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The ABCs of blockading a road

When ordinary citizens decide enough is enough



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One protester from the Elaho blockade recalled, "There’s definitely a lot of apprehension before (you set up the blockade). It happens early in the morning, when it’s still dark. And you can hear the trucks rumbling in the distance. We’d see the first headlights coming, then the next. And you’re just a handful of activists, outnumbered by the workers coming up. And they’re angry. Often they try and break your cameras. Actually, every time there was a blockade, (opponents) always smashed all our cameras."

Ken Wu explains the need for a protest to have wider support, to build consensus, to branch out into the community.

"Unless there’s a broader outreach, there’s often a social license to violent attacks on the protesters. Which is why blockades can never be in isolation from the broader movement. If you are, it will definitely be open season on protesters with no consequences on the assailants. And the government is basically complicit in the whole thing. With the Elaho blockade, Glen Clark, the then premier, called on ‘an army of workers’ to fight the environmentalists. That kind of inflammatory talk right from the top of the province means that workers feel legitimately entitled to be violent.

"It’s not the same conditions now. The Liberals, with their deregulation agenda, have somewhat unified the workers and the environmentalists. At one time, the workers would have had their fists in our faces, but now, there’s more of a consensus. That’s important because it prevents the corporations from getting a free ride. They use the workers to put a community face on the anti-environmental fight, instead of the corporate face, which is what it actually is."

Mark Blundell has heard from people right across the community that they will back him up if he chains himself to a tree on Signal Hill. The more people willing to take that stand, and the more diverse they are, the more likely the ripples from a blockade in the Village of Pemberton will turn into shock-waves, for the Ministry of Forests, for Weyerhaeuser, for the province.

Diane Reed explains that the Ministry of Forests has no role once the Forest Development Plan is approved. "If there’s civil disobedience after that (approval is given) on the licensee’s work site, the licensee is responsible for getting an injunction to stop that. We wouldn’t be involved in that."

Rosalin Sam, though, will be.

"I’ll be there with them, if they ask me. I’ll stop any kind of destruction in the St’at’imc territory."