Old-growth logging protesters have come under fire for cutting down trees to block roads in the Fairy Creek watershed area and for at least one of their group being caught smoking a cigarette in wildfire-ready conditions.
In an update on Saturday, June 24 about enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction that prohibits protests on Tree Farm Licence 44, Chief Supt. John Brewer, Gold Commander of the RCMP Community-Industry Response Group, noted that 18 living trees in the Gordon River Mainline area had been cut with chainsaws and felled across the road to block vehicle access.
I am gravely concerned by the new tactic by contemnors to actively breach the court-ordered injunction, Brewer said.
On top of their escalating level of violence, they are now committing these egregious safety violations by falling healthy living trees and digging trenches on the roads. It’s only a matter of time before someone, whether a fellow protester, supporter or police officer is seriously injured.
In a statement, the Rainforest Flying Squad, the group behind the protests at Fairy Creek and other parts of southwestern Vancouver Island, acknowledged that it did cut down some small trees to slow the RCMP from reaching protesters who were chained into structures. The RFS said the actions allowed them to take back 1.5 km of ground that had been previously lost to the police.
“Yeah, cutting trees is awful, and that’s why we’re here,” an unnamed protester said in the statement, while another protester added that if the blockades were to fall, all those trees and many more would either be cut down or considered weed species and killed with pesticides by the logging company. RFS reiterated that while it is working to stop the logging of old-growth trees, it does support continued second-growth logging.
Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder who has been a vocal supporter of the RFS although the band’s elected leadership has asked protesters to leave their traditional territory, said he does not disapprove of protesters cutting down small second-growth trees in order to protect the old growth.
“They’re only cutting on the right-of-way, which will be cut again anyway,” Jones said. That’s common practice. It’s not really something to make a mountain out of. It’s not a threat to the ecology. It’s okay with me. It’s not an offence to me, or anyone. There’s miles and miles of second growth on rights-of-way that’s simply mowed down.
“I don’t pretend that the Pacheedaht or any mankind owns the old growth. I feel the old growth belongs to the Great Mother and it’s our duty — and all our duty — to protect and care for it. Whereas the company and the loggers are using every little excuse to impair and deface our intentions of saving the old growth.”
Additionally, a protester perched atop a tripod structure was photographed by the RCMP smoking a cigarette in spite of dry conditions that have prompted a provincial state of emergency. The RFS responded that it has reiterated Jones’s instructions that protesters not smoke outside of their cars, and noted that it instituted strict fire safety protocols last month.
Also on Saturday, police escorted a group of people, including some elderly individuals, to Avatar Grove, within the injunction boundaries, in order to have a picnic. Police said most members of the group were cooperative and peaceful, but some became confrontational, resulting in 16 arrests.
Since enforcement began on May 17, the RCMP have arrested 494 people, including at least 28 who have been arrested more than once. Of those arrestes, 355 have been for breaching the injunction, 109 for obstruction, five for obstruction and breaching release conditions, 10 for mischief, three for breaching relase conditions, four for assaulting a police officer, one for counselling to resist arrest, and one who was wanted Canada-wide on warrants issued by the Canada Border Services Agency.