protesters converged on the intersection at around 4:45 p.m. as the last daylight faded.
The protesters wore face masks and high visibility vests. They blocked the eastbound and westbound intersection for a few minutes at a time before moving aside and letting traffic pass. After a traffic light change, they moved in to block it again.
They held large cloth banners saying “Save Old Growth,” and also held signs encouraging people to call the B.C. forests minister.
There were some tense moments. One man got out of his truck and berated the protesters, swearing at them and grabbing a large cloth sign before throwing it onto the asphalt.
Some people swore at the protesters from their cars, telling them to move, while others revved their engines and lurched at them.
At one point, someone in a vehicle on Victoria Road shot a bear banger at the protesters. It exploded over my head as I was taking photos.
Video: Watch scenes from the protest in Revelstoke here
Note: The video contains foul language and aggressive confrontations.
The police arrived about 25 minutes after the protesters first began blocking the highway. Two officers in two vehicles parked at the intersection with their emergency lights on.
An officer spoke with the protesters for a moment before intervening in another confrontation as a man in a camper van yelled at the protesters and tried to push through their protest line.
At the time, the police offer was about 15 metres away. He told the driver to stop it. “That’s enough!” he shouted at the swearing driver. “I’m dealing with it.”
Throughout most of the protest, a smaller group of about 10 men gathered at the northwest corner of the intersection and hurled insults and the occasional snowball at the protesters.
Overall, the scene seemed dangerous and likely to result in injuries or worse if it continued for much longer. It was dark with limited visibility.
The protest lasted for an hour. An RCMP officer at the scene told the Mountaineer that a protest organizer had told police they were leaving. There were no arrests that we saw.
Several similar protests across B.C.
The protest was one of several similar protests this week in B.C. organized by anti-old growth logging protesters operating under the Save Old Growth.
Although other media outlets were sent notifications, we weren’t. However, someone did text us notifying us of the protest, asking to be interviewed.
However, the individual identified themself as “Danger Cat.” We said we don’t allow anonymous interviews unless there is a reason to do so, such as in a whistleblower case. Voluntarily attending a protest doesn’t meet that standard.
Although someone did eventually agree to speak using their name, it came too late for the purposes of this story.
The Save Old Growth group appears to be an offshoot of the ongoing Fairy Creek-style protests. The group says it is specifically targeting the Trans-Canada Highway for protests, vowing that they will continue and escalate until the province ends all old growth logging.
“We. Are. Pissed. We have to picket the Trans Canada Highway,” says the title on its YouTube page, where you can watch videos of organizers discussing their philosophy and plans. In part, the organizers explicitly state their mission is about getting name recognition by grabbing headlines.
They say they plan to continue and escalate protests specifically targeting the Trans-Canada Highway.
Analysis: Significant risk of injury or death
This is the second time the same general group of people have blocked a road in Revelstoke resulting in angry confrontations. The first was in late November when a group blocked the Akolkolex Forest Service Road. By their own statements, protesters said they had to literally jump out of the way for their lives as a truck barreled through without stopping. They also reported other confrontations at that one-day roadblock and showed video of another confrontation.
Some of the same masked faces were back at the protest on the Trans-Canada Highway, with more confrontational scenes. A motorist shot an explosive at the protesters. There were several dangerous driving maneuvers that could have gone wrong, especially on wet and snowy roads in the dark. There was a near miss when a truck took an off-ramp to avoid the protesters, then swerved back into the intersection, almost crashing into another vehicle. There were several more.
It was an tense and aggressive scene.
Of course, menacing people with your vehicle is illegal and abhorrent, no matter what. The protesters video the protests and if you are responsible for injuring someone — or worse — you will find yourself in front of a judge who see that you had the option to just wait it out for a few minutes, but instead you chose to take the action you did.
But reality is reality and the protesters have now twice created situations in Revelstoke that are de facto dangerous and could result in injury or death.
The provincial government’s old-growth deferral process has been delayed and there is deep concern and uncertainty among hundreds of forestry workers in Revelstoke about their future. It’s tense here.
Everyone involved on all sides and from all perspectives should take a minute to think about what their personal responsibility and liability will be if someone gets hurt.
There are lots of ways to protest, both legally and illegally. Protesting in traffic in the dark when Friday afternoon workplace safety meetings are ending is one option among many.